A BOOZY BRUNCH

Gastronomic adventures have been on the back burner in the TGE household for the past week due to a fairly hectic schedule. So hectic in fact that it has produced the rarest of rare reactions in me…. I lost my appetite! Stress/excitement are pretty much the only things which will kill my appetite (any other emotion just makes me EVEN HUNGRIER!) so this is a highly unusual state of affairs.

The last time this happened was 3 days before the wedding, when all the excitement proved too much and I swung between being exceptionally calm, pleasantly (I think) hysterical and completely unable to eat anything.  The day before ‘The Big Day’ I had only managed to eat one chip, resulting in The Mothership taking matters into her own hands and lovingly but forcefully feeding me a Greek yogurt. Funnily enough I actually felt much better after that, it’s almost like Mums know best, isn’t it?

The morning of the wedding rolled around quickly and one of the BridesBoys was assigned to gently spoon granola and fruit into my face, as if  tending a baby bird… though by this point I had a large glass of prosecco in hand and felt like a Queen while I was Cinderella’d into looking like a Bride by the clever folk at Atelier hairdressers. It turns out when I feel like a Queen, and most especially when I have a glass of something lovely in hand,  I actually get pretty hungry…   The Feeding of the Bride role became both easier and substantially more time consuming than first assumed…

So, what did I need to do to break this recent appetite problem? That’s right I needed a drink. And not just any drink, I needed a brunch time drink. Although morning drinking is generally considered pretty much unacceptable, brunch drinking – much like wedding morning drinking –  is absolutely fine. What’s lovelier than a glass of fizz with your poached eggs? It’s jaunty, it’s fun, it’s in no way a cry for help! There’s been an explosion of ‘bottomless prosecco’ brunch offers in the past 6 months proving that not only is drinking is fine, drinking a bottomless amount with you toast is better. I actually did a London based bottomless prosecco with the BridesBoy who was in charge of feeding me wedding day granola (he was also in charge of ‘My Feelings’ and cuddling me whenever requested. It was basically a dream job as you can imagine, he’s just about recovered…) and we maybe saw it more of a challenge than it was intended to be. We asked if the waiter if he could just leave the bottle with us and then bring another in about 15 minutes but apparently, “that’s taking things a bit far”. Pfft.

Bookshop sign

So, on a sunny Saturday morning Mr TGE and I wandered down North Street in Bedminster to The Old Bookshop, to sample the brunch and cocktail menu we had heard so much about. Previously ‘Head of Food’ at Friska, Alex Burnett has failry recently taken over as permanent chef at The Old Bookshop and revamped the menu with a focus on local and ethical suppliers. Excitingly, this has led to a partnership with the wonderful Psychopomp Microdistillery who have produced a short but interesting brunch cocktail menu.

An eclectically decorated venue with an array of mismatched furniture, shelves adorned with exotic trinkets and a boarding on alarming amount of taxidermy, The Old Bookshop is one of North Street’s most distinctive venues. A curious squirrel peered down at us from the wall while we settled into our sunny window seats to peruse the brunch menu (served 11am – 3pm)….

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The curious squirrel

That’s didn’t actually take long as there are 3 “plates” to choose from and 3 cocktails – you can choose one plate and one cocktail for a very reasonable £12.50, or if you’re insisting that your body is a temple and you want to have the option to lift weights later (as in Mr TGE’s case), the plates are £8-£9 alone. Food wise you can choose between the Bookshop fry up, the Veggie fry up or smoked haddock kedgeree with slow poached eggs and crispy kale. Mr TGE, being the temple that he is, went for the veggie fry up whilst I opted for the kedgeree.

I had a harder time deciding between the 3 cocktail choices – The Full English (citrus aperitivo, Woden gin and cold Earl Grey tea), The Salty Dog (Woden gin, grapefruit juice, pickle juice, lemon and lemon salt) or The Bloody Mary (Pyschopomp’s house akvavit, lemon, tomato mix, Worcester sauce, hot sauce blend and celery salt). After agonising for a few minutes, I went for The Salty Dog and tried not to think about the pickle juice which I was fairly sure was going to be horrible.

Served with a flourish in a tall frosted glass the peachy pink cocktail looked and smelled divine. The lemon salt which dusted the rim was moreish in itself – if you like margaritas you’ll like The Salty Dog. The grapefruit was sharp and sweet with a decidedly decent hit of Pyscopomp’s famous Woden gin. The pickle juice gave the cocktail a pleasant bite to it and was subtler than I expected as I was worried it might overpower the other flavours. Mr TGE generously took a large sip as well, all in the name journalistic integrity you understand, to test if it really was as delicious as I claimed.  He agreed that it was lovely.

