SHOP 3 BISTRO

“Clifton neighbourhood bistro, serving moderately priced rustic cuisine” is the somewhat understated description offered by Shop 3 Bistro’s website. I suppose it’s technically true, Shop 3 is nestled away at the Thali end of Regent Street in Clifton Village and has a short but exciting menu with an emphasis on local and foraged produce.

I’ve been meaning to give it a try since its opening in December last year, but somehow it never quite made it to the top of my list. An error on my part…

We visited on a particularly busy sunny Saturday lunchtime, having made reservations earlier in the week. With a couple of tables outside, a couple more on the ground level and larger rooms for groups on the first floor and lower level; it’s a peculiar layout but does allow for greater flexibility.  We were seated with another couple on the ground floor whilst the first floor was filled with a large private party. The décor is understated but pretty with flowers (I assume picked locally?), candles and wine bottle menu holders dotting the tables. The ground floor is particularly light and airy and a great spot to people watch – there was a rather fabulous Scottish wedding party processing past about halfway through the meal which stole my attention!  I also liked the look of the lower level room (I had a quick nose when venturing to the bathroom) filled with cosy tables and flickering candle light. It was empty on such a beautiful day but would be perfect on a winters’ night, especially as there was a rather beautiful old fireplace.

We were presented with lunch menus which were short but interesting, with lots of fresh and unusual ingredients on offer. I was so nearly tempted by the ‘four rock oysters’ (£12) from the starters – your choice of natural with shallot vinegar or battered with tartare sauce – but as we were slightly restricted on time had to pass that by. One for next time though. While we perused our options we were presented with some beautiful almond focaccia, served warm with oozingly soft butter. Soft, chewy and tasty it was a promising sign of things to come.

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Main courses range from around £10-£20 with a selection of sides at around £4 each and a summer special at £12 including a glass of wine.  I was nearly swayed by the vegetarian option –  Harbourne Blue goat’s cheese soufflé, tempura courgette flowers, heritage tomato panzanella, gooseberry & basil sauce verte – but the summer lunch special seemed too good an opportunity to miss so Mr TGE and I both plumped for it. Described as “Corn fed chicken ravioli, foraged Scottish girolles, hen’s egg, broad beans, roast corn”, I was completely unprepared for the beautiful plate of  food that would shortly arrive. Feeling decadent we also ask for a side of “Hispi cabbage, bacon and goosefat” (£3.50).

Champagne was served to the tables around us as it seemed to be that kind of a Saturday, whilst we sipped our elderflower cordials (I’m currently growing a human which is really interfering with my champagne intake). They were wonderfully refreshing and sweet without being sickly. And then the main course arrived…

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It was so pretty I even forgave the description of ‘hen’s egg’ (I assume it’s a hen’s egg guys, you only need to mention it if it’s not a hen’s egg. Ducks egg, sure mention it. Dinosaur egg? Make it a feature! Hen’s egg? That’s just a standard egg then. Anyway I digress.).  The ravioli were generously filled with plump and flavourful chicken and sat upon a slick of rich and savoury sauce. Girolle mushrooms were dotted prettily around the dish while disks of ripe roast corn hid beneath flowers. A confetti of broad beans sprinkled the dish adding to the range of textures and colours – it’s one of the most attractive dishes I’ve eaten in a long time, it’s fairly Instagram worthy!

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Importantly though the taste more than matched the appearance with little bursts of delight in every mouthful. It felt like astounding value for £12. The side of cabbage was so delicious it shouldn’t be allowed, we wolfed it down, fighting over the last spoonful. Bacon and goose fat are exactly what cabbage has been missing it turns out.

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As we had piously avoided the champagne it seemed only fair to indulge in a little dessert at this stage. Although we’re usually very good at sharing deserts we were on such a roll we decided to try one each. I opted for the summer fruit and frangipane tart with white peach sorbet, orange blossom sponge, fennel and lavender sugar (£7.50). Mr TGE was feeling rather adventurous and opted for the curiously named, “I asked for chocolate and I got it… with mushrooms”  – dark chocolate mousse, vanilla ice cream, cookies soil, sponge, mushrooms and moss (£6.90).  We were both intrigued to see what the mushrooms would add to the dish and it turns out… not much in our humble opinion.

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The chocolate pudding… with mushrooms!

The chocolate elements were sensational and as with everything we were served, it was beautiful to look at. The dark chocolate mousse had an intense rich flavour, whilst the sponge was light and airy. The mushrooms were… mushrooms. They didn’t particularly add anything to the flavour and the texture was a little rubbery – it was a culinary bridge too far for us. Next time we’ll ask for just the chocolate.

