February 2017 marks the sixth anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Giraffe, Cabot Circus - Bristol

Just as 'Groupon' plays a part in introducing people to local businesses – cafés and restaurants – tempting the public with daily deals and discount prices, 'Voucher Codes' pulls together 'free voucher codes and exclusive discounts'* for the majority of the mainstream 'chain' restaurants and bars which exist in City Centres across the UK. Not one to turn down a bargain, I often frequent this site and in this instance snapped up a two-for-one offer for my favourite 'chain' restaurant, 'Giraffe' – the only one, in my opinion that has retained a true sense of originality despite feeding the masses...

Date and Time: Tuesday 26th April 2011, 19:00
Name of Establishment: Giraffe*
Location: Top Floor, Cabot Circus, Bristol
Reason for Visit: The end of a hectic day-trip to the seaside with The Boy!

What I like about Giraffe is the smiley service you receive as soon as you walk through the door; staff are chatty and relaxed which makes for a friendly space, ever apparent from the onset of your visit. This occasion was no exception as typically, Giraffe was bright and buzzing with conversation against the subtlety of the background 'world music'. With it's overarching global theme, colourful décor and original art work, Giraffe seems to dissolve any prior stress and encourages diners to focus on its ethos, 'Love Eat Live' – a motto which adorns its restaurants and encapsulates all aspects of the establishment and most importantly, the content of the menu.

Food here is imaginative and dishes are packed full of high-quality ingredients. The Boy and I shared edamame (£4.65) to start which is served as pods which you have to pull open with your teeth, (probably not the best idea if you're at Giraffe on a first date!) The glaze in which the edamame is wok-fried is made up of soy, chilli and mirin (a Japanese rice-wine) – this is indisputably the star of this dish with its sweet, sticky texture, subtle heat and salty-tang. 
For my main course, I chose the BBQ Chicken and Smoked Cheddar Quesadilla (£8.25) from the menu's Mexicana section. This was aesthetically presented on a wooden board yet didn't leave a lot of room for knife and fork manoeuvre! That aside, there were some lovely flavours on offer here; the black bean chilli was the most prominent and I enjoyed the earthy warmth of this alongside the cooler spice of the ranchera salsa in contrast to the sweetness of the well-marinated chicken. I was pleased that the cheddar had been used subtly as had it been 'oozing' from the tortilla as the menu suggested, I feel it would have clashed with the creamy richness of the chipotle aioli accompaniment. All in all, I enjoyed this dish and It was certainly a generous portion - I had to ask The Boy to help me out!

The Hot Thai Duck Stir Fry (£9.95) was well-received by The Boy. With its punchy flavours that come through in bursts, (the menu states; shredded BBQ duck, bok choy, thai basil, mushrooms, red pepper, egg noodles and bean sprouts, topped with chilli jam, crispy shallots, spring onion and red chilli) this is certainly a dish which engages all your taste-buds, treating you to a variety of different tastes and textures, followed by a rather satisfying warmth which stays with you until dessert! I did wonder whether there was almost too much going on here (perhaps, I mused, Giraffe were throwing together a multitude of ingredients for the sake of it) but The Boy assured me that each element was vital – and as this is his tried and tested favourite from the menu, he should know! We didn't have room for dessert during this visit but I can report (from prior experience) that the Milky Bubble Double Chocolate Cheesecake is to die for – have a look at Giraffe's interactive website for more information.

Hot Thai Duck Stir-Fry
I think it's notable that The Boy and I have never visited Giraffe without a voucher in hand so perhaps its therefore fair to say that if you were to dine à la carte, it would be a fairy expensive experience. That said, you needn't let that hold you back - on the evening of our visit, The Boy and I could have taken advantage of a number of deals – 'Bar Buddies' (50% off a selection of alcoholic beverages including some lovely-sounding cocktails), 'Burger Tuesday' (where all burgers from the main menu are just £5) and if we had arrived a little earlier, the £8.45 starter and main course combo which runs daily from 4:00pm – 7:00pm. For the record, you may also want to check out Giraffe's 'Wake Up Wednesdays' where coffees are served up to 10:30am at 50p each. At that price and with free Wi-Fi and a tempting breakfast menu to boot (think Stacked Blueberry and Banana pancakes with maple syrup), it would be rude not to!

