CAFE REVIVAL

New restaurants are bursting onto the Bristol food scene like 4th July fireworks and trying to keep up is like trying to jump onto a very delicious bus primarily made of artisan burgers (Asado and Burger Theory – looking at you here). There’s no cuisine craving that cannot be catered for – burgers, sushi, steaks, bao, noodles, fish, street food, curry, modern British, fine dining, cheap eats, vegetarian, vegan – you name it and I guarantee you there is somewhere is Bristol that excels itself at that very speciality. Yes ‘new’ in Bristol is the Big Thing.

So, on a beautiful sunny Friday, when your Dad offers to take you out to lunch anywhere you fancy, and in a city of infinite new choice, where do you choose? That’s right, somewhere old.

Cafe Revival located next to St Nicks market on Corn street is Bristol’s oldest coffee shop, it’s been serving up cappuccinos (or Ye Olde Cappuccino as they would have been… probably, I dunno) to Bristolians for over 200 years.  Set across 3 floors there’s an array of nooks and crannies to explore; though my favourite place to sit is one of the corner tables on the second floor by a window. The ground floor cafe is great to grab a quick bite and the 3rd floor ‘Snug’ is perfect if you need somewhere quieter; but for me the second floor has the right amount of bustle and on a warm day when the windows are open you can hear the buskers outside. I’m aware that sounds potentially terrible but luckily in Bristol we’re not just a culinary blessed city, we’re pretty musically blessed too (mainly – no Wurzels tweets please).

The Fathership landed into the city centre bang on time (he is ROCKING that bus pass, city driving and nightmare parking is for LOSERS ) and arm in arm we stroll over to Cafe Revival. With only minimal elbow shoving from me, we manage to bag my favourite table and settle ourselves in to look at the menu. As usual I offer to pay and as usual we laugh and laugh at what a hilarious idea that is. Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra hilarious, I might even hold my purse for a while and wave it around a little – a jolly charade that elicits even more mirth! Ho ho ho, daughters eh?

We peruse the menu with lunch options ranging from sandwiches, soups of the day, hearty salads, hot wraps stuffed with delicious combinations, jacket potatoes heaving with fillings and toasted paninis. None of it is groundbreaking, it’s not ‘fusion’ or concept dining – it’s just really solid tasty lunch. We both plump for a classic BLT sandwich and coffee, the Fathership dutifully disappears off to the bar to place our order. And pay. Obvs.

20170630_125923

After a short wait creamy coffees are cheerfully delivered followed by the main event, the BLT. Is there anything better than a really good BLT I ask you? It’s comfort food for the soul, one of life’s simple pleasures (especially when your Dad is paying). The sandwich is delivered hot, the thick cut bacon fresh from a sizzling pan. The lettuce is crisp and the tomato ripe the bread soft and thickly buttered. It is a classic BLT, only let down by the side salad that has been drenched in dressing most of which I leave. But overall it’s a winner, how can it not be with bacon that good? And for under a fiver it’s a bargain too, that’s a lot of lunch for your buck!

We munch contentedly as we put the world to rights and all too soon it’s time to go back to the office. As I wander back I think about what Ye Olde TGE would have been like 200 years ago, how would she be spending a sunny Friday lunchtime?

Probably happily munching on a BLT at Cafe Revival while her exasperated Ye Olde Dad picked up the bill. Again.

 

Advertisements

THE JOY OF LEFTOVERS

Sometimes the perfect night is an event.

It starts sitting in a large velvet armchair at The Bristol Harbour Hotel’s Gold Bar, ludicrous cocktail in hand. My ludicrous cocktail of choice at this particular bar incidentally is a ‘Mr Pink’  – Pama Pomegranate, Pinkster Gin, Martini Bianco, Cranberry, Orange and Plum Bitter. Heaven! A tiny silver platter of posh popcorn will be served alongside and whilst sipping the ludicrous cocktail of choice you’ll have an opportunity to put the world to rights and ponder how much better everything would be if only you were in charge, starting with free cocktail Friday (#VoteTGE).

