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!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

May the torch be with you...!

Bristol holds...the Olympic Torch!
22nd May 2012

Those who know me are aware that aside from eating-out, my other (perhaps rather more productive) past-time, is getting my sweat on in the gym. And, having been a self-proclaimed gym bunny for a good decade or so, it’s fair to say that my love of athletics extends beyond the sweaty four walls of Fitness First – so much so in fact that anticipation of this year’s Olympic Games has grown into a full blown obsession. Yes, I have the count-down clock as a bookmark on my computer desktop, I have booked two whole weeks off work this Summer to sit in front of the telly-box and my girl crush on Cheryl Cole has subsided in favour of Heptathlon great, Jessica Ennis. But surely for us Brits, the most exciting thing of all is the fact that – all together now – “it’s coming home”! OK, I know we’re not on a par with Athens but this is undoubtedly a once in a lifetime, blink and you’ll miss it occasion whereby Great Britain will be hosting the most spectacular sporting event of them all.  And, if the efforts of our top-notch athletes isn’t reason enough for a little patriotism, the fact that they’ll be running/cycling/swimming/pole vaulting (and so much more) upon home turf surely must be...Come on, dust off the bunting you have left over from last year's Royal Wedding and show your support for Team GB!
So, with this relentless enthusiasm in mind, I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to learn that witnessing the arrival of the Olympic Torch in my beloved home-town was hot on my to-do list; clearing my schedule from 17:38 so to facilitate watching it pass through Hanham High Street – the sleepy town in which I spent my childhood – whilst basking in the festivities unfolding within Millennium Square. Here, the torch would be later ‘set-down’ before continuing its journey into Cheltenham the following morning. Prior to this however, my working-day was punctuated with sightings of the torch growing ever closer (via the live feed on the BBC's website) and identifying the torch bearers who had been nominated to take part; delighting in the fact that four would be representing said workplace, as UWE Bristol students and staff. That said, the arrival of 16:00 provoked a swift exit and, after noting the buzz of the commute towards my initial destination, I fought my way through the increasing bustle to reach my viewpoint of the Stonehill to St. George stretch. It was really rather surreal to see my former stomping ground projected around the world via the the wonders of modern technology and yet, I concluded that the choked-up pride that I experienced was a result of the response of its inhabitants whereby people (my parents included) had lined the streets in their hundreds and each shop, café and pub along the way, had been adorned with a Union Jack. Speaking of which, I had become rather aware that I too had dressed myself in appropriate attire; though, the red, white and blue of the ensemble I had subconsciously selected in a haze preceding my 8:00am coffee hit really wasn't intentional....honest! And so I stood with my face turned up towards the glare of the sizeable screen whilst Millennium Square became busier still in anticipation of the climax of the day's procession. And, whilst several sporadic hot air balloons sailed past overhead - which, coupled with the prominent nautical input, featured as an emblem of the city's heritage - British Paralympian, Blaire Hannan, lit the cauldron to a roar of applause. The unbroken sunshine and hubbub of activity never taking away from one's appreciation of what ultimately constituted a historic occasion.
And how does all this fit in with a blog dedicated to gastronomical pleasures I hear you ask...well, it doesn’t actually but given the intermittent picnicking which took place between the coverage of each stretch of the route, the red, white and blue sprinkles added to my Angel Berry fro-yo and later, finding myself with a caipirinha in each hand courtesy of the two-for-one cocktail offer until 7:30pm at Las Iguanas, I can just about justify this post! Incidentally, it will also explain why Canapés, Cupcakes and Cocktails will inevitably go AWOL come the 25th July; for, some may not understand the gravity of this particular occasion, or think that the Olympic Games are a waste of tax-payers pennies but for me, its an event that showcases the talent within our Country and inspires others to go 'that extra mile' – and, for these reasons and so many more, I will be backing Team GB with an energetic passion all of my own.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Thai Edge - Broad Quay, Bristol

I work in a big office…and, amidst the seemingly consistent stream of notifications pertaining to birthday cards, leaving drinks, celebratory collections and co-worker catch-ups, an email caught my eye which detailed a night-out at Thai Edge. Now, as an establishment which has featured (almost daily) as part of my commute to the source of my new-found addiction, (as per my previous post), it had inadvertently, manoeuvred itself to the top of my to-do list – this particular email factoring as the final push towards booking a table whereby I guiltily shunned its originator in order to visit that very night with a small group of friends…

Date and Time: Monday 14th May 2012, 18:30
Name of Establishment: Thai Edge*
Location: Unit 4 Broad Quay, Bristol
Reason for Visit: A previously unexplored eatery at the pole position of my ‘to-do’ list...