I will certainly return to Giraffe, these guys really work hard to deliver well thought-out food and attentive service. I think that the Bristol branch needs to revise its seating which is quite uncomfortable and hard in places but still, I can never resist a bargain and with the abundance of money-saving options on offer here, I will always have a reason to come back!

And now for the second opinion...
The Boy gave Giraffe 9/10 and in three words, described his experience as a 'feast of flavours!'


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Goldbrick House, Park Street

Goldbrick House is one of those places which I've walked past countless times, turned to whoever I'm with and said, 'I'd really like to eat in there!' Well I finally got around to doing so and for quite an occasion...my anniversary with The Boy! Goldbrick House is well known for its 'Fabulous Food Evenings' as well as the sporadic advertisement of its '50:50 Fridays'; where dishes from the à la carte menu cost 50% less. Subsequently, the final push towards booking a table was upon discovering that the next 50:50 Friday would take place on the 22nd April – the date which The Boy and I had agreed upon to celebrate our anniversary, (a date which changes every year!)

Date and Time: Friday 22nd April 2011, 19:00
Name of Establishment: Goldbrick House
Location: 69 Park Street, West End, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Anniversary Meal with The Boy

Upon first impressions, I think it's fair to say that Goldbrick House exudes elegance. Once inside you really feel part of the grandeur which, spread over three floors as well as a purpose-built outside terrace, is created by tasteful décor as well as the expanse of wooden floors and high ceilings which provide a spacious feel even when the venue is busy, (which was certainly the case on the evening of our visit). After exploring the curious maze of levels, rooms and adjoining staircases, The Boy and I chose to sit under the red shades which adorn the terrace area. There is a real holiday-vibe to this space and with the rich cooking smells wafting through from the kitchen and the buzz of conversation from other diners, you can't help but let your senses revel in what made for a truly relaxing ambiance.

Service was prompt, efficient and friendly – our questions regarding the menu were answered knowledgeably and nothing seemed too much trouble. The Boy has a nut allergy which was attended to with sensitivity and in a manner which made him feel at ease, (believe me, this is certainly not always the case elsewhere).

The food was spot-on and dishes were presented with care and precision. I opted for the salmon fillet (£12.50) which was beautifully cooked. The moist, pink flakes of fish perfectly complimented other flavours and textures which made up this dish - the lemon-infused risotto cake with it's rich, sticky pull and the drizzle of dill velouté which, although a little salty for my palate, was a delicious accompaniment, particularly to the crisp green beans. I loved the summery lightness of this course, it really matched the feel of the venue and our evening thus far. The Boy chose the Lamb Weillington (£18.95) which was served in puff pastry with layers of parma ham and minted-pea mash. I liked the mix of colours on this plate from the rich meaty hue of the lamb to the vibrant green of the peas alongside the swirl of celeriac purée and gravy – it almost looked too spectacular to devour! But devour it he did and The Boy concluded that this dish had been 'a real treat'.

The Boy's Lamb Wellington
Salmon Fillet

Dessert was the chocolate, raisin and walnut cake (£5.25) which was served with an ample scoop of toasted oat ice cream (presented in a separate bowl so that The Boy could share). The main attraction was more chocolate brownie in texture than cake but tasty, dense and wonderfully moreish nonetheless. That said, I think overall it was a little heavy and for once in my dessert-eating history, I would have been satisfied with half of the portion I was given! The ice cream however, had a lovely home-baked flapjack taste and the Pièce de Résistance was the salted caramel sauce which had a rich, burnt sugar aroma which dominated the taste buds – heaven!

 There is no question about whether I would return to Goldbrick House; for under £30 The Boy and I had a top-notch meal, glass of wine each and shared dessert in a sophisticated yet laid-back setting. This was, of course, due to the 50:50 Friday deal but even without this offer, I consider the prices fair for such a top-end dining experience. There really is something about this venue which sets it aside from other City-Centre eateries. It covers all the bases (from restaurant to champagne bar to stylish corporate venue) without losing consistency and the fact that quality is delivered throughout, really puts Goldbrick House in a league of its own.

And now for the second opinion...
The Boy gave Goldbrick House 8/10 and in three words chose, 'high-end dining'.