Cocktail

Soon, two huge steaming bowls were delivered to us and we tucked straight in. The slow poached eggs topped my mound of kedgeree, wobbling temptingly. They oozed a golden yolk when split, perfectly cooked. The rice was beautifully spiced and flavourful, heavily flaked with a generous amount of smoked haddock throughout. Equally delicious was the homemade brown sauce which I requested. Thick, sweet and tangy, I absolutely loved it and devoured the pot. The kale which, much like the pickle juice, I hadn’t actually been looking forward to was delicious. I’ve really tried to like kale, I’ve put it in smoothies and everything, but usually it’s just not for me and I was expecting to politely scrape it onto Mr TGE’s plate. But no! It was crispy and salty, adding a pleasant amount of seasoning to the dish. The portion size was ambitious and I couldn’t finish it despite my best efforts.

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Smoked haddock kedgeree, slow poached eggs and crispy kale. 

Mr TGE’s plate of veggie brunch was equally brimming with delicious things featuring baked mushroom, vegetable fritter, poached eggs, potato hash, baked beans and thick wedges of sourdough toast. I wish I could tell you a little bit more about how it actually tasted but MR TGE was not in the mood for sharing and swiftly inhaled it all – which probably tells you all you need to know? A fairly resounding thumbs- up.

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The Veggie brunch – I just had time to snap a photo!

As part of this weekend’ #BreakfastInBedminster event, The Old Bookshop will be hosting a special ‘The (break)fast and the furious’ themed brunch featuring a special menu, cocktails, fast & furious film screening, scalextrics in the garden and a 4-wheeled special guest…

So, whether you prefer your brunch fast, slow or just downright boozy, The Old Bookshop is dishing up some of the best brunch that Bristol has to offer. Appetite returned!

The Desk Lunch

Now, you would be forgiven for thinking after reading this blog that I just swan about Bristol ramming some combination of pulled pork, gelato and noodles into my face. And, to be fair, you’re not entirely wrong… but sometimes, in fact actually fairly often, I just have normal food.

You know – average, run of the mill, meal deal, that’ll do, non-instagrammable food. Most often this takes the form of The Desk Lunch.

I was actually feeling pretty #Smug about my Desk Lunch today because for once I had planned to take in delicious leftovers. In fact, with leftovers such as these I might have even ventured beyond my desk and braved the staff kitchen; where The Organised People sit. They bring in their homemade lunches every day without fail and always seem to feature halloumi, pomegranate seeds, a rocket salad and occasionally, for the sake of whimsy, a quail’s egg.

However today I would take my place amongst The Organised People for I too would have delightfully middle-class leftovers. These would be the kind of leftovers that would inspire a deep-rooted, food-lusty envy from my fellow Organised People, who would surely demand to know where this deliciousness had come from. In answer, I would toss my hair (which would be shiny and free flowing…not in a scraggy lady bun of sadness) and laugh at the sheer ease of bringing in something delicious, thrifty and probably organic.  I would be wearing Real Lady clothes – something a little tailored and probably white –  and I wouldn’t end up spilling anything on me or find that for most of the morning I had been walking round with toothpaste on my ear. Yes, these would be the leftovers of dreams and I would probably get a promotion just for bringing them in.

However, I didn’t mention any of this plan to Mr TGE at any point. I didn’t mention it when I browned the chicken thighs. I didn’t mention it when I added the ras el hanout (the spice, not the Batman villain) and I certainly didn’t mention it when I added the preserved lemons which were specially bought from Waitrose. I didn’t mention it during the 45 minutes of beautifully spiced simmering. No, I did not mention this at any point and do you know why? Because WHO EATS A TAGINE MADE FOR 4 PEOPLE IN ONE SITTING??  WHAT KIND OF MONSTER DOES THAT?? WHO BRISTOL, WHO? Mr TGE knows who, he knows VERY WELL who.

So, without my lunch of dreams I was stuck and that is how on this particular lunchtime – pre-pay day and post a weekend filled with steak and cocktails (Thanks to the wonderful Hawksmoor Air Street and Graphic Bar for this. What? Sometimes I eat things in London too) – I opted for this.

