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Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Weekday Evening at Fishers

Rich and I were invited to preview one of the restaurants for Clifton Foodfest and I chose Fishers. Fishers is somewhere I've never been before but wanted to try, fish is something I just don't eat masses of and that is something I want to change.  Clifton Foodfest, a new food festival, which will be running from Monday 31st March til Sunday 13th April gives people a chance to eat out in 16 restaurants in the village for £10, great for those restaurants you want to try but don't have the money to splurge on. Details of the restaurants participating are on their website.  

We arrived at Fishers, glad to be out of the biting wind that seems to have arisen in the last week, and  were greeted warmly by the staff and shown to a table in the window.  For a weekday evening Fishers was pretty busy, which is a good sign in my book. The menu is mostly fish, as you would expect but there were a couple of meat dishes which sounded just as excellent, my money for next time is on the giant fish and chips that I saw being carried to the table next to us. The offer for Fishers on the Clifton Foodfest deal is a hot shellfish platter at £10 each which is normally double. So being we were there to sample the deal we chose that and were promised a bucket of bread to mop up any juices, and a bottle of zingy Pinot Grigio to accompany it. 

Fishers Restaurant Bristol
hot shellfish platter
Fishers Restaurant Bristol

Fishers Restaurant Bristol
here fishy fishy (langoustine portrait)
An abundance of mussels, prawns, langoustines, crevettes, although I imagine the contents does change with what they buy at the fish markets, all in a cream, garlic and white wine sauce.  All the seafood was so well cooked and that sauce, light enough to not feel heavy was indulgent enough to be completely moreish. Be prepared to get messy if you order this, although perhaps this is just my messy ways, I managed to splash sauce all over the table and it coated my hands, napkins at the ready people. My personal favourite were the giant Atlantic prawns, closely followed by the mussels. Our pot of moping bread contained some super soft olive bread which was lovely it soaked up all the white wine and garlic sauce like a sponge, absolutely delicious. Despite feeling fairly full of seafood we felt we could just about manage some pudding and so I chose the sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and Rich the dark chocolate brownie.
Fishers Restaurant Bristol
sticky toffee pudding
Best sticky toffee pudding I've ever eaten, hands down, so moist and it melted in the mouth, Rich's brownie was more like a dense torte, it was too rich for me, but then I don't have that sweet a tooth. All in all I was really impressed with Fishers and will be returning, the service was friendly and warm, it did feel a little bit like eating at someone's home which I found quite comforting. We received a generous discount for this meal but it did not impact the authenticity of this review, I am known for my brutal truth givings after all, and we actually left a 100% tip on top of the small bill they gave us because the food and service really deserved it. To find out more about Fishers visit their website, where they state that most of their food is or can be made gluten or dairy free, which I know will please a lot of people. I leave you with a parting shot of this lovely fish mosaic, what a fabulous beast.
Fishers Restaurant Bristol

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Friday Night at Koh Thai Tapas

Last Friday some of the core, pun intended, Jolates crew had planned an after class visit to Koh Thai Tapas. Situated on the Triangle and previously occupied by a Zizzi's, Koh is a mini chain of 5 restaurants based around the South/South West.  Glad to get out of the cold we were greeted by a rush of warm air mixed with the scent of spices, Koh was pretty busy and so I was glad that we had booked a table.  Drinks ordered we settled into the long decision making process of what to eat.  The menu is clearly labeled for vegetarians and also for gluten free so it is easy to see what options are available to you if you have certain requirements.
Koh Thai Tapas Bristol
Service was friendly even though we had to slightly strain our ears to hear them above the busy tables and music, in the end we decided to go for their group option of spending £20 each and getting a selection of starters and mains to share between the 6 of us. This is a great option for groups because it can be a total surprise but the staff will also ask what you like and what you don't and what spice level you can handle. The other thing to note is that some of the dishes are from all over Asia but with a Thai twist, like the 'dim sum', read siu mai dumplings but with coriander and a hot chili dressing over them. 
Koh Thai Tapas Bristol