* http://www.goldbrickhouse.co.uk

Monday, 18 April 2011

Pieminister, Bristol

I don't think that you can call yourself a true Bristolian until you've sampled at least one of Pieminister's award-winning pies. Also, I doubt that I need to provide much background information to this review seeing that this company has become as symbolic of Bristol as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Justin Lee-Collins! With that in mind, I'm going to keep this brief...

Date and Time: Saturday 16th April 2011, 17:30
Name of Establishment: Pieminister (PM)*
Location: 24 Stokes Croft, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Hunger struck!

Whether you are elbow-to-elbow with other diners on the benched seating at PM's under-cover stall at St. Nicholas' market or within the hub of the PM kingdom at it's Stokes Croft Café, you are always guaranteed a tasty meal in a relaxed environment. This occasion was no exception and as The Boy and I were given our tinny plates of piping hot nosh (channelling that laid-back festival vibe), we experienced that familiar comfort of knowing that what we were about to eat would set us up for the rest of the evening.

Sat on a generous helping of creamy mash and surrounded by a moat of rich-tasting 'groovy' aka gravy, my 'Heidi' pie was, as usual, delicious. Packed with chunks of melt-in the mouth sweet potato and with the full-favoured twang of goats cheese, it's no wonder that this pie is a favourite with meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. I love the garlic undertones that come through with each mouthful and the spinach which laces itself though the other ingredients, tying everything together inside the perfectly textured pasty casing. This really was a treat on a mundane Saturday afternoon and using the 'Voucher Cloud'* deal of two Pieminister meals for £7 made the visit all the more rewarding!

The Boy opted for his personal favourite, 'The Matador', which combines free-range British beef and chunky chorizo sausage. The addition of green olives and butter beans in a sherry marinade balances the carnivorous bite of this pie and makes for a very tasty combination of flavours and textures. In fact it was at this point when all conversation with The Boy was lost as the only sounds I could hear from across the table were cave-man style grunts of appreciation!

All in all, another faultless Pieminister experience. Well, almost faultless, I did have to pop out to a nearby pub to use their toilets as the café doesn't have any. That aside, I urge fellow Bristolians, (and anyone else for that matter), who have not had the full hit of a decent pie, mash and gravy meal to hot-foot it to one of the Pieminister outlets – with smiley service and patriotic local food on offer, the experience can only be described as...gert lush!

And now for the second opinion...
The Boy gave Pieminister a clean 9/10 and in three words described his visit as 'Perfect Pie Paradise!'

  • www.pieminister.co.uk
  • www.vouchercloud.com

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Café Lazz, Gloucester Road, Bristol

