BABY TGE: SO YOU HAVE A 3 MONTH OLD

12 whole weeks have passed since your new tiny shouty dictator  precious bundle has arrived and you’re heading out of those initial hazy newborn days into uncharted territory! Your baby has stopped being an eating/sleeping potato and, if he’s anything like Baby TGE, has started developing fairly strongly opinions about what his day should consist of. So you have a 3 month old.. here we go…

  1. “I’ve definitely got this/ Oh FML I haven’t got this”

    Ok, so you’ve got to know your little person a lot more now, you have a vague idea (maybe) if they’re tired, hungry or just feeling a bit shouty. You’ve probably stopped sterilising the dummy every time it hits the floor (5 second rule, amiright?) and don’t feel like the worst parent in the world if you drop a bit of your lunch on them by accident.  There will now be mornings (sometimes even full days) when you realise that you’re both up, washed, fed and dressed and This Morning hasn’t even started yet! Your baby will happily coo and smile at you, dressed in their smart new outfit.  You’ll chuck on 3 loads of laundry, flick on some mascara and feel pretty good about life right now. The baby will be approaching their first nap and you’ll manage to pop them down in their moses basket (sleepy but awake of course – terribly important according to sleep training) and you’ll have a lovely hot cup of tea while he snoozes. You’ll realise that you’re actually a bit of a natural at this Motherhood lark. The important thing you decide, is just to relax and go with the flow. You might even contemplate writing a blog post detailing some handy hints and tips for other Mums to make their days as easy and carefree as yours are now… yep, you’ve got this. You probably even whatsapp your partner to let him know just how much you’ve got this.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Except, wait, shit hang on.. the baby is suddenly going mental for no reason and after an increasingly sweaty 20 minutes you’re rapidly running out of your handy go to tips to try. Oh bugger, suddenly it’s 3pm and you haven’t managed to have lunch yet but the baby has just passed out on you and you don’t dare move for fear of waking him (even though you’ve decided that you’re definitely putting the baby down for every nap now, all part of the sleep training you see…). By the time you’re free to venture to the fridge you realise that you’ve only got one manky green pepper and some brie in there anyway. One manky green pepper and brie sandwich later it’s time to leave the house in order to get something a bit more substantial for dinner, how about chicken curry? Quick, tasty and can be made quite healthily (which is important as you’re starting your post baby health kick now). You’re halfway to the shop when it starts raining and, oh bugger now you have to try and gaffa tape the rain cover to the pram as you never really learned how to put it on properly. Of course you’re getting wet but that doesn’t matter anymore does it? Wild eyed and slick haired you arrive at your local co-op which is pretty much out of everything except peppers and brie. FML. You locate one healthy-ish curry sauce, some rice and even some poppadoms. Bosh, time to get home. Arriving home you realise that you have forgotten the bastarding chicken! No time to think about that now of course because you’ve stopped moving the pram and the baby is FURIOUS about this and vomits all over his beautiful outfit to demonstrate this rage. The washing machine will beep to let you know that your laundry is done but obviously as it’s now raining there’s nowhere to bloody dry it but you need to find somewhere as otherwise you’ll have no clothes tomorrow and FML what am I doing… This is when your partner will arrive home, not to the domestic bliss suggested in your last whatsapp message, but to a house which resembles a bin where everyone in crying. God dammit, why did you put mascara on for this? He’ll innocently ask why you haven’t managed to put the recycling out yet and you’ll karate chop him in the face until he promises to get you a big mac. But of course, as with all things, this passes. One McDonald’s and glass of wine later (the health kick can start tomorrow, yeah?) and everything suddenly seems brighter. And oh look, the baby is asleep! And in his cot too! You’ve totally got this.

  2. “Helpful” strangers

    Generally speaking people just can’t resist a baby, they attract the smiles and coos of strangers wherever you go. They also can attract opinions like nothing else I’ve experienced…

    So you’re at the till of Aldi and your groceries are being chucked through with a speed and ferocity that suggests the cashier is in training to be an Olympic shot-putter. You’re desperately trying to keep up and this is when your baby decides to have a meltdown… you’re now pushing the pram, which has been deemed too boring to possibly stay in one moment longer by your screaming offspring, with one hand. You’re juggling said screaming sprog in your other arm and brightly insisting in a voice that you don’t recognise that, “we don’t scream like that now do we darling??” Darling child is demonstrating that actually, yes he bloody does scream and he’ll show you just how loud if you like. With your secret third Mum hand that you’ve managed to grow from somewhere you’re dealing with the accumulating food shop pile which is about to fall everywhere… Cue the helpful stranger!!                                                                                                                                                               Helpful Stranger: “Oooh someone sounds hungry!

    You: “Haha, I’ve just fed him actually, he’s just being a bit grumpy”

   Helpful Stranger: “Oh really? He does sound hungry though doesn’t he?”