Koh Thai Tapas Bristol
crispy beef
Koh Thai Tapas Bristol
spring rolls
Koh Thai Tapas Bristol
vegetable tempura
We were brought about 7-8 starters to dig through the portions were pretty generous, they make a point of having enough on each starter plate so everyone gets to taste which is good because a lot of places do set sized portions. I have to say I was really impressed, fresh flavours, everything was really well cooked and tasted great, definitely better than a lot of Thai food I have had in Bristol.  The mains were just as good, particularly the lamb massamann curry, slow cooked and fragrant with plenty of star anise it melted in the mouth and the tamarind duck was perfectly cooked, zingy and I could have eaten more. 
Koh Thai Tapas Bristol

Koh Thai Tapas Bristol
vegetable rice
Koh Thai Tapas Bristol
chicken pad Thai
They are obviously proud of the food they serve, making a point of telling tables how their chefs are Thai and the food unless you specify will come out pretty hot. Rich and I are looking forward to our next visit to the Bristol branch.  I went to the Bath one last night with my parents and the service was even better, really intuitive and friendly staff who gave great customer service, plus the Summer Daze cocktail, if you like gin, is a winner.  I can't believe how impressed I was, we weren't sure what to expect from this restaurant but was pleasantly surprised.  So if your interested is piqued I would give Koh Thai Tapas a go you can find more about them on their website.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Friday Lunch at The Kitchen

On Friday we had decided to have a team lunch out to celebrate and welcome our new team mate So-Ting into the fold. She had suggested The Kitchen, part of the YMCA which is located at the Old Fire Station on Silver Street. I had shamefully never heard of such a place and we decided to give it a spin. We walked into a large canteen style space and picked a table to sit at. The menu is not huge but there is certainly a lot to tempt a hungry worker, burgers, falafel, salads, sandwiches and triple cooked chips, more on those later.

I decided to go for the grilled chicken pitta at a reasonable £5, a pitta stuffed with marinated chicken breast a mint and yoghurt dressing, plus a mix of salads. I also could not resist ordering a bowl of triple cooked chips, for £2 it was a gamble I was willing to make.  The food took about 20 minutes or just under to arrive and was enormous. My pitta was so stuffed with lentil salad, zingy chicken and salad leaves, the chips were golden batons of joy, skin on no less.

The Kitchen Bristol
Grilled Chicken in Pitta
The Kitchen Bristol
Grilled chicken in pitta, take a closer look...
The Kitchen Bristol
triple cooked chips
The food here is terrific. Fresh tasting and large portions this is sure to become a firm favourite. The chips alone are worth it, these are perfection in chip form crunchy, golden and nicely salted. They use chicken thigh meat in my pitta which had a great flavour and was nice and juicy. Even the lentil salad was delicious, lentils can be so bland and undercooked, these were neither, a Spring lemony taste which was complimented by the creamy mint dressing. I also cannot forget the warmly spicy chili sauce that comes in a small pot on the side, I could have done with a little more of this as it was so moreish.  I have already raved about this place to several friends since Friday and I am looking forward to my next visit.  To find out more about The Kitchen visit their website.

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Sunday at Gas & Co

In this blog Rich covers our recent trip (yesterday), to Gas & Co.

And God created BBQ food. And it was good; delicious even. And then somewhen around 2011, in the UK, and probably aided by Man Vs Food and other Food Network shows, everyone started to go BBQ and pulled pork crazy, reaching a new high in 2013 when seemingly every restaurant and every bar started doing pulled pork on their menu – with massively varying degrees of success. When Grillstock eventually opened their first restaurant in Bristol last year, it was met with very enthusiastic reception, offering choice meats cooked in an authentic tender, juicy and succulent manner, that for the most part most people were happy to overlook the canteen style seating, lack of being able to book, and the perhaps too high price (because the burnt ends are delicious).
Grillstock Lockjaw Burger
Jumping on the same American Diner/BBQ/pig-out food phenomenon bandwagon, Gas & Co opened their new restaurant in the old Henry Africas bar on Whiteladies Road, arguably to near equally great expectation. It would be wise then, from this point in our tale to lower those expectations.

Significantly.

We had a good start to our dining experience, being greeted at the door by a friendly waiter who asked where we’d like to sit, showed us to the table and then promptly fetched a menu. Perusing our choices, we fairly quickly decided what we’d have to eat and drink, and then waited.