The presence of Groupon* on the web has encouraged many people to visit a range of businesses due to the daily availability of Regional (and National) deals and discounts. My mum and I planned our visit to Café Lazz after purchasing a voucher for mixed Meze for two and a glass of wine each for £12.80. This price also included baklava and either coffee or Turkish tea for dessert. Quite simply, the promise of ‘authentic Turkish’ food and ‘a mixture of European and Mediterranean favourites’* at such a reasonable price was too tempting an offer to ignore and as the date neared closer, we were really looking forward to finding out whether this bargain was really as good as it sounded…
Date and Time: Friday 15th April 2011, 19:30
Name of Establishment: Café Lazz
Location: 272 Gloucester Road, Horfield, Bristol 
Reason for Visit: Tempting Groupon deal
Located in the midst of the eclectic Gloucester Road, Café Lazz doesn’t really stand out to the passer-by. In fact, from the outside, it could be mistaken as a seedy, late-night takeaway, which is a far cry from the comfortable restaurant that it actually is. Sure, the décor is simplistic, clinical even and the distinct lack of atmosphere due to the non-existent presence of other diners made, at times, for an almost apologetic silence. Yet, the space is clean and tidy and more importantly, the staff are friendly, hard-working and obviously put a great deal of effort into the dishes they deliver. This was particularly evident in the careful presentation of the platter of Turkish Meze, which was served promptly upon our arrival.
Dishes were authentic and tasty. The stuffed vine leaves (Dolma) were a particular favourite as they were rich and herby with just the right measure of dill. The squeak of the grilled halloumi initiated the interesting journey of varying flavours and textures - offsetting the crunch of the falafel’s seasoned coating and providing the calm before the spice of the finely chopped vegetables (ezme). The hummus had a wonderful rugged, homemade taste and the cool creaminess of the tzatziki was a lovely addition to the warmed pitta bread. The only meaty offering was the sucuk, (peppery Turkish sausage to you and me) – I liked this a lot and would have liked to find a couple more carnivorous accompaniments to the plate. However, this certainly wasn’t a deal breaker and I really enjoyed the versatility of the vegetable dishes – especially the aubergine which was marinated in a tangy, full-flavoured tomato-based sauce - yum! I think that the only disappointment was discovering that what was first identified as calamari was in fact, onion rings – an addition which didn’t really fit with the authenticity of other dishes.
The baklava, served with coffee, for dessert was bite-sized but delicious. It had a sweet, gooey texture with the accompanying crunch of roasted nuts. I thought that it was slightly too cold (as if it had been taken straight from the fridge) but enjoyed it nonetheless. During dessert, I had a look at the main menu – although mum and I had used our Groupon voucher, I noted that prices were reasonable and was amazed at the choice of dishes on offer for breakfast, brunch and dinner – Café Lazz seems to have really thought about catering for its target audience and with free Wi-Fi on offer, you can surf and enjoy good-quality nosh at any time of the day.
I certainly intend returning to Café Lazz, particularly during the summer months so that I can sit outside on the decked terrace (located at the rear of the premises). Mum and I both commented how the food had made us feel like we were on holiday - a feeling I’m sure would be heightened by the presence of sunshine and a couple more glasses of vino! It was a shame that on our visit, the restaurant wasn’t better attended but I’m sure that this is not always the case. After all, you should ‘never judge a book by its cover’ – I’m glad that I had incentive to visit Café Lazz as I’m not sure that I would have otherwise and I would have therefore missed out on the tastiest Turkish food I have had for a long time…
And now for the second opinion…
Mum gave Café Lazz a rating of  8/10 and when asked to describe it in three words chose, ‘Turkish Holiday Atmosphere!’
* http://www.groupon.com/
* http://www.cafelazz.com/

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Botanist, Bristol

Upon first noticing that Ha Ha Bar and Grill on Bristol's Berkeley Square had been boarded up, I must admit that I was a little disappointed. I had been a regular visitor and enjoyed many a meal or post-work beverage at this venue and subsequently, I was rather keen to find out how this space would be repackaged. So, via the venue's Twitter promotion, I proceeded to sign myself, (plus a couple of eager accomplices), up for the launch of Mitchell and Butler's; 'The Botanist', the new occupiers of this site…

Date and Time: Thursday 7th April 201, 18:00
Name of Establishment: The Botanist*
20a Berkeley Square, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Introduction of a new venue to Bristol's Bar/Restaurant scene

My first impression of The Botanist was certainly a positive one. After collecting flutes of pink prosecco from the main dining room, (a light and airy though unmistakably grand space), our party of three made a beeline for the aptly-named, 'Potting Shed'. This area was quite different from the rest of the venue and particularly appealed due to the cosy and relaxed ambiance created by plush carpet, comfortable seating and colour-changing lighting. I noticed that here, garden-themed, wood-effect wall art had been generously hung which reflected the botanist theme. It felt quite separate from the buzz of other areas - rather like a potting shed would be, which I thought was a nice touch. However, I was told that this corner would normally function as an area for dining which made me wonder how the mood would be altered once tables were added to an already cramped space.  That aside, I liked that you could see the bar from this angle and with that, the enthusiastic attitude of the staff.

Despite the number of people that they had to attend to, the staff ensured that our glasses were never left empty. As well as this, each top-up was issued with a smile and any questions we asked were answered in a friendly and informative manner. As we were attentively fuelled with drinks all evening, we were able to sample a range of tipples and thus, I can report that The Botanist serves a variety of good-quality wines and spirits. Martin Miller's gin* muddled with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and lightly carbonated sugar water was a crisp and refreshing combination and the complimentary mojitos and caprihinas hinted at a promising cocktail menu. The favourite in our circle however, was the Italian Perla Rosa prosecco which had a deliciously delicate sparkle. I anticipated that this would be a little expensive to order on a regular night out due to The Botanist's Clifton pricing but the website states that each Thursday, prosecco will be priced at £15 a bottle which is pretty reasonable in my opinion! A couple of real ales (Doom Bar and Bath Gem) are also served, along with bottled cider, larger and Crabbies' curious alcoholic ginger ale!