Reflecting its name sake, Thai Edge is situated at the cusp of Bristol’s city centre; cornering Broad Quay and within crawling distance of the hustle and bustle of Queens Square. With crisp lines, white linen and contrasting violet hues within its refreshingly spacious interior, Thai Edge eschews the chaotic chintz which can so often be associated with a restaurant of this type in favour of a minimalistic approach whereby its décor has been tastefully arranged. Here, the odd bronze figurine or exotic flower arrangement, as well as the subtly-pitched Thai-inspired soundtrack, hints at a theme rather than forcing it upon your person! Instead, effectively channelling an air of sophistication, its rather more stylish features – including the likes of the ball-shaped, latticed light-fittings overhead and the use of a dedicated accent colour – sets a distinct aura of calm; the tranquil trickle emanating from the water feature at the forefront of the restaurant setting a precedent for the space beyond. Furthermore, floor-to-ceiling windows facilitate a light and airy ambiance, not to mention creating a panoramic viewpoint from wherever you happen to be sat. We did suffer the downside of this however whereby allowing for direct sunlight to microwave its clientèle, proves really rather uncomfortable and, after squinting at each other from across the table for an entire five-minute period, our party opted to move to a shadier spot, (which incidentally led to a second basket of complimentary crackers: Win!) Whilst documenting the negatives, I feel that it’s fitting to mention our servers for the evening who, although smartly attired (in purple dress) and unquestionably efficient, were particularly matter-of-fact in regards to our dining occasion; failing upon all accounts to engage with the group and instead, remaining nonchalant even in the face of a little attempted banter. I also wasn't sure whether I liked being encouraged to order my food using the corresponding number reference from the menu - after all, surely it would be preferable to learn a little in regards to the origin of the fare rather than to offhandedly opt for an M4 or S5?!
That said, my S5, or Chicken Satay to put it less crudely, was simply delicious. The meat all-but falling off its skewer and the sweet, salt and spice of the coarsely finished peanut dipping sauce, perfectly balanced – in fact, so not to waste a single mouthful, I felt compelled to finish it with a spoon! Yes, they were a long time coming but it was unanimously agreed that our starters were worth the wait; others, who ordered the likes of the Poh Pia (spring rolls filled with vermicelli and white cabbage) and See Krong Mou Yang, (seasoned spare ribs with a sweet chilli glaze) reporting that they particularly hit the spot; something which became obvious given the satisfied oohs and ahhs that reverberated around the table. That said, our spirits became somewhat quashed with another excruciating wait before our main courses made an entrance and yet, with commendable presentation all round, in addition to the sizeable sharer of steamed Thai jasmine rice that had been served 'as standard', all was quickly forgiven. I had opted for the Panang curry; a beautifully flavoursome dish with an intricate composition – the sweet, earthy notes of the coconut cream complimented with basil and punctuated with the kick of fresh red chilli. The distinctive zing of lime leaf danced upon the palate and I was pleased to find that the chicken content had been generously portioned and seemed of an ample quality; proving both tender and juicy. No complaints from my dining companions either – the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) for instance, reporting that the Pad Prew Waan which, with a pork base, constituted a stir-fry of sweet and sour sauce, fresh cucumber, tomato, onion, peppers and pineapple, comprised a colourful medley of tastes and textures that was altogether well received.
Chicken Satay
Panang Curry