Mr Pink

Mr Pink

Afterwards you’ll move on for a long and involved dinner at a newly opened Bristol hot spot, ideally with a tasting menu.  Everything will be seasonal and locally sourced, there will be a flavour combination you weren’t expecting to work but delights you and there will be definitely be some kind of herb in an ice cream, which you pretend to like but actually would prefer just vanilla (Basil ice cream is a crime, A CRIME!). The wine will have been thoughtfully chosen to complement each dish, the origins are important, the price isn’t.

But sometimes, in fact actually quite often, the perfect night is one spent on a squashy sofa with leftovers. The menu is whatever you didn’t eat yesterday, the wine is whatever was on special offer in Sainsburys (by the way sometimes The Ned Sauvignon Blanc is on offer for about £7 down from £10-£11. You’re welcome).

This particular perfect night is a most definitely a leftover night. After a busy week I’ve got the house to myself, pyjamas on and Netflix has a fresh new season of Orange Is The New Black ready to binge on. The weekend stretches ahead and I have absolutely no intention of cooking (I did that before https://thisgirleatsweb.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/this-girl-cooks/) Luckily for me Mr TGE made a huge pot of chili con carne last night and there’s a hefty bowlful left just waiting…

Mr TGE  has an interesting history with chili as  it took about a year of us living together for him to realise one of the key ingredients was, in fact, chili powder. No really, after many delicious bowls of essentially Bolognese with kidney beans, I gently ventured that perhaps a little more heat could be included next time…? A prolonged blank stare, stutters of denial and some recipe googling later and we were all happily agreed that chili powder does actually belong in chili. Halcyon days.

After that initial stumbling block though he makes the chili to end all chili. It’s packed with spice, garlic and peppers in a thick rich sauce.  And, as with all the best leftovers,  it tastes even better the day after cooking.

So here’s to leftover nights, squashy sofas and affordable wine – the saviour of the busy week!

im-sorry-for-what-i-said-when-i-was-hungry-dih-prints

 

BOX-E BRISTOL

Box E nightHave you ever seen one of those YouTube videos of kids being surprised by their parents with trips to Disney Land? And the kids just get totally overwhelmed by being too happy too quickly and they burst into tears because they don’t know what else to do? That pretty much sums up the Box-E experience for me. I’ve done this on occasion before where I enjoy something so much that I get increasingly distressed throughout because I know that the nice thing is coming to an end and I can’t imagine going back to that cold, bleak time before the nice thing started.

But I’m starting at the end, let’s go back to the beginning…

It’s bank holiday Friday and the hottest day of the year so far. Bristol is blooming in the heatwave, with happy crowds gathering at the harbourside to drink in the sunshine. I mean obviously we’re not in the sunshine, Mr TGE and I are so northern European we’re practically blue skinned, so we find shade, but most people are out and about.

Another reason for the bustling crowds of course is the opening of Cargo 2 – the larger second section of the Wapping Wharf development boasting restaurants, shops and even a yoga studio. It’s wonderfully busy with free Greek Souvlakis being handed out from The Athenian and tasters galore from The Bristol Cheesemonger, Cargo Catina and Gopal’s Curry shack. Cargo 2 is an exciting addition to the already popular Cargo 1 and offers an incredible amount of choice – Tare, Spuntino and The Pickle Brisket are top of my to do list right now. But we’re here for something particularly special and go up to the top level of Cargo 1 to take our seats at Box-E’s Kitchen Table.

Box-E is a small but perfectly formed 14 seat cargo restaurant run by Tess and Elliott Lidstone, offering a short menu of seasonal food.  As it’s such a beautiful day diners have spilled out onto the decking outside, glasses of delicate rosé being delivered as we arrive. We’re booked in for the full tasting menu with matching wine flight at the 4 seater kitchen table.  The 4 seats run along one side of the kitchen, we’re so close that I can feel the heat from the oven. Luckily a large fan has been placed at the end of the table and is pointed directly at us. “We didn’t have a fan yesterday”, Elliott explains, looking slightly haunted by the memory, “it’s much better with the fan”.  I’ve never been this close to the action in a busy restaurant at all and it’s fascinating to see how the tiny kitchen functions.