Tasters from The Botanist's menu were imaginatively served as canapés throughout the evening. There were a couple of low points such as the arancini risotto balls which were a little greasy and served on a slice of tomato which did little to excite the palate. However, the majority of the tidbits were well received, The Boy particularly liked the contrasting flavours of the smoked salmon with pomegranate molasses and enjoyed the mini portion of fish and chips with tartare drizzle, (minus the addition of several rouge capers!) I thought that the dolcelatte and red onion marmalade tartlet was delicious - a real treat of sweet and rich, cheesy flavours which just melted in the mouth. Later in the evening we sampled hot appetisers; the Luganege Sausage was meaty and seasoned to perfection and the steak, although too pink for my taste, was described by The Boy as 'wonderfully rare and tender'  as well as 'the best he had tasted'. Sweet canapés consisted of bite-size chocolate brownies with clotted cream and finished with a white chocolate curl, (so good I had to go back for thirds) and miniature scones which had a lovely texture and were packed with fruit. All in all I was impressed, and expanding the kitchen, which we were told was to better accommodate cooking locally-sourced ingredients from fresh, was obviously a good move.

I did have a little look at the main menu to gauge what to expect on a day-to-day basis and confess I was a little confused by the arrangement. There seemed to be such a variety of dishes (from 'Mediterranean Mezze' to 'Battered Haddock and Chips') as well as a number of dishes which were almost too fancy - more in keeping with the concept of fine-dining which I'm not sure worked alongside other such options as '2 Pizzas for £10'. Perhaps in covering all bases at the onset of its presence in the Bristol scene, The Botanist is attempting too much rather than focusing on less and achieving more.

In conclusion, I was expecting rustic charm from a venue called The Botanist, defined as, 'a person who specialises in botany' - the study of plant science. I had already considered this theme a little unusual for a bar/restaurant located in the middle of Clifton's social playground and upon spending an evening here, think that although this theme had been supported in places (in the comfy 'Potting Shed' area for example), it had not been consistent throughout. This also transpired to the menu as alluded to above. However, I did have a fantastic evening - the staff in particular are to be commended in regards to their passion for service and for that reason, I'm sure that The Botanist will move from strength to strength in achieving what it has set out to do which for the moment, has perhaps not been fully decided upon.

And now for the second opinion:

The Boy gave The Botanist 8/10 and when asked to describe the venue in three words, chose 'Opening- Night Delight!'

* http://www.martinmillersgin.com

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Chickpea Café, Cotham Hill, Bristol

The lunchtime sandwich trade is a lucrative business and with so many outlets to choose from, it is sometimes tempting to stick with somewhere you are familiar with.  However, had I chosen one of my usual haunts for today's sunshiny lunchtime break, I probably wouldn't have ever discovered Chickpea Café…

Date and Time: Wednesday 6th April 2011, 1:45pm
Name of Establishment: Chickpea Café
Location: 1b Pitville Place, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Lunch-break in the sunshine

Tucked behind the buzz of Whiteladies Road, in the middle of Cotham Hill, Chickpea is a welcoming space which offers a menu packed with an exciting range of original and locally-sourced creations. However, the first positive aspect of my visit wasn't the food at all, it was the smiley service that I received. Staff here are as friendly as they are knowledgeable about the content of the menu, the latter being evident from the detailed answers to the questions I asked regarding the content of the dishes on offer. Everything sounded healthy and fresh so I opted to have a regular chicken and chorizo melt which, for £4.50 (plus an extra 50p to 'sit-in'), left me in anticipation of what I would be served.

Whilst dealing with a rumbling stomach, I decided to sit outside to people-watch from the front of the café, There is also a lovely little garden (which catches the afternoon sunshine) at the rear of the premises as well as the inside seating which emits a cosy vibe, brought about by the closely-set tables and cushion-scattered seating.

My melt arrived promptly and the first notable feature was the size of the portion I was given - in fact, Chickpea's owner popped out to speak to me half way through my lunch and asked if I wanted to take the rest of the melt home in a paper bag! He obviously underestimated the size of my appetite and besides, this dish was far too tasty not to finish in one. The dish consisted of a large toasted wrap, halved and overflowing with succulent chicken, thinly-sliced chorizo, salad, red onion and hummus. All the ingredients were of good quality and I learned that the hummus had been created locally by 'Naked Kitchen', explaining its satisfying, homemade consistency and taste. The wrap itself was crisp and appealing -  so much better in texture than the soggy varieties you often find elsewhere! The accompanying salad was, again, a very generous portion and drizzled with a herby dressing which accented the dish perfectly. I think the only criticism I had was that there wasn't quite enough chorizo in my wrap so it's flavour was somewhat overpowered by the abundance of the other elements.