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My summer tart was fungi free and (nearly) faultless however! A little jewel box of brightly coloured delightful things, it was a pleasure to eat. The tart was a lovely mix of tangy fruit and sweet frangipane which was beautifully matched by the orange sponge. The white peach sorbet was light and refreshing – I quite fancied it in a cocktail glass with a shot of gin over the top. There were little puddles of fragrant citrus gels which I swished the tart through for an extra pop. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the slick of fennel sauce which I didn’t notice on the plate until I swiped the sponge through it. I’m just not a herby pudding kind of girl, it’s just not my thing, I find the herbs always overwhelm the other delicate sweet flavours.  I know, I know, peasant tastebuds.

Rogue mushrooms and fennel aside it was a truly outstanding meal for an incredibly reasonable price. Service was attentive, friendly and relaxed throughout, we’re already looking forward to going back. And if the Christmas menu I saw is anything to go by, then Shop 3 Bistro only has more delicious surprises on the way…

Check out Shop 3 Bistros full menu HERE 

 

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THE MALAGO

Bedminster has no shortage of wonderful restaurants and North Street proudly gleams as the jewel in its foodie crown. Recently opened, The Malago (previously Zazu’s Kitchen) has pride of place in the centre of things, making it  a prime spot to stop for brunch, dinner or cocktails. Or all of those actually, I do enjoy a brunch time cocktail. We strolled down on a particularly wet Sunday to admire the amazing street art created during Upfest (find out more here – LINK) to try it out.

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One of my favourite Upfest pieces

Run by brother and sister team, chef Helly Highland and front of house John Carnegie, The Malago put its focus on friendly service, local suppliers and modern British cuisine. We ventured in during one of the rare breaks in the rain and were immediately warmly greeted, seated and given water and menus to peruse. Already this was winning for me, so many restaurants fail to do one, or all, of these basics. We had the option of the brunch menu (served 9am – 3pm), lunch (12-3pm) or the outside BBQ running all day during Upfest. The BBQ smelled incredible and we were salivating over the choices, especially when the waitress described in detail the options. I won’t even attempt to recreate that here as I won’t do it justice but it was just like one of those M&S food adverts where everything goes a bit slow motion and it’s not just any BBQ… this is a Malago BBQ…

The tempting brunch menu proved too hard to resist however (though the last time I had a brunch at Zazu’s kitchen it took 90 minutes and when it eventually arrived I was informed they had run out of bacon so had substituted it for a tomato… of such things brunch dreams are not made!) and I was torn between the American pancakes with streaky bacon and maple syrup or ‘The Malago’ which was the full works. Mr TGE had no such indecision and went straight for that and, knowing I would have chronic food envy if I didn’t,  I followed suit. We were apologetically told that there was about a 45 minute wait on food, which we expected during Upfest weekend, but they would try to get it to us faster. We weren’t in a rush and were happy to sit back, relax and enjoy the coffee. As the heavens opened again the restaurant flooded with more customers and soon there wasn’t a seat left with families, couples and groups of art fans clustered around tables.

As it happens we didn’t actually have to wait that long, 25 minutes later a beaming waitress proudly delivered our two heaving plates and apologised again for the wait. We really weren’t bothered but the staff clearly were which I think speaks very highly of them, they seemed genuinely interested to see that we had a lovely time with them which we appreciated. The brunch itself was an absolute winner. Thick cut bacon, plump flavourful sausages and a cheeky little bubble and squeak meant I knew I had chosen the right option. When in doubt go for everything – and it really does contain everything – poached eggs, sausage, bacon, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomato, bubble and squeak and finished off with toast. What a start to the day!

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Everything you could wish for in a brunch (minus the black pudding…)

I was halfway through before I noticed that I was actually missing the black pudding element – however Mr TGE had such an almighty slab of it he was happy to go halves rather than request any more. We happily munched our way through the plate, occasionally nodding and smiling at each other before returning to munching; this was truly a well brunched morning.  When the waitress came to clear the plates we commented on how much we had enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. She nodded enthusiastically, telling us that she had never worked somewhere with quite such lovely people. And do you know what? I can believe it. If ‘friendly neighbourhood local’ is the vibe they’re going for they’re definitely succeeding.  Leaning in closer in a conspiratorial fashion the waitress asked us if we’d been here for dinner yet… we replied that we hadn’t and she shook her head. “You need to come for dinner” she insists with a slightly dreamy look,  “it’s just… so good. It’s real fine dining and it’s just… so good!”.

I’m absolutely sold, make that dinner for two please!

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See the Malago’s full menu here

 

Added bonus of the week: If you’re ever in Coventry and in search of a decent pub dinner, check our The Greyhound Inn . We stumbled across whilst desperate for an early dinner and trying fervently to avoid the Frankie & Bennie’s that had been so highly recommended from the car salesman – and thank goodness! Great food, much better than your standard pub grub!

Greyhound Inn pie

Beef bourguignon & stilton flake pie