Box E fan

 

Elliott pours us a chilled glass of prosecco once we’re settled. “A glass of prosecco for you to start with” (which incidentally is my favourite way to start anything) “because… well why not?”. Why not indeed we agree and, as we clink glasses we’re presented with fresh warm bread and whipped butter sprinkled with seaweed. The butter is divine, I love the salty seaweed flavour and we slather it across the bread. The restaurant quickly fills up but service is friendly and efficient, nobody is rushed.  Elliott is casually chatting away to us, totally relaxed and at ease, as if he’s not cooking a dozen different dishes at the same time with precision an army sergeant would be proud of.

Box E butter

Whipped butter with seaweed

We move onto the first course, local smoked haddock with heritage beetroot, radishes and dill. Like a tiny jewellery box each component of the dish shines, it is a riot of colour and taste. The dill is sweet against the fish, it’s a delicately balanced dish and is pure summer. Mr TGE and I share grins, we’re going to like this…

 

Box E starter

 

Next up is asparagus in wild garlic butter with bottarga. It is to die for, the rich garlic butter perfect against the fresh savoury asparagus. The bottarga is a new one for me and Elliott explains that it’s grey mullet roe which has been salted, pressed and dried before being grated over the top of the dish. It’s an intense briny, salty flavour that I’ve not experienced before but it’s delicious. It’s one of the best dishes of the night. We wash it down with a golden glass of a Spanish wine, Pampaneo Airen. On its own I have to admit I don’t particularly like it but with the food it’s a revelation, bringing out the slight bitterness of the bottarga.

 

Box E asparagusBox E wine

 

Whilst we’ve been eating there’s one dish in particular that I’ve noticed Elliott preparing that’s really caught my eye. I’m aware that I’m peering over into his kitchen watching wide eyed like a hungry cat but Elliott is either too focused on his cooking or just too polite to say anything. Mr TGE digs me in the ribs, “Stop staring at the cheese!” I don’t break eye contact with the cheese which is currently being expertly blow torched. “I can’t” I whisper back, “I think this cheese might be for us!” And it is! We are presented with a happy little mound of jersey royal potatoes and wild garlic which is coated in an oozing layer of stinking bishop cheese (which I believe was courtesy of The Bristol Cheesemonger). It’s decadent and comforting and yet not too heavy, even on such a warm evening. The slightly distressed feeling is already beginning I can tell…  at some point, I’m not going to be in here eating this cheese and I can’t guarantee what I’ll do… Mr TGE can clearly tell this too as he hastily refills my water and distracts me with people watching. Maybe Elliott can sense it too as we’re all presented with an additional mini course, a teaspoon taster of raw chopped fillet of beef with lime, chili and sesame. The beef is achingly soft and the lime lifts everything, again giving it that summer edge. I could eat this by the bowlful and when I go back I plan to.

 

Box E cheese

We’re heading towards the big hitters of the tasting menu, the fish and meat courses, and after a short break we’re ready for it. Again, I’ve been watching the cooking process and I know the fish course is going to be good, you can’t cover something in that much butter and not like it.  The dish arrives, a thick slice of hake sitting on top of a bed of cous cous with harissa and monks beard.  The hake is crisp and golden on top while the succulent white flesh is moist and soft. The monks beard (which I thought was samphire) adds a delicate hint of saltiness and we’re lucky we’re within the very short period that it’s in season. The aromatic harissa adds a hint to the dish and again I’m licking the plate clean. One of my favourite wines of the night is served alongside this dish, a beautifully delicate and fragrant rosé.

 

Box E hake

 

And now we’re onto the main event – the meat course. And what a meat course it is. Seared onglet steak is served blushing pink on the inside, alongside chard and borlotti beans. Onglet can often be overlooked as a cut which is a shame as it has a real depth of flavour, and served rare is fabulously tender. The accompanying jus is a delight, again rich and full of flavour to match the beef. The only thing which doesn’t work for me is the borlotti beans… it’s no fault of the kitchen, just personal preference on my part. I never have liked them unfortunately, even these plump and lovingly cooked little beans. Mr TGE is thrilled as that means double beans for him. He kindly asks if I also need help with my wine, a beautiful and French red. I absolutely do not need help with this and in fact would actually have gone for a little bit more if possible – it’s a wonder!