   You (juggling loo roll and avocados before you lose them): “Haha no… like I said,   he’s just had a big feed so -“

 Helpful stranger (now ignoring you and talking directly to your baby in a baby voice):  ” – Someone’s hungry aren’t they? Does someone want their lunch? You want your lunch don’t you? You just want some lunch? Why doesn’t Mummy just give you some lunch…”

      You: “HE HAS HAD HIS BASTARDIING LUNCH!! HE IS CRYING BECAUSE HE WANTS     ME TO PRETEND HE IS AN AEROPLANE AND SWING HIM ABOUT MY HEAD, IT’S HIS NEW FAVOURITE THING AND I’VE BEEN DOING IT ALL BASTARDING MORNING BUT I HAVE WELL AND TRULY RUN OUT OF HANDS!! I’M TRYING TO CRAM A WEEKS’ WORTH OF GROCERIES INTO THE BASKET OF THE  PRAM WHICH IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE AND YET I WILL SOMEHOW DO IT BECAUSE I’M NOT EATING ONE MORE PEPPER AND BRIE SANDWICH, IT’S NO WAY TO LIVE!

I mean I don’t say that, I just grit my teeth and smile and thank them for their clearly superior knowledge about my child’s eating habits, thanks for being so helpful.

3. BABY DEVELOPMENT

Baby sensory, sing and sign, water babies, rhyme time…you name it, there’s a class available ready to help your baby move from potato to genius. We’re actually signed up for a few in the next few months which I’m genuinely excited to try – all sarcasm aside. We seem to be a bit late to the baby class game however so have been making do with some home grown versions such as…

  • Nursery rhymes. Without going to the proper ‘rhyme time’ class I’ve realised that I’ve forgotten about 70% of the words to any given rhyme which has resulted in some re-mixed versions of the classics for Baby TGE with a lot of mumbled “the incy wincy spider, something water spout. Down came the pino grigio and something something, sun came out..”. Unsurprisingly, Baby TGE is not particularly fussed about nursery rhymes. I did try about 3 minutes of Mr Tumbles nursery rhymes on Youtube but it made me want to start punching my face and never stop – and as Baby TGE wasn’t that into it we ended up listening to The Eagles greatest hits which we both enjoyed far more.
  • Dancing. Rather than go to any proper fitness class where there’s a risk that I might actually break into a sweat, I’ve taken to just popping on the radio and ‘dancing’ with Baby TGE round the living room. The benefits of this over to going to an official class are that you can do this one in your PJs, you’re really close to a cup of tea if needed and you can both laugh like loons because you’re not out of breath.
  • Sensory play. You know what baby TGE loves most in the world? Other than Mr TGE holding him in the air so he can be an aeroplane. Oh and also Boris bear. He loves a bit of a ‘happy birthday’ banner which I crinkle in front of him. Bosh. Baby sensory done.
  • Sleeping. It seems like at the 3 month mark sleep, very generally speaking, is starting to get easier. Some babies are sleeping through the night, some are just sleeping for longer. You’ve probably started to read some kind of sleep training book, I know we have. The great thing about baby books is if you don’t like what it says you can always buy another one which will tell you to do the exact opposite! Reeesult! Baby TGE has largely ignored any well-intentioned efforts we’ve made with any kind of sleep training and takes himself to bed at 8pm currently. So instead of staring at him lovingly while he snoozes downstairs with us in the evening, we now put him to bed and then go and stare at him lovingly on the baby monitor. That’s kind of like getting your evenings back, right?

So there you have it, 3 month old sorted. Roll on the 4 month sleep regression….

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THE MALAGO FOR A SUNDAY ROAST

Now I hold my hands up on this one, I’ve actually reviewed The Malago before (which you can read here THE MALAGO) when we popped in for brunch shortly after they  opened and I loved it. We have meant to go back for dinner since then but the arrival of Baby TGE has kept us fairly busy, what with keeping him alive and all (shout out to all the new parents who long for their baby to sleep and then freak out at 3am when they actually do, so you poke them a little to check they’re OK and then they inevitably wake up and oh god why did you poke them…)

Anyway, I turned the big 3-0 and had a FABULOUS birthday lunch with friends at the Pump House, comprising of 10% steak and 90% prosecco. But why have one birthday lunch when you can have 2, especially when you’re not having to pay for it? So at the invitation of the parents we booked The Malago for Sunday lunch. Mr TGE and I have realised that we’re essentially now charging my parents an admission fee in the form of lunch to visit their Grandson but it turns out we’re sort of fine with that and as long as the (Grand)Mothership gets cuddles then so are they. Win.

