THE GIGGLING SQUID

It’s that time of year when everyone is ill but we all pretend we aren’t. We battle into the office, noses streaming, coughing over each other and sniffing into hot lemsips insisting that we’re fine and we’re just a little under the weather. Mr TGE and I are no exception, except of course that I don’t do the pretending I’m fine bit. One of the only things that improves my mood when I’m ill is complaining loudly and often  to anyone within earshot about just how ill I am and how dreadful it is. We get our kicks where we can. I complained so successfully during this recent cold that 15 minutes after whinging there was a knock at the door – one of my lovely BridesBoys had Deliveroo’d a large box of cakes from Pinkmans bakery to me in place of traditional medicine. Hurrah for the restorative power of brownies!

As we were both feeling a lot better, but no so much better that we actually wanted to cook, Mr TGE insisted on a drizzly Sunday night that we pop out for a spontaneous dinner. We haven’t spent much time in Clifton recently so decided to drive up the village and see what took our fancy. In search of something warming and hearty we decided on The Giggling Squid on Princess Victoria Street for some Thai food – perfect for a wet Bristol night. The Clifton branch in one of over 20 restaurants in the Giggling Squid chain and prides itself on delivering “staggeringly good Thai food” according to its website…

GS restaurant

The restaurant was exceptionally busy when we arrived and we were lucky to bag one of the only available tables. Unfortunately for us it was next to a fairly strong draft but as there wasn’t anywhere else we could move to there wasn’t much we could do. Service was efficient and polite, although staff did seem a little overwhelmed by the number of customers. The restaurant did have a lovely buzzy atmosphere however and the décor and lighting made for a cosy experience on a cold night.

To start I ordered a ‘Mango Passion’ juice which was pleasant enough but overpriced for what it was at £3.95 while Mr TGE opted for a Chang beer, also £3.95. We perused the menu which was full of tempting options including curries, seafood, noodle dishes and stir fries –  we decided we needed to try starters as well as main courses! I chose the ‘yummy duck spring rolls’ for £7.25 and Mr TGE opted for the salt and pepper squid, also £7.25. My spring rolls had a generous filling of tender shredded duck  mixed with carrots, celery and spring onion in crisp thai pastry. They were served piping hot with a small side dish of hoisin sauce which wasn’t quite enough for the 4 large spring rolls but was delicious. I was very impressed with the size of the dish though and had to recruit Mr TGE to help me finish it! His starter of squid was equally generous and the batter was light and nicely seasoned from the salt and pepper. The dish also came with a saucer of what looked like sweet and sour sauce but was actually a deceptively hot chili sauce. I personally found it quite unpleasant and we both found it far too hot for the delicate squid flavour.

GS duck rolls

GS squid

Moving on to our main course, we both opted for the chicken massaman curry. When I was out in Thailand for 6 weeks a few years ago I pretty much lived off of it. I absolutely loved the gently spiced creamy coconut flavour so I find it hard to turn down the opportunity to have it here when I get the chance. The curry dishes don’t automatically come with rice, which I always find slightly annoying, especially when, as in this case, the rice was £3 to add on.

GS curry

The curry arrived in bubbling cauldrons giving out a tantalising aroma. The sauce was rich and delicious with plenty of gentle, spicy flavour. It was the perfect winter warmer dish with a good helping of chicken and well cooked potatoes, absolutely delicious and I would certainly order it again. Less impressive was the serving of the sticky rice which was served in a crumpled plastic bag, crushed at the bottom of the little wicker basket it arrived in. I’ve never been served sticky rice quite like that (certainly not in Thailand!) and it was pretty unattractive. The rice had also moved over from sticky territory into completely solid so it was difficult to tear apart to share. It was however pretty filling and so even though it was a small portion, was fine for both of us.

GS rice

Overall a lovely meal with good service, if a few niggles.  So was it “staggeringly good Thai food” as the website boasts? In my opinion, no. But it was pretty bloomin’ tasty and I would absolutely go back, especially for those duck rolls.

P.S – We headed over to The Albion pub round the corner finish the night and enjoy the cosy fire (and look longingly at the prosecco deal…)

Albion

Advertisements

THE LOVAT

It was Mr TGE’s birthday week and as is traditional we flew off on holiday to help him escape the grinding panic that grips every year as he realises with startling clarity that second by second, precious life is ticking by in an unstoppable march towards the grave…

Personally, I’m a big fan of birthdays. I like cake, I like balloons and I bloomin’ love presents – hurrah for lovely birthdays! Mr TGE, not so much… unless we’ve discovered, he’s on holiday! Due to the continuation of the baby growing (and me looking more and more weeble-esque) we decided this year to keep things a little closer to home, so jetted off to exotic Inverness to spend a week in the Scottish Highlands.