 

Box E beefBox E red wine

The evening rolls to a satisfying close with the cheese course followed by an accidental double pudding. The only mistake Elliott makes the entire evening is mistakenly making one too many of his chocolate desserts – a chocolate mousse with English strawberries and elderflower. He ponders it for a moment before shrugging and turning to the four of us at the kitchen table, we sit up like eager puppies, eyes fixed on the chocolate. “Would you like to try…” Elliott begins, but we’ve already picked up our spoons. Yes, we would very much like to try the lovely chocolate thing please. And it is lovely. The chocolate is smooth and rich, the strawberries plump and ripe.  It’s decadent and I love it.

Elliot wisely gives us a few minutes before the final dish of the night, a smooth and creamy vanilla panna cotta also served with a tumble of English strawberries. It’s an exceptional end to an exceptional meal. I am totally replete and relaxed. The heat has faded from the day and it’s time to wander home in the warm night air.

Box E pudding

Box-E is not just fine dining, it’s food made with passion and love in an environment that’s cosy and friendly. They want you to enjoy the delightful food they’ve lovingly  crafted, and I for one do.

GREEK TREATS PART 2

Of all the lovely restaurants at which we ate in Santorini, one of our favourites was ‘Floga’ in Oia.

Situated at the bottom of steep set of steps (all the steps in Oia are steep, your thighs will be mighty by the end of your trip, don’t even think about taking high heels!) it shares the route that the donkeys use to take goods down to the port. Charming to watch, less charming when you have to follow them down and the donkey clean up man hasn’t appeared yet…

With a small(ish) outside terrace and larger cave style seating area inside, Floga boasts the most spectacular view of the caldera.  Intimate tables laid for 2 are exquisitely set and candles sparkle in the warm night air. Floga is a deeply romantic and, for me, just the right amount of cheesy. Gorgeous waiters beam at you as they pour hearty glasses of wine, smug couples glow in candlelight, surreptitiously taking selfies when they think the others aren’t looking.

We are given the smuggest of the smug tables – right in the middle of the dramatic large centrepiece window, giving the best possible view.

 

Floga view

The view to the right from our Smuggy smug table.

Extra smug points in fact because for everyone else there you are the view. I whisper this gleefully to Mr TGE who rolls his eyes and attempts to refill my wine glass to distract me. A horrified waiter promptly wrestles the bottle from him, aghast that we would even try to lift a finger for ourselves! Each of the waiters wears an earpiece, I assume so the kitchen can tell them the moment the food is cooked to perfection? (I don’t know, maybe they’re listening to The Archers…?) They glide effortlessly between the tightly packed tables with gleaming smiles, like really helpful sharks. They offer delicious things, refill glasses before you realised it was nearly empty (glasses are never allowed to be empty) and are so attentive that at times they risk crossing over into pervasiveness. It’s a narrow line to walk and they mainly succeed in staying on the right side.

Floga wine

Delicious Greek red wine

Romantic ballads play softly in the background and the moon shines brightly, causing ripples of silver light to dance across the ocean. Between the wine, the moonlight, the view, and Mr TGE/gorgeous waiters, I’m misty eyed.  I give myself up to the ambience totally. It’s the kind of place that, if you were so inclined, you could roll your eyes at, but why would you? We drink a delicious hearty red wine and as we gaze into each other’s eyes a familiar tune begins to play…

Mr TGE’s eyes widen in alarm. “Don’t”, he warns, “no seriously don’t”.

“Nobody will mind” I assure him, gathering my skirt in preparation, “they’ll join in!”

“They won’t! This isn’t Mama Mia-”

“-Yes” I continue, “it basically is. We’re in Greece and they’re playing ABBA, they WANT you to stand on the table and sing, they’ll all join in, you watch…”

At which point our main course arrives, Mr TGE breaths again and I have to content myself with singing Super Trooper gently under my breath.