As with our last visit we were warmly greeted by staff on arrival and settled down to peruse the menu. The Parents in their wisdom had already ordered some olives to nibble on (which I learned later weren’t actually on the menu at that point but the Mothership has a crafty knack of ordering things not on the menu… more on this later) which were chunky and lovely.  After the most minimal amount of arm-twisting from Mum we ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc and decided upon our roast – we had a choice of beef, pork belly, chicken or a vegetarian/vegan roast. Displaying uncharacteristic restraint I ordered the chicken, while everyone else displayed a fabulous absence of restraint and ordered the pork belly.  Baby TGE chose this moment to utterly fall in love with our waitress and demonstrated his new ability to flirt. I’ll be honest, he’s not subtle as he wistfully stared at our waitress wherever she went pretty much for the duration of our meal (side note, if you’re that waitress do you do babysitting because this could just work out a treat)?

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The restaurant was buzzing and although on arrival the music was an odd selection of fairly loud busy music which we found difficult to hear each other over (oh GOD I’m so OLD) we were all relieved when it settled into something a more easy Sunday-esque. We were happily surprised when dainty teacups of carrot and parsnip soup were brought over to keep us going while we waited for our main courses, it’s little touches like these that make the Malago that little bit extra special. It was creamy and tasty and bearing in mind we had a non-soup eater with us (Mr TGE) even he happily finished his cup. That might have been because he had also ordered a rather delicious cocktail made from Chase marmalade vodka and consequently was in rather a merry mood!

Our roasts arrived piping hot and looking gorgeous, I had crackling envy immediately but being the birthday girl (and also, you know, just me) nicked a big bit from Mr TGE’s plate so I didn’t miss out. We all agreed it was some of the best crackling we’ve had at a restaurant and I could have ordered a whole side plate of it, it was perfectly crisp and salty. All of the roasts had a very generous amount of veg with it including potatoes, braised red cabbage, carrots, parsnips and topped with a whopping yorkshire pudding. The potatoes were particularly good being crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle, nothing worse than a hard roast potato. Mr TGE went to the (now closed) Townhouse restaurant on Whiteladies road for a roast and were given ONE roast potato to share between us… I had strong feelings about this. Portion size was certainly not an issue here however and we absolutely had our 5 a day! We were also given a large dish of cheesy leeks to share between us which were so naughty but so nice. My chicken was succulent and juicy, again a whopping portion. I wasn’t quick enough to get a taste of the pork belly itself but I was assured that it was blinkin’ delicious.

Now after a roast that size there’s no room for anything more, right? WRONG! Our plates were cleared by another lovely lady (who Baby TGE was keen on but still eyes for our original waitress I’m afraid) who my Mum managed to instantly become best friends with. During the chat she casually mentioned just how good the desserts were…never ones to shy away from a  challenge we thought it best to check out the menu. The men folk insisted that they were definitely far too full for desert, nope, no way, don’t want any, actually can you just bring an extra spoon…? The Mothership and I are made of far stronger stuff and ordered the chocolate tart and eton mess which the boys promptly announced they were sharing. Bastards. Luckily our waitress was on hand to bring some plastic baby cutlery for the boys which was hilarious until we realised that the baby spoons were actually bigger than the real ones! It was at this point that Mothership activated her ‘secret menu’ mode and ordered a French coffee, which they don’t offer. Except in her case when they happily shrugged and gave it their best shot – coffee, cream, sugar and brandy. The cream made the coffee a little colder than it should have been but the hearty hit of brandy certainly made up for that – and considering it wasn’t on the menu it was lovely. My chocolate tart was delicious – a rich bitter dark chocolate that went very nicely with my americano. The eton mess however was the winner of the battle of the puds – it was beautifully presented but more importantly was delicious. The strawberries were plump and sweet and the shards of meringue were sweet and chewy. Perfect!

We eventually waddled out, full and happy. Baby TGE was still mooning after his waitress and Mum was busily hugging the rest of the staff and inviting them to join us for a glass of wine next time (you should, seriously). A truly excellent Sunday roast and by far one of the best I’ve had in Bristol. We’ll aim to head back (perhaps sans baby so we can flex that cocktail menu) for a grown up dinner as soon as we can.

 

WOKY KO

One of my favourite things about April is the complete unpredictability of the weather – we have no bloody idea how to adapt as it can change so quickly! One second we’re digging out thermals to battle the ‘beast from the east’ and the next there’s a  large round yellow thing in the sky which makes us… warm? What is this sorcery? Yes that’s right spring sprung on a lovely Thursday last week and I took the opportunity to head down to Wapping Wharf, one of my favourite places in Bristol, for some lunch and a bit of people watching in the sunshine. A couple wandered past hand in hand, both sporting winter coats, hats and gloves just as a student wandered the other way in shorts and flip flops… we just have no idea do we?