Before leaving Chickpea I couldn't help but notice the range of sweet treats available as well as their beautiful display of 'award-winning' cupcakes. I shall certainly return to sample more of what Chickpea has to offer and as they serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, there is plenty of time to do so. I was impressed that both savoury and sweet offerings catered for all diets with loads of options for vegetarians and vegans as well as a couple of gluten-free additions. I think what makes this café stand out is its originality and the upfront, honest delivery from counter to plate. The passion for pulling local food producers and businesses together was not only articulated but apparent from the obvious effort made to present top-quality food in a homely setting.

* Follow Chickpea Café on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=185312979190&v=info

Monday, 4 April 2011

Piggin’ Marvelous! Castellano's presents, 'All Things Pig'!

An array of Foodies from across the South West flocked to St.  Aldhelm’s Church in Bedminster this weekend to sample the culinary delights of local charcuterie specialist and chef, Vincent Castellano. Despite remaining humble about his expertise, Vincent has recently appeared on Nigel Slater’s, Simple Suppers and Olly Smith’s, The Secret Supper Club – both of which highlighted the passion he has for his craft as well as the high-quality produce he creates.

Subsequently, on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd April 2011, his ‘pop-up restaurant’ delivered, ‘All Things Pig’ - a seven-course feast which offered such delicacies as Boudin Noir, Pâté de Campagne, saucisson sec and coppa as well as a rich brawn salad. These piggy-related bites were eagerly anticipated and did not fail to impress. The second course, for example, which consisted of a range of charcuterie to share with your neighbouring diners, provided a lovely mixture of tastes and textures - think smooth, meaty pâté spread on the appending sourdough followed by the satisfying pull of the rich-tasting jamon. The main course featured slow-roasted pork ham loin with madeira glaze, smoked pancetta and Toulouse sausage – all of which were superbly cooked and ensured empty plates all round! The palate-cleansing poached rhubarb and hop vodka was delicious and, despite being a little too sweet for some, was considered a lovely contrast to the full-bodied, salty-tang of the cured meats and porky plates.

Dessert consisted of a flavoursome selection of cheeses from Trethowan’s and Homewood Cheese. The ‘Gorwydd Caerphilly’ in particular had an wonderfully creamy texture which just melted in the mouth. Finally, the Royal au Chocolat was divine – made with 70% dark chocolate and sat on a base created with praline paste and crushed cornflakes. Even the dark chocolate-button accompaniment had a pig etched onto it, (just one example of the careful attention to detail which was ever present throughout the seven courses).

There was a ‘Bring your Own’ drink policy – local wine and cider experts suggested suitable accompaniments to the seven dishes and a welcome drink, made with scrumpy cider and ‘Drambuie’ whetted our appetites for what would become a fairy boozy evening!

The atmosphere created in the church was relaxed and friendly with an excitable buzz – after being greeted by Vincent himself, Jean Pierre of Beaujolais Restaurant in Bath took over as host, who, channeling Ken Dodd, amused the crowd with a pink feather duster, (strangely proving a hilarious addition to the evening’s proceedings!) Live music from the Gaulois Brothers was also well received. The church itself was adorned with candles and banners sporting an imaginative pig-design by ‘Millers Design UK’. This venue really made for a spectacular evening and was one aspect amongst many which secured the evening’s success – I can’t wait for Vincent’s next event but in the meantime, will be stocking up on products from ‘Castellano’s Deli’ in Fishponds as an aide memoir of what really was a wonderful evening of top-notch food which met a 'piggin' marvelous' reception!
Typical that the only half-decent picture I took was of dessert! For images which better capture the evening's festivities, please refer to: http://www.througheye.co.uk
Further references:

You can also visit Vincent at Bristol's Farmer's Market - every Wednesday on Corn Street, Bristol