We both ordered Lamb neck in honey, thyme and aged vinsanto sauce served with fresh baked mashed potatoes aromatized with carrot. ‘Aromatized’ I understand from the mash to mean ‘has bits of it in’ and I like it – the mash is creamy and smooth with flecks of carrot throughout.  The lamb is unbelievable, generous in portion and so soft in falls apart. It’s sweet, but not overly, the vinsanto sauce (vinsanto is a Greek desert wine) lifts the dish to another level, giving it both a sharp and sweet bite. I could lick the dish clean if I wasn’t so full. There’s a dramatic curl of pitta bread which is there more for aesthetic affect than taste. Again, it’s a touch that could annoy others but I think is fun.

Floga lamb

The dishes are whisked away and we discuss how entirely full we are and how we can’t possibly order a dessert. Obviously we order the baklava.

I’m a sucker for baklava, I know it’s an obvious thing to order when in Greece and not particularly adventurous – but why fight a classic? Our waiter grins at me when he places the enormous slab in front of us.  “It’s a corner bit” he whispers conspiratorially, “they’re the best bits.” The sweet pastry is delicate, flaky and fantastically nutty. The middle layers were gooey and sweet with honey and a hint of what I think was rosewater. Served with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream, we are well and truly stuffed by this point; however, dinner was not quite done…

Baklava

As well as the bill, we are delivered a couple of complimentary drinks, a fairly standard gesture for most of the restaurants in Oia. However, these are not standard glasses… they are smoking, bubbling and billowing dry ice like tiny witches’ cauldrons, particularly effective in the moonlight.  Presented, as everything is, with a flourish it’s a totally unnecessary, super-ostentatious and delightfully fun way to end the night! Again, it’s another trick which I imagine would make some people roll their eyes. I’m not so sure what my Uncle Tim’s (who’s a proper food critic, no seriously, like a real one, he judges pies and everything, you can read his stuff here -https://riponia.wordpress.com) opinion would be. It’s a gimmick for sure, but on a warm spring Santorini night when you’re in a beautiful restaurant shimmering with candlelight, full, happy, ever so smug and slightly tipsy, why not relax and enjoy?

AirBrush_20170505223952

With wonderful (if slightly keen) service, a beautiful view and even better food, Floga was the perfect holiday restaurant.

GREEK TREATS PART 1:

You’re sitting on a balcony; a warm breeze brushes your hair out of your eyes as heat from the afternoon sun blooms through you. You settle more deeply down, legs stretching in the sunshine. The sounds of gentle laughter and chatter reaches you; glasses softly clink and corks pop. You sigh as your shoulders begin to drop, the smell of summer flowers in the air. You take another sip of your gin and tonic, the ice clinking against the glass, cool in your hand. You consider rising, perhaps to move into the hot tub, but why would you? Everything you need is here. You’re warm, you’re full, you’re comfortable and nobody needs you to be doing anything. Your time is your own. You sigh and take another sip, closing your eyes and letting the minutes flutter past like butterflies…

20170503_140404

Well that was my week, how are you all doing? After a manic few weeks Team TGE packed up and sodded everything off for a week in Santorini, the stunning Greek Island famous for its caldera view. What is a caldera, I hear none of you ask? A caldera is a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of a volcano into itself, making it a large, special form of volcanic crater (thanks Wikipedia) and is substantially prettier than that description makes it sound.

IMG-20170512-WA0020

We stayed in Oia which is (I think) the prettiest part of Santorini with the picture postcard views of tumbling white buildings and wonderful sunset views. You also can’t move for outstanding restaurants, in 6 days we only managed a fraction of what the town had to offer and that’s just in Oia! So, in Part 1 of the Greek Adventure, here’s a whistle stop tour of delicious Greek things we ate…

 

IMG-20170512-WA0008

Stuffed squid

Fresh squid stuffed with manouri cheese and tomato. Beautifully tasty and tentacles the right amount of crispy. Oh stop it, you eat calamari don’t you? Mr TGE bravely tried a tentacle and declared it ‘nice’ before sticking very solidly to his Greek salad. Wimp. Served at Skala in Oia. Incidentally this is perfectly placed for people watching while still getting a sea view.