After swinging by the office to disrupt all my colleagues with Baby TGE cuddles (seriously, taking a puppy or a baby into an office guarantees a 100% dip in productivity but 100% rise in happiness) we ventured home via the harbourside which was bustling on such a beautiful day.  The Cargo development at Wapping Wharf is home to many really exciting new places to eat and I feel like I’ve only tried a fraction of them so far. High on my list to try since it opened in 2016 was Woky Ko, a ‘casual Asian diner’ run by Masterchef finalist Larkin Cen. With a menu comprising of bao (filled Asian steamed buns), noodles, rice dishes and sharing plates there’s a lot of tasty options to choose from. I was wrangling the pram on this particular visit and have a tendency to adopt a policy of speed and confidence when trying to get it round tricky spaces when I’m nervous. This sometimes works and sometimes… doesn’t. A very friendly waiter approached me before I entered the tiny, tiny cargo unit and attempted to explain to me that I could take a seat anywhere and it’s table service. I batted this away without listening and rather firmly told him “YES LUNCH FOR ME PLEASE” before ramming the pram into the cargo unit. After a lot of (very polite) people squeezed their chairs and disrupted their lunch in order for me to make my way to the counter to order, I actually stopped long enough to listen to the staff gently explain that I didn’t need to do this… A slightly sweaty reversal later and lots of of forced laughter from me and I was seated outside with the menus and a cold coke to take the edge off.

I was tempted by the baos (and will be back to try them) but on such a lovely day I opted for one of the lunch specials, crispy duck rice noodle salad with chicory in an Asian dressing (£5.95). After a short wait a large bowl was placed in front of me with that tantalising smell of succulent duck wafting in the breeze. It was a generous portion for the price and everything on the plate was fresh and vibrant. The duck was beautifully tasty and sprinkled throughout the salad were little balls of crispy duck skin which were gorgeous. The salad was crunchy and filling, it felt more substantial than salads can be with plenty of interesting colours and textures. I enjoyed the Asian dressing which was the right amount of sharp and sweet but I felt there was far too much for my personal taste – I’m not sure if this was just a one off with my dish or if it’s how the salad is served – but the dressing pooled at the bottom which made the last of the salad soggy. I also found by the end that the taste of the dressing overwhelmed the remaining salad and duck which was a shame. 20180405_141108.jpg

As I had been so healthy with my salad lunch I decided to reward myself with desert -that’s a balanced diet, right? – and wasn’t about to walk away from the offer of a salted caramel bao with coconut ice cream (£4.25)…I’m so bloody glad I didn’t! It’s a fairly delicate portion size (perfect for one but not for sharing, Mr TGE would have got a fork in the face if he’d try to sample some) but absolute perfection. The bao was light and fluffy inside but sweet and crisp on the outside, a bit like little doughnuts. The ice cream was really creamy with a strong coconut flavour, I was at plate-licking stage quickly with it. Salted caramel sauce oozed over it all and I was in heaven, I could have happily demolished 5 of them.20180405_143602

So would I go back? Absolutely, those baos aren’t going to eat themselves you know. If you haven’t ventured to the cargo units at Wapping wharf I would really recommend a trip, especially on a lovely sunny day.

THIS GIRL HAD A BABY

So life has changed rather a lot here at TGE Towers as Baby TGE made his entrance into the world 6 weeks ago. He is clearly the best thing ever (if you don’t believe me just ask the Parentals – or new Grandparentals as I should say – who I believe have made a Powerpoint presentation on the subject) even if he is sick on me more than anyone – including myself – has ever been before. So what’s having a baby like? Well I haven’t worn as many pastel clothes and sat serenely bathed in sunshine as various baby product adverts led me to believe would be the case. Some days are really good; you manage to eat half an avocado, your hair looks actually rather nice and when you catch up with friends for tea and cake they gasp that they can’t believe that you just had a baby because you look just so good! On the bad days it’s like being in the Hunger Games whilst having sore nipples with a furby who hates you and everything you do angers it. Oh, and you’re covered in sick and your hair looks truly shit. So you know, swings and roundabouts.

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Hasn’t looked like this quite yet…

What has truly taken me by surprise though is the level of stealthy kindness from both other far more experienced Mums who know exactly what it’s like, and lovely kind-hearted non parents who don’t know what it’s like but correctly assume that it’s better with booze. So thank you not just my Mum (love you Mum), or my mother in law (love you too), but family, friends, colleagues, online support groups, the NCT girls and even strangers – like the lady in Asda who gently asked how old the baby was and then congratulated me on having left the house and wearing clothes because that’s nowhere near as easy as it sounds anymore. The texts checking how you’re doing, the listening and not judging, the food deliveries, the taking dirty laundry away and bringing it back clean, the biscuits, the tea, the laughs, the assurances that you honestly are doing really well and the offers to pop round to hold the bambino so you can shower (which turn into nice hair days!). It’s all so important.