Friday, 1 April 2011

Chief Trading Post, Oldland Common, Bristol

Where better to spend lunchtime on a sunny mid-week day off than at the Chief Trading Post. This is a real gem of a find set between Bristol and Bath and a stones-throw away from the residential areas of Oldland Common and Willsbridge. However, once inside, the impact on your senses could take you anywhere within the limits of your imagination - let me explain…

Date and Time: Wednesday 30th March 2011
Name of Establishment: Chief Trading Post Ltd.*
Location: Barry Road, Oldland Common, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Day-off luncheon with The Boy

If you are a person, perhaps a little unfamiliar with Bristol outside of the City Centre, chances are you wouldn't have stumbled upon the Chief Trading Post (CTP) but trust me, it's well worth a visit. Although this venue is essentially a garden centre, it is also crammed full of unusual gifts, trinkets and stoneware as well as an exquisite range of solid-bronze creatures. It is the latter which greets you (in a big way) at the site's entrance and, in my opinion, ignites that initial curiosity at what this space will contain! However, unique as they are, this garden centre's wares are not what attracts me to visit time after time. Cross the quaint courtyard from the onset of the outside space to the tearoom and let the bustle, homely cooking smells and smiley service begin to explain why so many people (even those with no interest in gardening at all) flock to this venue on a regular basis.

You have three seating options here. Inside is warm, cosy and bubbling with voices - to me, it bestows the feeling of being in a friend's kitchen. The rich smells of ground coffee and toast fill the air which also never fails to create a homely ambiance. The decor is clutter-chic, there are comedy-placards on the walls, shelves of teapots and one-off pieces of furniture which could have been taken from one of the 'Narnia' films- think big cast-iron creations with intricately detailed features. The focal point though is the life-size bronze stag set above the fireplace, random yet strangely fitting in this space! Your second option is the courtyard area which is cobbled in places and dappled with sunshine. Visitors sit on large wooden benches laden with cushions and a real sense of tranquillity is created with pan-pipe music and sets of wind chimes. At the end of the courtyard there is also an usual pot-shaped capsule to sit in, strewn with fairy lights and guarded with charismatic tribesman statues - seeing is believing though so please refer to image below! Finally, the extended greenhouse area is tropically heated and colourful, decorated with stained glass windows and huge ceramic pots – perhaps suggesting an exotic Middle Eastern theme. Subsequently, wherever you opt to sit it certainly makes for an interesting experience!

After deciding to sit inside, The Boy and I both chose to have toasted sandwiches. There is also homemade quiche on offer as well as ploughman's lunches, paninis and jacket potatoes which hide beneath their ample toppings! You certainly get a lot for your money here and for £3.80 each, both toasties were brimming with good-quality fillings - thick-cut Wiltshire ham and melted mature cheddar in my case. The granary bread is cut into doorstep slices and garnished with a fresh, generous-sized salad and crinkle-cut crisps. After all of that, I was seriously full up so cake was out of the question on this occasion and yet, when it comes to CTP's cake and dessert selection I am something of an expert. I am particularly fond of the triple-layered, chocolate orange fudge cake which consists of light chocolate sponge sandwiching a thick, glutinous chocolate filling combined with orange zest and gloriously finished with Terry's Chocolate Orange segments.  What's more, for a couple of quid you are given what can only be described as a slab of cake and if that hasn't convinced you, other options include cherry and coconut, coffee and walnut, classic Victoria Sponge or such desserts as; white chocolate cheesecake (complete with Cadbury's flake) or apple tart tatin.

To wash all this down, CTP offer a range of teas and serve 'Costa' coffee, which is always expertly prepared. Cold drinks include all the favourites, fizzes and a selection of Orchard Pig juices.

It really is a treat to come here, there is such a relaxed atmosphere and food has that fulfilling homemade touch. To return to the beginning of my review, the impact on your senses is catered for from all angles. From the overwhelming amount of kitsch to take in to the comforting food smells escaping from the kitchen as well as the happy buzz of conversation and friendly service which is laced with the tinkle of chimes, I have no reason to doubt that you will leave CTP with a smile. And, as for that all-important sense of taste - one mouthful of that decadent chocolate orange fudge cake and you'll be back for more before you know it! Go on, give this intriguing haven a try - no doubt I'll see you there!

And now for a second opinion....
The Boy gave CTP a rating of 9/10 and gave a three-word review of, ''food never fails'...