IMG-20170512-WA0015

Soutzoukakia

Original Soutzoukakia served with yellow rice cooked in onion broth, delicious little kebabs of ground meat which are lightly fried then bathed in red wine with herbs and tomato sauce, done in the style of the Greeks from Smyrni. Soutzoukakia was considered an aphrodisiac food usually cooked as a special treat for the groom on weddings and engagements (description supplied by Karma) Served at Karma in Oia.

IMG-20170512-WA0011

Saganaki of dreams

Saganaki with Kefalotyri cheese. This is a traditional Greek dish and although simple BLEW.MY.MIND. It’s essentially pan fried cheese, this was Kefalotyri cheese which tastes a bit like halloumi. It’s deliciously salty and, as it has a high melting point, was crisp on the outside and outrageously gooey in the centre. We were recommended to cut it into smaller chunks and squeeze lemon all over of it, which we dutifully did. They weren’t wrong. I could eat this by the trayful and it was perfectly complimented by the hearty chicken salad and pitta bread loaded with pesto and fresh tomato. It’s the lunch of dreams and served at Pergola in Perissa which is on the opposite side of the island. 

One of our favourite places which had no view to speak of but incredible food and service was Melitini, set a street or so back from the main walking strip that runs through Oia. Because it’s not directly on the caldera and lacks a sea view the prices are incredibly reasonable. I totally forgot to take any actual photos of the lovely mezze that we enjoyed as I was on holiday mode and just ate it, so use your imagination. The star dish was the deceptively simple sounding fried potatoes; first boiled whole, then cubed, rubbed in paprika, oregano and garlic, before being deep fried to a perfect crisp. We demolished them. There are rich, hearty lamb meatballs served with a squeeze of fresh lemon, a Greek Salad of feta, fat ripe tomatoes and local olives, warm pitta served with a pile of fresh creamy tzatziki… it’s Greek food at its best with typical warm Greek service to match.

IMG-20170512-WA0064

Ammoudi Bay at sunset

 

One night, to truly enjoy the sunset we head to Ammoudi Bay at the far tip of Oia. It’s a little fishing port built into the bottom of the caldera and features 4 fish taverns. We opt for the ‘Sunset Tavern’ (well, why not?) and after ordering a litre (I love a place that serves wine by the litre) of the excellent house white wine, we are ushered to the fish counter to choose from the catches of the day. Our eye is drawn to a rather large red snapper and we settle back to our water front seats to watch the sun begin to set. It is a spectacularly beautiful place (though obviously, you pay for the privilege, it’s one of the less budget friendly options) and a wonderfully peaceful place as well. The fish arrived expertly filleted with a range of vegetables on a huge silver platter. Delicately flavoured and incredibly fresh it was gorgeous. We just about have enough room for a slab of baklava for pudding which was the perfect end to a perfect meal. To get back up to Oia you can either take a taxi, a donkey taxi(!) or you can climb the 250 stairs back up the cliff yourself. After big promises of a taxi guess who ended up clambering up those steps, sweating and muttering dark thoughts as Mr TGE sprang up like a little mountain goat miles ahead? Yeah. This Girl.

IMG-20170512-WA0012

Amoudi Bay

 

I can’t end this blog though without mentioning our incredible hotel – The Alta Mare by Andronis. Perfectly situated in the centre of Oia’s walking street it has 10 rooms – each with a hot tub on the balcony and stunning caldera views. Between the fruit platters, glasses of fizz, bottles of wine, cocktails and chocolates we feel pretty thoroughly welcomed. Breakfast is served on our balcony each morning and then we choose between lazing by the infinity pool or asking the reception staff to arrange something lovely like a luxury yacht trip for us. It’s absolutely heavenly and I can’t recommend it highly enough, thank you to the team that looked after us so well.

 

Part 2 coming soon…

 

 

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)….

squirrel

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.

brunch

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.

veggie brunch

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.

AirBrush_20170419152251

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.