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So although this will in no way turn into a ‘Mummy blog’ (there are already many wonderful writers who have this covered) I’m allowing myself this one indulgence before returning to more familiar subjects like brunch, tagines and maybe the odd cocktail or two.

So here are a few new Mum points for my stupid, sleep deprived brain. Enjoy!

  1. Actually point 1 is just a flat out thank you to every wise and wonderful person who has provided us with food over the past 6 weeks. Seriously, if you know any new parents or soon to be parents the best possible present you can buy/provide is dinner. Preferably something that can be easily heated up in one pot and has something vaguely nutritious about it so you can spoon it into your sleepy face in the 90 seconds you’ve actually put the baby down for and not get scurvy… Incidentally we were bought some meals from Cook from a fellow new parent which kept us going in the most sleep deprived early days and they were so delicious we have kept placing orders. They also offer a 10% new parent discount as they clearly know their market… click HERE to see.
  2. If the new Mum in your life is breastfeeding she’ll need an extra 500-700 calories a day so make sure you keep her well fed. If the new Mum in your life is formula feeding then SHE STILL DESERVES EXTRA FOOD, SHE JUST GREW A HUMAN YOU ABSOLUTE MONSTER, GIVE HER THE BLOODY CAKE! Incidentally Mr TGE managed to loose a staggering 9lbs in the first week of Baby TGE’s life which was actually more than Baby TGE weighed. Keep those Dads fed too!
  3. You will be AMAZED at what you can now eat one handed, you’ll wonder what you ever needed that other hand for. Also the temperature of food is now unimportant, hot food is beyond indulgence. By week 3 you’re basically eating tepid soup with a fork.
  4. You’ll also be amazed at the healing power of cake. Been awake since 3am? Cake. Colicky baby been screaming in your face for the past hour? Cake. The horrified reaction of the Postman reminds you that you have forgotten to put your boob away before you answered the door? Bloody big bit of cake.
  5. You’ll collect cold, undrunken cups of tea like trophies. You’ll make a hot cup and just as you sit down with it the baby will need feeding and you’ll become #babypinned. You’ll sadly watch that tea (that you left just out of reach – again)  cool until stone cold. You’ll still drink it because your standards are in the gutter now.
  6. It’s not just your tea drinking standards that are in the gutter, it’s all of them.  Older and wiser parents warned me about this but I didn’t truly believe it until it happened. Your house is basically a bin now but if you and the baby are dressed and fed then you’re still #winning so do the floors really need to be steam mopped? No they don’t.
  7. One of the best presents (aside from food) that you can buy a new parent is a Netflix subscription, if they don’t already have one. Watching Friends at 3am really takes the edge off the fact that it’s 3am and you’re awake until the baby decides you can sleep like a tiny evil dictator.
  8. Jesus Christ don’t stay for longer than an hour or so when you visit and for gods sake refuse all offers of tea/coffee. I apologise to every friend with a new baby that I visited and stayed over that time frame whilst happily sipping hot beverages that I let you make me, I knew not what I did.
  9. It’s not a funny or pithy point but if you work for the NHS then bloody THANK YOU. The care we all received was so amazing that it still makes me a little teary when I think about it, I wish you could all earn the salaries of the finest footballers and receive a standing ovation at the end of your shift.
  10. You’ll pray for the baby to sleep – please just bloody sleep – and then when they sleep you’ll end up watching them because they are so bloody lovely and suddenly it’s half an hour later and they’re awake again and you regret everything… hello Netflix and cake…

Normal service to be resumed soon and I’ll try to make it more than ‘OMG the food was hot and I used a KNIFE like I was the QUEEN or something…’

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Totally all worth it.

HAPPY BIRD

As a nation we don’t really ‘do’ chicken, do we? Not in the way we do burgers for example, there’s been a wave of specialist burger restaurants in the past few years –  gourmet burgers, pimped burgers, burgers that look like they’ve eaten other burgers. You name it, you can get it now! But if you fancy a decent hit of chicken you’re talking Nandos, KFC or a chicken shop… basically drunk food best suited for some ungodly hour and with a side of regret (we’ve all been there). But if you fancy some high quality fried (or grilled) chicken that doesn’t make you hate yourself a bit there hasn’t really been an option.. until now!

Opening in Bristol on Friday 26th January is the first ‘Happy Bird’ chicken restaurant, located handily in one of the units of Clifton Down shopping centre. Mr TGE and I were invited along for a preview evening to try a sample of the menu. The restaurant itself is  very modern and cool with plenty of neon lights and a focus on recycling and sustainability. Great care has been taken when designing the restaurant to keep things as green as possible – for example all of the tables are made from recycled materials and they’ve purposely chosen metal cutlery to reduce waste in the restaurant and recyclable bamboo cutlery for takeaway/delivery orders.