We chose not to indulge in desserts on this occasion but it was duly noted that the selection is dominated somewhat by those rather unappealing ‘bought-in’ creations whereby ice cream factors as the primary ingredient. That said, the aptly-named 'Thai Specialities' section held greater appeal; the Tago and Woon Ka Ti (£4.50) a definite talking point given their unusual content. Here, we learned that Tago is essentially a coconut cream dessert with taro, sweetcorn and sago wrapped within a pandanus leaf and Woon Ka Ti consists of coconut jelly cubes topped with a water chestnut preserve – intriguing yes, but as appealing as the lure of the fro-yo frenzy taking place next door?...Not so much! Drinks included all the usual suspects plus a couple of Thai Beers; namely Chang and Singha; the latter described as the lighter, 'girlier' of the two by one of my dining companions! Wine is predominantly offered in 250ml measures and, at £5.25 a glass, it was considered a little too heavy (both in terms of its price tag and alcohol content) to warrant a mid-week treat! That said, we did later discover that smaller glasses are available upon request – something which may have proved rather more difficult to resist a little earlier in the proceedings.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Thai Edge; the contemporary twist on a classic genre and the thoughtful serenity of the space overall proving the perfect backdrop to a relaxed nosh-up and natter with friends; a notion which clearly extended beyond our party given the consistent buzz from what had become a rather well attended evening’s cover. However, I felt that whilst its cuisine proved both wholesome and well-executed, as well as fantastic value for money (the pre-theatre menu denoting two courses for just £9.95), this is a four-part franchise that seems to adopt the ethos of 'feeding the masses' whereby getting people through the door seems of greater importance than a focus on passion for service. I mean, beyond the brief explanation of traditional Thai cookery that is provided upon the inside cover of the menu, there is little to instigate an understanding and appreciation in regards to the nature of fare – plus, to outwardly display a degree of indifference for the dishes delivered to the customer (whereby at one point our server seemed almost afraid to exert an opinion, or recommendation if you will), is surely not a good method of securing return-visits; arguably, nor will it expedite the demand for Thai cuisine. Consequently, I’d suggest that expressing a degree of pride in terms of the gastronomical skill-set accountable for dishes which, for me, demonstrated exceptional balance, variety and detail, is in fact the only thing standing in the way of bestowing this establishment with a true sense of the ‘edge’!
And now for the second opinion...
The BFF gave Thai Edge a rating of 7/10 and in three words, described the experience as; 'tasty but slow'.


Thursday, 3 May 2012

AngelBerry - Broad Quay, Bristol

Let me be the first to tell you that frozen yoghurt is going to be huge this summer be it as versatile as ice cream and yet without the fat and thus, the guilt! In fact, it was fairly coincidental that just as Bristol's rather out-spoken Twitter presence identified the distinct lack of this gastronomical genius within our City's snack-food spectrum, that AngelBerry claimed the premises formally occupied by Coffee Beach to house its second frozen yoghurt 'factory'. Now, never one to let an opportunity to explore the onset of a foodie fad pass me by, I felt somewhat compelled to visit and consequently, here reads my scoop on the venue with the potential to be the coolest in town...!

Date and Time: Tuesday 1st May 2012, 19.45
Name of Establishment: AngelBerry
Location: Broad Quay, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Curiosity-driven post-gym pit stop!