Gas & Co Bristol

Whilst waiting we were able to take in the surroundings. The first thing you’ll notice is that although labeled an ‘American Diner’, it is in a distinctly half-arsed way. Diner signs, red and white patterns and the occasional Americana picture indicate what Gas & Co is aiming for, but mostly it still feels like a bar that serves some food. Adding to the bar feel is the fact that it’s quite hard to actually discern who’s a member of staff – our waiter had an apron on, but everyone else working there seemed to be dressed in jeans and casual shirt. Additionally although we counted five different staff (maybe there were more, we couldn’t tell), only about two of them seemed to be in the ‘restaurant’ at any one time. Whilst we were waiting to give our orders, one was behind the bar having a chat with his mates, and the other was counting out a box of napkins; all this while the place was easily more than half full, and new diners were walking in.

After fifteen minutes our waiter re-appeared and we gave our orders. I was disappointed that root beer wasn’t available (not that I’m a huge fan, but Dominion Vanilla Root Beer served in most diner-y places now is a new favourite beverage) so went for a pint of Pepsi, and Abby chose an Oreo milkshake. For food, we went for half a rack of baby back ribs, a bacon and cheese burger, and some quesadillas with pulled pork and cheese - classic comfort food basically.
 
Gas & Co Bristol
oreo milkshake
Drinks arrived after a five minute wait, and it wasn’t a great start. My pint of Pepsi was two-thirds ice, and the mixture was clearly off, tasting too much of the carbonated soda. Again, what you expect from a bar. Not a restaurant. The milkshake was an interesting hit-and-miss though; thick and with plenty of Oreo pieces and taste on the upside, a weak blending that meant all the ice cream was sat at the bottom in a sludgey pile, and a strange quite unpleasant hard-to-kill greasy film after-taste on the down side.

Food arrived fifteen minutes later and it looked good, and plentiful. The quesadillas were tasty too, but with plenty of extra filling that wasn’t exactly as advertised - each of them seemed to be equal parts pork, barbecue sauce and red onion, with a smattering of cheese as an after-thought. The pork and BBQ had a good taste to it though, and the quesadillas themselves were nicely cooked.
 
Gas & Co Bristol
pulled pork quesadillas
The ribs came with a good amount of sides and trimmings, but mostly they just disappointed. The salad was dry, with plenty of brown edges (bringing to mind the supermarket bags of salad I occasionally bought as a student), and the coleslaw again seemed to comprise mostly of onions. The house beans were also oddly named given that we saw very few actual beans in there, and bizarrely what looked and tasted like chickpeas. The chips though were good. Although it was felt that these were probably shop bought home fries, they were soft and fluffy on the inside, had the right amount of crispiness on the outside, and they were also nicely seasoned. Awkwardly they were easily the best part of the meal.

Gas & Co Bristol



Gas & Co Bristol
ribs
Ribs, especially baby back, should always be sticky, juicy and tender, with the meat just falling off the bones. Mine managed to be none of these, being tough and chewy, and instead of possessing a sticky exterior, being burnt and crispy (which you could pull off separately) . If it weren’t for the nicely spicy BBQ sauce on top of the ribs, they would pretty much have been a write-off.
 
Gas & Co Bristol
cheap buns
Gas & Co Bristol
Bacon and cheddar burger
Gas & Co Bristol
Sweet Potato Fries
Abby’s burger at first looked like the winning selection, despite the obviously supermarket bought bun. The bacon was thick and perfectly cooked, and the cheese was plentiful, but the burger – the main event – just let everything down. At first look nicely cooked, it was actually dry, overly chewy and lacked any real flavour or seasoning.
 
Gas & Co Bristol
a close up to see how bad they were
Looking at the half finished meal in front of us, we were hardly in the mood for a mediocre dessert, so looked to settle the bill and then leave. Sadly getting attention of any of the staff proved impossible, so we got our coats, left too much money on the table (ie. the amount to cover the bill) and walked out.

So, where does that leave us with Gas & Co? Staffing and service definitely needs working on – we had a good waiter, but for the most part the staff were elsewhere or otherwise distracted. Aside from that, the effect really is one of everything done on the cheap. An onion coleslaw, a bean dish noticeably low on beans, a spongey burger bun that tasted packet fresh, dry and distinctly not-fresh salad, a badly-mixed heavily iced Pepsi, a cheap tasting oily milkshake, dry burnt (or re-cooked?) ribs, food wise there isn’t really a lot to recommend the place. Most of the food overwhelmingly comes across as having been bought from a supermarket and often didn't feel freshly cooked.