 

Of course the greatest care has been taken over sourcing the chicken itself and we were introduced to Edward, the lovely Yorkshire farmer who supplies the restaurant. Coming from a small family run farm in Yorkshire the chicken is fed high quality corn, fresh herbs and are all totally free range. There’s a clear passion for ethical farming from all involved. The result is higher welfare chickens who live twice as long as the chickens you would buy in the supermarket. Similarly the style of food is also something the team take pride in – you can absolutely get a whopping fried chicken burger here but you also have the option of grilled with a hearty salad, it’s your choice.

 

Luckily for us we didn’t have to choose as we had everything! Mr TGE, hero that he is, gallantly tried out the cocktail and beer menu while I stuck to the soft drinks. The ‘sunset spritz’ a vodka based cocktail went down particularly well I’m told, as did the Pig & Porter ‘Whispering Bob’ beer. To kick things off food wise we started with wings in a honey and chili glaze alongside a green salad with grilled chicken tenders and a super bean salad with halloumi. I bloody love wings, they’re a total weakness for me and I have absolutely no shame when eating them – life is just too short to attempt to eat wings politely. I did myself absolutely proud on these bad boys, they were succulent, juicy and full of flavour. I loved the glaze on them which was massively moreish. Served with a few of the house sauces I favoured the spicy ‘portugeezer’ while Mr TGE loved the creamy cool ‘tarragoner’.

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Next up was a platter of the main events including a whopping chicken leg, chicken tenders, house/dirty and naked fries (half covered in melted cheese, hot sauce and bacon bits, half plain), spicy rice, a fried chicken burger and a grilled chicken burger. Nom nom nom. All of the chicken served was juicy and tender but my particular favourite was the fried chicken leg – what a beast of a chicken he must have been! The coating was crisp and full of flavour and happily not oily at all, we were very impressed. The grilled chicken burger was lovely but I preferred the fried chicken for that extra flavour hit. Everything was so fresh and we liked having the option of a substantial tasty salad and the spicy flavourful rice as side dishes too, so many fast food or takeaway options are relentlessly unhealthy so Happy Bird makes a very pleasant change.

 

We chatted extensively with the staff during the meal who all clearly have a real passion for what they’re doing and know a huge amount about the food they’re serving. We were particularly interested to find out about the delivery options as they won’t be using Deliveroo. Instead they’ve employed their own specific delivery drivers who will all be trained on the origin of the food and the menu they’re delivering. They’ve also got their own special Happy Bird electric mopeds (keeping things green!) so you’ll see them whizzing around the city soon.

We ended the night with a thick milkshake (recyclable cups and straws of course!), strawberry for Mr TGE and chocolate for me. There was the intriguing option of a chicken salt milkshake but I was more than happy with chocolate.

Overall we had a great time with the Happy Bird team and were genuinely impressed by the menu and the quality of the food, we’ll absolutely be putting an order in when they open officially on Friday 26th Jan. Extra wings please!

Incidentally we popped along to the nearby Her Majesty’s Secret Service cocktail bar for a quick drink before our chicken feast, what a treat! They knocked up a fairly gorgeous mocktail that tasted just like an amaretto sour for me and Mr TGE loved his vesper. Also kudos to the lovely man who served us who managed to look only mildly horrified when we genuinely asked if it would be ok to come back with baby TGE once he’s arrived so we could enjoy a pre-dinner drink then…? #parentingpriorities. It was the politest no you can imagine.

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Please note: this experience was received free of charge but this didn’t impact my opinion and I was under no obligation to write a positive review. No review is shared with the venue before publication.

THE MALL PUB AND THORNBRIDGE BREWERY CRAFT BREW RESIDENCY

Welcome to 2018 TGE-ers, we’re nearly a month through already can you believe it? I know many of you are taking part in dry January, giving up booze for a whole month. Pfft! Try 9. Sorry, not bitter…In the spirit of a rather damp January however, Mr TGE and I went along to the launch event at The Mall pub in Clifton Village for this years’ craft beer residency in partnership with Thornbridge Brewery. The Craft Beer Residency is taking place from 25th January – 17th March at over 100 pubs nationwide offering a range of limited edition beers to those pubs taking part.

Now, as an 8 ½ month pregnant non-beer drinker, it wasn’t necessarily going to be a natural fit event- wise for me, but as the team at The Mall pub were laying on a 5 course menu and Mr TGE gallantly offered to put aside his dry January rules for the night to try the accompanying beer pairings (What a trooper eh?) we waddled along to see what was in store.

 

The Mall pub is a lovely venue in Clifton Village, I’ve had drinks there previously but never tried the food. Upstairs is a cosy informal pub and downstairs is an equally cosy but slightly more formal dining room and separate bar. As we arrived we were offered the first beer of the night, the ‘Mimosa’ 4.8% which I’m reliably informed is a smooth, full – bodied Vermont-style session IPA with an intense citrus hop character. Specially brewed for the Craft Beer Residency it was very well received in the room.  I had a quick sip and have to say it was bloody lovely – I would definitely order one in the future. I found it light and fruity in flavour, very easy to drink. Mr TGE agreed and we took our seats for the first course of the night with Rob Lovatt, Head Brewer at Thornbridge, and his team guiding us through the beer selection.