Founded in September 2011 by Ryan Pasco and James Taylor, who initiated their fro-yo franchise within Hartcliffe's Imperial Park after spotting a significant gap in the market, AngelBerry has recently doubled its numbers with the launch of its brand-new Broad Quay branch. Although it opened its doors within the midst of the wettest April since records began (yes, really), it didn't seem to dampen the spirits of those at the helm of this venture; the staff at the 'front-of-house' outwardly all smiles and happy-to-help; bestowing bemused passers-by with free samples and relaying the instructions for building one's confection within earshot of each and every AngelBerry virgin! In fact, I would suggest that their charismatic energy fits rather well within this candy-coloured space; whereby hot pink feature walls alongside an upbeat soundtrack of infectious pop music, (Bieber-fever anyone?!) promotes the fun-factor and yet, offset with magnolia hues and minimalistic décor, tastefully encompasses a fresh, modern disposition. Furthermore, a sense of spaciousness remains intact, though the table to chair ratio seems sparsely distributed which suggests that this is perhaps an experience intended fundamentally as a takeaway affair; a notion heightened by the absence of customer toilets which would presumably have to be present if this was not the case!
There are ten in-house varieties of frozen yoghurt to choose from; all of which are naturally flavoured, probiotic and gluten-free which, in addition to the aforementioned fat-free advantage makes it difficult to believe that something as saintly can be quite so delicious! Plus, as a self-service establishment whereby, with a rumble of machinery, you lever your chosen flavour(s) into one of the three available cup sizes (oo er), it encapsulates the novelty of putting the customer in control, (perfect for kids or the big kid within!) And, for the indecisive amongst us, staff operate a ‘try-before-you-buy’ approach whereby mini tasters can be requested so that one can make an informed decision before committing to a particular flavour. This also allows for sampling the limited edition/seasonal flavours which, on this occasion included ‘Jaffa Cake’ – an acquired taste with undoubtable appeal but, in my view, possibly a little too sickly for portioning in a larger quantity. Instead, I opted to combine three flavours which I hoped would complement each other; Banana, Chocolate Mousse and Natural Greek Yoghurt; the latter balancing the others with its characteristically bitter-sweet twang. In fact, all three ate very well, proving evenly textured, flavoursome and...erm...cold! When it came to picking toppings, I was literally like a child in a sweet shop as there were no less than thirty-five to choose from; ranging from the likes of mini Oreo cookies, crushed Kit Kat, M&Ms, nuts and gummy bears! This was in addition to the healthier toppings whereby fresh fruit is ever so slightly overshadowed by the invention of ‘pobbles’ which are essentially tiny, aesthetically-pleasing bubbles of fruit juice that burst upon the palate – amazing! However, I finally settled upon waffle cone pieces, as it would have been difficult to balance the more sizeable toppings on the mountain of yoghurt I had dedicated myself to! In light of this and based on the significant margin for spillage, I would perhaps recommend either facilitating a larger tub than originally required or, adopting a layering technique as, quite frankly, piling white chocolate minstrels (I kid you not) upon tall peaks of yoghurt inevitably equals a land slide of epic proportions! At the end of the building process, the finished article is taken to the counter in order to pay-by-weight which at £1.50 per 100g is rather a respectable fee and yet, one so easily doubled...tripled even and then some! That said, there is a loyalty-card scheme which entitles its holder to a free 200g portion of frozen yoghurt after collecting eight stamps and, very soon, the option to fill a larger tub to enjoy from the comfort of your own home will become a reality – exciting stuff and incentive to keep that Frozen Yoghurt addition alive!
For the record, a portion this size will set you back £4.20 - well worth it though I reckon!
With the focus firmly on creating a masterpiece in the art of fro-yo construction, drinks to accompany one’s concoction seem to take a back seat. Nevertheless, there is a 'coffee station' offering all the usual suspects (which, given that AngelBerry draw upon the expertise of Clifton Coffee Company, bodes rather well in terms of ensuring a quality cuppa') as well as bespoke smoothies and shakes which, for £3.00 each, are made-to-order using the yoghurt(s) of your choice as the base ingredient.

In conclusion, it's all very Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory – those behind this venture knowingly running with a rather original concept which has clearly not yet been fully tapped into as part of Bristol’s fast-food focal- point. For that reason, there is certainly no where else like it - I mean, where else can you chill (quite literally) on the centre with a foodstuff other than a kebab at Midnight on a Saturday night? Incidentally, AngelBerry is also open until 11:00pm from Monday to Friday and until 8:00pm on a Sunday; making it a great venue for those who want to rendezvous without having to frequent a bar or pub. For this and, in fact, so many reasons, AngelBerry is set to be a huge success – I certainly hope so as I'm pretty sure that, just as it sweeps the nation (...seriously, you'll see), frozen yoghurt is going to become part of my staple diet...and with two visits under my belt in the first week of its opening, I’m well on my way to being part of the ‘berry’ bright furniture!