You don't want to give a new place a kicking when they're still in start-up mode, but there was so much wrong with it when we went, that there is little-to-nothing to recommend it (chips are nice, and the bacon was good - that's it). And anything that can be ordered there is better everywhere else AND cheaper too. If it's to survive, no easy task given the prime and expensive Whiteladies Road location, it needs a major re-think and overhaul.  Gas & Co. don't seem to have a website yet but may I direct you to our Grillstock review from last year instead?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Birthday Dinner at Wallfish Bistro

So the main event of my birthday was dinner at Wallfish Bistro, on Wednesdays they do BYO, so it was very fortunate that my birthday fell on a Wednesday wasn't it? We took along a bottle of Rioja to keep our food company. I will start off by saying this was one of the most enjoyable meals out I have had in a very long time, everything was right about it, the atmosphere, the decor, the service and obviously the food, but I shall go into more detail about that shortly. Wallfish Bistro occupies the former location of Bistro Bierre and before that Keith Floyd's bistro. We entered the little warm and candlelit restaurant with a fair level of hunger ready to see what the menu had in store for us. Wallfish Bistro changes their menu, almost daily, so you'll never be completely sure what to expect, which I personally find quite exciting. 

Wallfish Bistro Bristol
menu du jour
white peach bellini
The menu on this particular evening had a lot of things to tempt the eye, and not just the usual dishes there was something a little different about some of the offerings, fresh and new to explore. If you like fish there are certainly a refreshing number of options instead of just the one or two which is good to see. After ordering two white peach bellinis we pawed over the menu, I couldn't resist immediately ordering a snack of pork crackling and apple sauce to share to help process all the dish choices in front of me.  We were also brought some bread with a choice of butter or olive tapenade to spread on.
Wallfish Bistro Bristol

Wallfish Bistro Bristol
beautiful salt and pepper set
Wallfish Bistro Bristol

The crackling could have done with a touch more salt in my opinion but I am nitpicking, it crunched delightfully and the apple sauce was perfect. With the periodical and very wonderful glug glug accompaniment of the gluggle jug, that I greatly admired, Rich and I decided to order tactically so as not to be stupidly full later on. We picked the pork rillettes with toast and cornichons to share plus two butchers steaks with baked bone marrow and chips.
Wallfish Bistro Bristol
pork rillettes
Wallfish Bistro Bristol
Butcher's steak with baked bone marrow
Wallfish Bistro Bristol
close up steak
Wallfish Bistro Bristol
can't have steak with out chips
The rillettes was creamy, melt in the mouth, perfectly seasoned, a delight. I am glad we shared as it was quite rich but the cornichons combated this very well indeed. On to the main event. The steak came with a gravy boat of b√©arnaise sauce and kindly we were also brought over a little jug with some of the escaped cooking liquor.  Where to start? Firstly I felt the b√©arnaise was left out of a job because the steak was so well cooked it didn't need it, what we did find was that the baked crumbed bone marrow was a perfect topper for bringing out even more meaty flavour.  

It has taken me a while to get on with bone marrow, it is hugely en vogue at the moment, but this is the first time I've really felt I loved it the flavoured crumb on top was inspired.  The two enamel dishes of chips were of course also perfect, proper chips that I suspect might have been double or triple cooked because they were heavenly, we couldn't finish all of them however.


We just about felt we had reasonable space for dessert and as Rich had his eye on the banana sticky toffee pudding since he first saw it on the menu earlier in the week, I decided to go for one of my all time favourites the vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb and ginger. 
Wallfish Bistro Bristol
birthday panna cotta
Wallfish Bistro Bristol
banana sticky toffee pudding
As you can see I was brought a lovely birthday panna cotta which was easily the best one I've ever had the fortune of tasting. Perfect texture, the vanilla flavour was plentiful and the rhubarb and ginger added just the right amount of zing.  Rich's dessert was spongy, indulgent yet not too heavy it was gone almost before I could snap a photo of it.  Voil√†! There you have it, quite possibly the best birthday meal I have had, a perfect combination of excellent food, wonderful atmosphere and brilliant service. 