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The starter was beetroot three ways topped with crispy quail’s egg, chicory and horseradish and looked absolutely stunning. However for me this was the only course that didn’t work, the beetroot although served 3 ways all tasted the same and was rather bland. The horseradish and chicory helped deliver a little flavour and texture but unfortunately wasn’t enough to make the dish that interesting – I would have loved a sharp pickled beetroot flavour in there. The quail’s egg was lovely however with a pleasantly oozing yolk. That said Mr TGE enjoyed it, quite possibly this course didn’t work for me through missing out on the beer pairing called ‘Bear State’ (7%). A classic West Coast style American IPA this beer is brewed to have a huge profile flavour of grapefruit and pine with a well-rounded bitterness. Again I had a quick sip (all in the name of journalism) and found it similar but less fruity than the Mimosa and could definitely taste the grapefruit and additional bitterness. It wasn’t my favourite but went down very well around the table.

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Next up was course 2, a palate cleanser of Thornbridge strawberry sorbet. Made with ‘I Love You, Will U Marry Me’, a strawberry blonde ale at 4.5%, it was  gorgeously fruity and light. It’s exactly what you would want served from an ice cream van on a sultry summer day – though to be fair it went down pretty well on a damp January evening too. The beer was named after the iconic graffiti marriage proposal preserved on a bridge connecting flats in Sheffield and was brewed to support Sheffield’s S1 Artspace in their bid to create a new cultural venue. Thornbridge Brewery is based in nearby Bakewell and incidentally, a bakewell tart flavoured beer would be right up my street if you fancy brewing that guys?

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Moving on to the main course we were presented with a beautiful plate of venison medallions on celeriac puree, savoy cabbage and a wild mushroom & red wine jus. I’m a huge fan of venison and this was an absolute winner for me – the meat was soft, tender and full of flavour. The jus in particular was lovely, glossy and rich! This was paired with the ‘cocoa wonderland’ beer (6.8%), a full bodied porter with natural mocha malt flavours. Real chocolate is added during maturation which was fairly evident from the chocolatey aroma. It was the perfect pairing with the venison (I had one small sip) but probably too chocolatey for me to order as a stand alone drink. Together though they made an indulgent and extremely tasty meal, I was surprised at the sheer range of flavour with the beers on offer. If you’re not particularly a wine fan this would be a great option for you if you wanted a matching drink flight with a tasting menu.

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The penultimate course was my favourite of the night  – which after that venison is really saying something! Chocolate ganache with cherry curd and white chocolate popping crisp was again a beautifully presented dish (which I promptly devoured). The ganache was one of the best I’ve tried, deeply rich in flavour and so smooth. The tart cherry curd cut through it perfectly, I wish I was still eating it now to be honest. The cherry on top on the ganache had been dipped in the popping candy which was an unexpected little delight and the chocolate popping crisp added a nice crunch to the texture. This was served with my joint favourite (alongside the Mimosa) beer of the night ‘Love Amongst the Ruins’, a 7% sour red ale aged in burgundy barrels with cherries. It had a rich fruit aroma with sharpness and depth and complimented the food extremely well – though I would order it as a stand alone drink too, I loved the fruity sour flavour.  It’s a Belgian brown ale which goes into burgundy barrels for 18 months with cherries and a mixture of things that I don’t understand (Brettanomyces, Pedioccus and Lactobacillus if you’re interested) and is then blended and bottled with champagne yeast. I’m clearly not alone in loving this as it won the prestigious gold medal at the Beer World Cup 2016.

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By this point we were all insisting that we were of course far too full to possibly consider eating anything else and were swiftly proved to be wrong by the arrival of a heaving cheese board. With a selection of hard and soft cheeses, seed & nut biscuits along with an array of chutneys it was demolished in minutes. I stuck to the cheddar which was creamy and mild with a lovely quince jelly. Delicious! This was served with the ‘Serpent’ beer, a 9.5% Belgian golden ale rare brew from a collaboration between Brooklyn Brewery & Thornbridge. The ale was aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels for 18 months with cider and perry lees from Oliver’s cider and bottled with champagne yeast. I didn’t sample this one but again it was very well received around the table and the perry notes went very nicely with the cheese.

A very big thank you to the lovely folk from The Mall pub and Thornbridge Brewery who hosted us (and had endless patience for explaining the basic of brewing!)

Please note: this experience was received free of charge but this didn’t impact my opinion and I was under no obligation to write a positive review. No review is shared with the venue before publication.