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It tasted like grey too. 

If I’m honest I think claiming this is ‘Moroccan inspired’ is probably pushing it. I don’t know why they added cauliflower to the cous cous, has adding cauliflower to anything ever really helped a situation?  The chick peas were hard, the cous cous was watery and the chicken was dry and tasted like sadness.

Ignoring the spring sunshine, I headed back to the one place I knew such a lunch was suitable. A place such a lunch deserved to be eaten. Goodbye to The Organised People table and  hello to The Desk Lunch…

 

Graphic Bar

Here’s some gin I drank out of a paint can at Graphic Bar with my London Chums – or ‘Lums’ as they decline to be called. 

A LOW ‘N’ SLOW LUNCH

Right, so a little apology to start… obviously in my last post I may have mentioned the sunshine a little. OK, a lot. Mentioning sunshine in the UK is basically the modern-day equivalent of doing a rain dance; throw a bank holiday weekend into the mix and grey skies are pretty much guaranteed… sorry Bristol.

However, determined not to let the gloomy weather get me down and after enduring a week of increasingly sad Boots meal day salad lunches, it was time to venture a little further afield.

Thursdays are important foodie days in Bristol as The Harbourside Market hosts ‘Street Food Thursdays’, a pop up food festival with resident Market DJ between 12- 3pm every week during the summer.  If you haven’t been to one yet you absolutely should, it’s Bristol independent food scene at its absolute best.

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Street Food Thursdays at the Harbourside Market. Grey skies courtesy of This Girl Eats…

There’s a rotating array of food on offer as well giving you the chance to eat your way around most of the world – Prato Feito (rump steak strips with onions, pepper and melted cheese) from Brazil courtesy of Tia Julia, handmade Japanese gyoza from the wonderful Eatchu, homemade Italian sausages from (you’ve guessed it) The Italian Sausage – it’s difficult to know where to start! There’s also the absolutely wonderful Good Food and Co providing exciting and delicious gluten free options, I can highly recommend the goat curry.

However, on this particular grey Thursday I needed something a little extra special… and that’s exactly what I got from Low ‘n’ Slow Bristol.

Low ‘n’ Slow Bristol is a pop up smokehouse, taking pride in their homemade sauces and locally sourced produce. On this particular Thursday, there was 12 hour pulled pork and/or beef brisket on offer, either served in a roll or in a salad box. I’m a total sucker for pulled pork so it was an easy choice for me but being the health conscious little thing that I am I obviously went for the salad box, I’m not a total monster.

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I was served with a pleasantly hefty amount of pork (locally sourced in Bristol from independent suppliers, of course) and the cooking process was explained a little more. Coated in a spice mix of paprika, garlic, onion, black pepper, brown sugar – and many other ingredients that I didn’t write down quickly enough – the meat is then smoked over apple wood for at least 12 hours. After a dollop of slaw, a helping of leafy salad, a sprinkling of pickles and a squeeze of BBQ sauce, I was ready to go.

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I mean… just look at it. Isn’t it lovely?

The meat was beautifully soft and flavourful, pulling apart easily with the spice mix coming through well without being overpowering. The homemade BBQ sauce was sensational – I find they can often be too sweet and cloying but this was tangy and vibrant and went really nicely with the pork. The slaw was creamy while still retaining the right amount of crunch, sloppy slaw is the worst. These guys take their BBQ seriously and their passion for the food they serve is evident.

Toddling away, I felt pleasantly full and fairly substantially meat drunk.  What more can you ask for from a Thursday lunchtime?

Swoon In The Sunshine

That’s right everyone, the sun is finally shining in Bristol and after a winter that was starting to feel increasingly like a weather forecast from a Game of Thrones episode, spring has definitely sprung.

You can also tell it’s spring as magazines have started to shriek at women to PREPARE THEIR BIKINI BODIES!! I’m feeling pretty #SmugFace about this, I’ve actually already prepared mine. I’ve double checked and have found that I do in fact have a body and indeed a bikini, so as far as I can see I’m ready! Hurrah! To celebrate being so organised I headed off to Swoon on a sunny Friday lunchtime to reward myself…

Swoon is a Gelato Bar located just opposite College Green at the bottom of Park Street, serving up a wide selection of gelato, sorbets, “swoondaes” and sweet treats. They also recently teamed up with Foozie Bristol for a gelato cocktail night which sounds like the stuff dreams are made of. Obviously tickets sold out but if they ever do another one I don’t care what else I’m meant to be doing, I’m bloody well going.