It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, mainly because I’ve seen Outlander and I’ve been led to believe that this a fairly typical example of a Scotsman…

Outlander 2014

And of course another birthday tradition in the TGE household is to be treated to a fabulous meal –  there’s pretty much no problem, even facing your own mortality, which can’t be fixed with a good meal. After hearing rave reviews we decided to try The Brasseries at The Lovat in Fort Augustus,  a 4 star hotel close to Loch Ness with a history that stretches back to the Jacobites. It is also home to Station Road Restaurant which receives equally glowing reviews, offering a tasting menu and matching wine flight. Once the baby growing is done it’s something we would definitely want to head back to try…

If you ignore the rather wink-wink nudge-nudge welcome sign which made me want to punch myself in the face a bit (“Loving it at the Lovat!” in Ann Summers hues of black, pink and white with a scattering of love hearts. It does look just a little like a swingers hotel from the outside…)  then the Lovat is a welcoming site. With shabby chic décor, a tempting food menu and an even more tempting cocktail menu, it’s clear to see why The Brasseries is so popular, pre-booking is advised.  Less formal than Station Road Restaurant, the Brasserie puts a strong emphasis on quality service which was evident from the moment you arrive – staff wait until the minute before you’re due for your booking to finish setting up with your table with a large decanter of cold water and pre pouring your first glass.

After being warmly welcomed we settle in to peruse the menu and order a couple of drinks. I opt for a Shirley Temple from the mocktail list while Mr TGE starts strong with a Zombie which I’m told was a delight. Just to be on the safe side he pre-orders a glass of cabernet sauvignon to have with his main course at this point – always best to know that by the time you finish one drink you’ve got another of the way!  We kick things off with a couple of starters, I opt for the Shetland mussels steamed in white wine, garlic and cream and Mr TGE chooses venison bresaola with swede remoulade and roasted hazlenuts. The waitress assures me that the mussels will be thoroughly cooked to make sure they’re bump friendly, which was nice of her. Fresh warm bread arrives with salted butter and pesto to get our appetites going.

20171011_200207

Shortly after a huge steaming cauldron of mussels arrive, they’re fresh and plump with a generous pool of creamy, garlicky sauce. The smell is divine and I happily slurp my way through as many as I can manage. The portion is huge but I do my best and use the bread to mop up some of the delicious sauce, it was too good to waste! Mr TGE is equally pleased with his choice of venison (sadly not picture as it was devoured) which proves a lovely blend of salty, sweet and nutty flavours.

20171011_200554

The main courses looked equally good (the wine arrived right on time too)  – I had chosen the pot roast shoulder and leg of lamb with creamed barley, carrots and mustard. I’m a sucker for lamb and this was cooked beautifully, achingly soft and full of flavour. The barley was sweet and nutty which worked well with the rich indulgent mustard sauce. My only complaint (and not enough to say something) was that it was slightly cold – especially the lamb. Delicious, but would have preferred everything just a little bit warmer.

20171011_202753

Mr TGE was happily tucking into his main which was the special of the day – pork belly with black pudding and bacon and cabbage.  Well, why not? The black pudding was layered in strips throughout the pork which meant everything was moist and delicious with deep salty pork flavour. It was an incredibly rich and tasty dish which really packed a meaty punch and was declared an absolute winner.

20171011_202807

Because it’s the law that you must have pudding on your birthday we decided to opt for something light  – then quickly changed our minds because ‘trio of dark chocolate’ is available and what kind of monster says no to that? Because we’re not total animals, we agree to share one. To see the night off properly Mr TGE orders a lovely dessert wine which unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of. However, ordering a zombie, red wine followed by a dessert wine is sufficiently weird enough to draw the bartender over to meet whoever is ordering this concoction. The chaps bond over a passion for rum and cocktails – had we been staying in the area longer we would have definitely headed back to the bar on another night try out a few of the suggestions!

20171011_210955

The trio of dark chocolate arrived  – ice cream, fondant and mousse – and was beautifully presented, as the rest of the meal had been. However, unlike the rest of the meal I felt this was the only course which just didn’t have that flavour punch. The mousse was smooth and creamy, my favourite of the trio. Although the ice cream and the fondant were pleasant there just wasn’t the depth of flavour I had been expecting. It was rather nice when you had a bit of each of the trio at the same time and that definitely helped the flavour, but overall not enough chocolate for me…

We left very happy and very full – the staff were wonderful throughout the night, attentive without being overbearing with fantastic attention to detail. With a menu that good, it’s somewhere I’m absolutely sure we’ll return to.

 

P.S – Perhaps you fancy some music while you read food reviews? Of course you do! And what better to listen to than The Fathership’s band, The Bled, White and Blues! Yes that’s right, we don’t just write food reviews in this family, we’re also musical! I mean, not me, obviously, that’s why I write this and don’t have an album available on sound cloud, but he’s very good! You can check them out here https://soundcloud.com/user-105154741. Try listening and them not spending the rest of the day humming Thunder Road, I dare you.