 Also I noticed that when I went to the bathroom they had lent against a record player one of my all time favourite records, Roxy Music Country Life, it had to be fate.  I cannot wait to go back I really can't just thinking about it now is making me nostalgic for this meal all over again. To see what Wallfish Bistro has to offer visit their website, the guggle jugs will be waiting patiently for you. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Birthday Lunch at No.1 Harbourside

A mini blog for you all before the next biggie. So last week it was my birthday, I was playing it low key this year because of our upcoming wedding. However I did get to fit in two meals on the day lunch at No.1 Harbourside and dinner at Wallfish Bistro. For lunch I met up with my fellow food fanatic friend Kym and it was lucky she arrived first because there was only one table left, and she had grabbed it. 
No.1 Harbourside Food

The menu is fairly small but everything is under £10 and at lunch time you get a free bowl of soup with every order on this particular day the soup was broccoli and stilton. I decided to go for a lighter option with the risotto of the day, which was sage and sweet roasted garlic, plus some chips with beef jus (read gravy). Kym opted for the steak sandwich, which was what I was really after but had to consider my evening meal.
No.1 Harbourside Food
free soup
No.1 Harbourside Food
sage and sweet garlic risotto
No.1 Harbourside Food

No.1 Harbourside Food
chips n gravy
To be honest I was slightly underwhelmed by elements of the food at No.1 but there were flashes of deliciousness that I would return for, namely the chips in beef jus. These were like miniature roast potatoes with rich beefy juices to mop them up, indulgent and perfect with a pint of your favourite. The risotto was okay but not inspiring although Kym really enjoyed her steak sandwich, it definitely looked like the right hue of pink and did make me slightly jealous. 

I'd return to No.1 Harbourside for the chips in gravy alone, really tasty, a perfect after work snack. If you want to check out what No.1 has to offer visit their website.  

Monday, 3 March 2014

Sunday Lunch at Somerset House

Last Sunday my parents came over to have a pre-birthday lunch as they wouldn't be seeing me on the day.  I thought Somerset House would be a good place to try seeing as I had heard many good things about their food and decor.  We were led upstairs where the first thing we saw was a gramophone, which the kitsch enthusiast in me was happy about, the dining area upstairs is also lovely and light, a very beautiful room.  The menu for Sunday lunch consisted of a variety of starters and a meat choice of lamb, beef or pork, the roasts are a little on the pricey side at £14 each but luxury roasts seem to be on the up in Bristol.

All the roasts come with a Yorkshire pudding, which is pleasing as why should beef have all the fun? I decided to go for pork whilst Rich and dad picked beef and mum opted for lamb. We also decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of wine and some tear and share bread with truffle butter whilst we waited. The bread seemed a touch dry at the edges but we were assured it was made fresh daily.
Somerset House Bristol
tear and share bread
Roasts in Clifton
medium rare roast beef
Roasts in Clifton
roast beef with crunchy roasties
Somerset House Roast Bristol
roast pork with apple sauce
Somerset House Roast Bristol
mixed veg
Somerset House Roast Bristol
cauliflower and broccoli cheese
I have to say I was pretty impressed with the quality of the meat on the roasts cooked to perfection, just look at that beef, and full of flavour. The roast potatoes were some of the best ones I have had out it was just a shame that there weren't a few more of them, they are my weakness when it comes to roasts.  The cauliflower and broccoli cheese was really tasty but I found the seasonal veg a bit tasteless and sadly the Yorkshire pudding suffered from a lack of flavour also, which is a shame because the gravy was really great. It was still one of the nicest roasts I have had out but I think at £14 it is a touch too expensive for what you are paying for, it needs to up it's game a touch to match the standard of the meat and potatoes.

Dessert on the other hand was truly remarkable, in my eyes at least. Rich and I both ordered the apple and cinnamon doughnuts with caramel dip and spiced mulled cider shot. Mum decided to go for the Eton Mess, a particular favourite of hers. The mini doughnuts were heavenly, the apple in the centre was slightly sharp which really cut through the cinnamon sugar on the top of the doughnut, I cannot wait to return for these doughnuts alone. The mulled cider was particularly nice, extra spicy with good hits of clove for good measure.
Somerset House Bristol
apple and cinnamon doughnuts
I am interested to try some of the weekday menu at Somerset House, it definitely had some standout moments and I think once a few areas are polished up it will be outstanding, because it is a very lovely looking pub. To find out more about Somerset House check out their website. Reviews of No.1 Harbourside and Wallfish Bistro to come soon.