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Wednesday 23 March 2016

Swooning Over Gelato

Last month I was invited to the launch of Swoon. These guys have brought proper gelato to Park Street in a variety of flavours and coffee from local roasters Extract Coffee plus proper thick Italian hot chocolate, there are plenty of things to sway the eye. Swoon is quite the swanky venue, the luxurious decor makes it feel somewhere special to come for a little treat. The team gave us a run down of how gelato is made and sourcing the produce, mostly local, Pullin's Bakery brownies for their chocolate brownie flavour for example. We were brought samples of their Swoon on a Stick, superior to Magnums in every way and a variety of options I particularly enjoyed the coconut sorbet wrapped in dark chocolate, like a fancy Bounty. For those of you are just looking for a little taste they offer monoporzione a small shot size of fior di latte (flower of milk) basically the creamiest and purest form of cow's milk mixed with either raspberry or dark chocolate sauce and topped with nuts. These are particularly special, so creamy and indulgent, perfect for me really because I don't have a big sweet tooth.
Swoon Gelato

As for flavours of gelato it is an embarrassment of riches. And they offer at least 4 sorbettos for the dairy intolerant or vegan. The chocolate sorbetto is so creamy and rich it is hard to believe it hasn't got any milk in it. And it's no wonder everything tastes so good, owner Bruno even went to gelato University Carpigiani, near Bologna, where he met former teacher and now head gelato chef Luisa. Yes that's right there is a university where you can specifically learn the craft of gelato. And they clearly passed their course with flying colours because this is the best tasting gelato I've ever had, certainly better than most of the ice cream equivalents I've ever sampled.
Swoon Gelato
ice cream cake

Swoon Gelato

Swoon Gelato
Swoon Gelato

If you have a fancy dinner or lunch planned definitely consider purchasing one of their ice cream cakes, we were brought a slice from one and it was simply heaven on a plate. Swoon is something a little bit special and definitely worth a visit I personally recommend hazelnut, cherry cheesecake, apple pie and bacio. However the pistachio and coffee was praised highly by fans of those flavours, The salted caramel is also excellent but very rich it almost tastes like liquid butter, absolutely indulgent. I have returned to Swoon a few times since we were invited along to the launch and the standard remains high, they will always let you sample a few flavours if you can't decide what to order.
Swoon Gelato
Peppa pig (strawberry and white chocolate)
Bruno and his team have created some great products and although Winter was an ambitious time to launch it seems to be thriving for which I am delighted as it's a great addition to Bristol and no doubt will be most welcome when it starts to heat up a bit in the Summer months. I was invited as a guest to the launch on the night and so samples were free but this did not impact my opinion and I have since returned a few times as a paying customer. To find out more about Swoon check out their website.

Monday 7 March 2016

Laksa at GPT Smokehouse by Ping Coombes

When Ping Coombes won Masterchef in 2014 I was delighted, she showed off her sense of humour and remained calm under stressful situations. She brought something different to the table and Malaysian cooking into the foray. Ping and I met 9 years ago working at a terrible office job and all the support staff bonded together against the oppressive atmosphere. Fast forward in time and she has thrived. After spending last Summer of parading round the food festivals with Ping's Buns, fresh 24 roast pork buns, she set up a two date pop up to bring us all proper laksa.

I bought tickets to the first date and decided to take my mum to try something new. The venue was the GPT Smokehouse in Bath so after a couple of drinks at the Brewhouse we walked along the Lower Bristol Road. The GPT Smokehouse has come a long way since it was the Green Park Tavern. Back in the day I saw a punk band there and enjoyed many a refreshing beverage with friends. It is a warm and cosy pub now and it was buzzing with activity the night we went. We were shown to the back area which seems to be some extension as it's a lot more brightly lit than the main part of the pub.

We ordered a glass of wine each and looked over the side dishes that could be added on to our laksa. There were lor bak, five spice pork spring rolls, cucur udang, prawn and garlic chive fritters and finally ikan bilis, anchovies harvested and dried on the shores of Ping's home town in Malaysia, picked by her mum no less.

We decided to go for some lor bak to share. Whilst we waited we could smell the spices of the laksa all around us it was tantalising. Unfortunately the couple at the end of the table to us ended up getting our order so we had to wait much longer than we should have because of the mix up. But once our food arrived we notice we also had a portion of cucur udang which we hadn't ordered the waitress said this was to make up for the wait. I could not wait any long so I tucked right in.

Ping Coombes laksa

Ping Coombes food

The food was absolutely gorgeous. The laksa was definitely spicier than I thought it would be, but that is no bad thing because I love hot food. The coconut tempered the chilli, the flavour of the broth was so intense and there was so much depth of flavour it was perfect. The pork in the lor bak was really tender and the plum sauce was a great match. The prawn and chive fritters were soft and moreish I could have eaten them all day. Ping popped out after service to speak to some friendly faces so I was able to congratulate her on the seriously delicious food. I cannot wait for the next one.

So next time you see Ping doing a pop up jump at the chance her cooking is comforting and full of great flavours. I for one am looking forward to browsing her book on Malaysian cooking when it is released. To find out more visit her website.