Bustling busy when I arrived, I had a little time in the queue to consider what flavour to choose – and boy is there choice! Tempted by the dark chocolate sorbetti, amarena cherry cheesecake and the salted caramel I eventually settled on one of their April guest flavours, jaffa cake.  At £2.75 for a single scoop, Swoon is certainly not cheap but my goodness is it worth it!

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Glistening jewels of orange jelly and substantial chunks of cake base were swirled through a rich milk chocolate gelato resulting in a heavenly mix of pure jaffa cake flavour. The gelato itself was smooth and creamy and packed a  powerful chocolate punch, even a single scoop proved to be a substantial and satisfying portion. Chocolate and orange is always a classic combination and both flavours came through distinctly in this.

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As I sat at the little table and chairs outside the shop, enjoying watching the world go by and gently stuffing as much gelato into my face as is polite/allowed in public, I noticed an angry woman staring at me. Ah, not me, the gelato…

“What”, she demanded, “is THAT?”

“It’s a jaffa cake gel-“

“I NEED one” interrupts Angry Lady and moments later she’s back, gelato in hand and looking substantially less angry.  Congratulations to Swoon, making the world a happier place, one gelato at a time.

This Girl Cooks

“Have you mentioned my DIY in your blog yet?” Asks Mr TGE. “Yes”, I lie.

Oh Reader, this weekend was all going so well. Saturday night was spent back with Parentals, celebrating The Matriarch’s birthday. As always this was done by drinking champers supplied by The Grandparentals and agreeing that we all have no idea why so many of Mother TGE’s  birthday cards are to do with drinking vast quantities, where do people even get this from, it’s not like her at all and why yes I would like a top up actually…

A sunny Sunday followed with a trip to Ikea with Mr TGE –  not only did we NOT fall out we emerged having only bought what we went in to buy, laughing carelessly like a woman from the Tena Ladies adverts. Smugger than smug we headed home, what could possibly go wrong?

Lamb. Sodding. Hot Pot. Here’s your guide…

Recipe: 

Look up a recipe online which is well reviewed. Skim read it as obviously you intuitively know how to cook this anyway and actually reading it properly would be pointless and waste precious cooking time.

Ignore the ingredients list, just use whatever you have in your fridge, it’ll probably be fine.

Pour a glass of prosecco to sip while you cook – you probably look a bit like Nigella at this point, you think to yourself.

Start chopping and frying ingredients (which at this point match fairly closely to the recipe). Encouraged by how delicious this smells decide to go off piste… Oooh look some leftover chorizo is in the fridge, chuck that in. Maybe some soy sauce too? Excellent. Reward self with a large sip of prosecco.

Realise everything is burning slightly so chuck ingredients out of frying pan into casserole dish.  Sprinkle some flour onto it as that always helps. Pour in the amount of red wine stated in the recipe. Put dish in oven.

Remember you have forgotten both carrots and garlic. Pour more prosecco and shove the slightly burnt frying pan back on the stove. Fry at a high heat to speed things up.

Self doubt will creep in at this point so re-skim read (still not properly though, that’s important) the recipe. YOU WERE MEANT TO HAVE DONE THE POTATOES BY NOW. Swig the prosecco and pour another.

Start slicing your potatoes, pause to deal with fire alarm which will now be shrieking because you’re still cooking the bastard carrots and garlic at far too high a heat and they’ve burnt.

Try not to panic as you stand swaying like a dandelion in the wind on your chair, attempting to shut the fire alarm off. Bash it when it won’t turn off. Pour more prosecco and drink immediately.

Add the burnt carrots and garlic to the dish and leave for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, take a teaspoon and have a test taste. Everything tastes like burnt. Add the rest of the bottle of red wine as that will make it better.

Take another test taste. It tastes like red wine and burnt. Add butter and salt, the Batman and Robin of the cooking world. This will fix EVERYTHING.

Taste again. Butter and salt have betrayed you and everything is not fixed. Panic and add some tomatoes, tomato sauce and mint sauce.

POUR AND DRINK MORE PROSECCO BECAUSE DOES ANYTHING REALLY MATTER ANYMORE ANYWAY??

Cover the dishes in the potatoes you forgot earlier and then cover them in butter and salt. I mean really why not at this stage?

Stick it in the oven for an hour and pour yourself a well deserved glass of prosecco.