Also please note I’m aware it sounds like I was chugging beer all night – I had a couple of sips and the rest of the information was passed on from Mr TGE and my fellow diners who were all too happy to help!

 

BRAVAS

Merry Christmas TGE-ers! I hope you have all had a fabulous festive break and are now at least 50% Quality Street, I know I am. Christmas this year was spent at The Parentals, wedged into the comfiest seats while The Mothership swooped in with duck rolls, nibbles and (of course) chocolates at 5 minute intervals. A very merry Preggo Christmas indeed!

I’ve saved one of my favourite restaurants for the last TGE review of 2017; Bravas. A firm favourite for me and Mr TGE since it opened in 2012, Bravas is a handily located tapas bar on Cotham Hill with a warm and friendly atmosphere. Fine dining it ain’t but authentic it is, with staff taking trips to Spain to pick up new ideas and ingredients. Tables are pleasingly squashed together and plates are piled high on the tables giving a fantastically buzzy vibe without being crammed. There does seem to be an ongoing glitch with the online booking system however (and although several bar seats are kept free for walk ins, you really should book as it’s always busy) which has meant on several occasions our table seems to have disappeared…it’s always been resolved and sorted but would be good if this little bug could be sorted in 2018 once and for all.

So how to start? The wine list is impressive (but you don’t need to spend a fortune, the Albizu Tempranillo 2015 is gorgeous at a very reasonable £17.95) but the gin menu is hard to ignore. Served Spanish style (meaning a double unless you say otherwise) there is a wide selection of the best gins available with premium tonics if you really want to spoil yourself. The Bombay Sapphire with orange zest, lemon zest and flaked almonds (£7), served in a goblet is hard to beat and always  a good place to start.

The food menu is split into nibbles, cured meats, vegetables, seafood and meat with prices ranging from around £2.50 – £8 per dish. The great thing about tapas is you can just order a few plates at a time to see how you go, ordering more plates if needed. Obviously we don’t do this, Mr TGE is Welsh and finds the idea of not ordering enough food panic inducing, we order as much as we can before the waiting staff gently suggest that that might be enough to be getting on with… Each dish arrives as it’s cooked so if you follow our lead and order basically one of everything you’ll find you’ve forgotten what you’ve ordered by the end and have inadvertently created your own mystery menu.

On this visit we tried:

Wild venison chorizo

Fried Aubergine with molasses (£1 is donated to Action Against Hunger every time this dish is ordered)

Roasted sweet potato & goats cheese salad

Salt grilled prawns

Chorizo cooked in cider (you can never have too much chorizo)

Braised Hereford ox cheek with celeriac puree

Spiced organic chicken livers with almonds.

As ever one of the standout dishes was the fried aubergine with molasses – try to find anyone who has eaten at Bravas and not ended up falling in love with this dish! It’s salty, sweet, crunchy and incredibly moreish. The charity donation that accompanies the dish is an extra nice touch.

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My other highlights include the salt grilled prawns (so good I ended up ordering another one) – they’re whoppers and so juicy and plump. With a good squeeze of lemon and a hearty helping of salt they are absolutely delicious and I love the slurpy, messy eating of them using your hands. The couple on the table next to us appeared to be on a first date so I’m not sure how much they appreciated my enthusiasm but I was having a lovely time!IMG_20171219_205836_614

My other favourite (which I managed to eat with a little more dignity) was the sweet potato & goats cheese salad. It was so good I was temped to order another and would have done so if I could have found room – the cheese was gorgeously gooey and was perfect with the fudgy potato and slivers of red onion.

The chorizo in cider is always a winner, proud and plump little sausages glistening in their own rich spicy sauce! Mr TGE’s standout was the ox cheek with celeriac puree – soft and flavourful with a richness which was nap inducing. Mopping up the sauce with bread was the perfect end to the meal. Well, almost perfect, because of course there is a rather lovely desert and sherry menu to consider…

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Because my Mama didn’t raise no quitter I heroically ordered a dessert, even after that amount of chorizo ( to be bump friendly I stuck to the cooked variety, but even so!) Flaming dishes of crema catalana had been delivered to tables nearby which looked spectacular but too ambitious for my appetite, so I opted for the salted chocolate truffles (£2.50) with a cortado to wash it down. Tiny but mighty those truffles pack a chocolatey punch and 2 is plenty.

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P.S. – We made a happy little discovery in search of a pre-dinner cocktail/mocktail before arriving at Bravas in the form of the Clockwork Rose on St Stephen’s Street. Bristol’s only steampunk cocktail bar (I did not know this was a thing…) we enjoyed a sample of their festive ‘Christmas Carol’ themed menu. A t

Tiny Tim temperance cocktail for me and a Fezziwig’s Shindig for Mr TGE. I’ll be looking forward to going back and trying their new creations in 2018!

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