February 2018 marks the 7th 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, 23 August 2012

Salute! Cocktail Lounge Bar – Park Street, Bristol

As the newest in the line-up of late-night watering holes to border the ever-popular Park Street strip, Salute seemed an ample choice for a couple of mid-week drinkies to follow the evening's Piri Piri pit-stop at the adjacent branch of Nandos. As a group united in exploring the previously unexplored and quite frankly, too lazy to venture further up nor down the steep expanse, we inadvertently stepped into a venue boasting the best value for money that we'd experienced elsewhere in Bristol for a long time...

Date and Time: Tuesday 14th August 2012, 20:30
Name of Establishment: Salute! Cocktail Lounge Bar*
Location: 50 Park Street, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Curiosity meets passive proximity

From the outside, Salute appears really rather smart; it's contemporary metallics, brightly-lit lettering and swirled 'S' emblem effectively drawing the odd passer-by or two into the dimly-lit and cavernous space within. Here, the large-scale bar is clearly the focal point, its purposeful presence flanked with sparsely-arranged furniture whereby deep-set leather sofas sit in clusters on a floor so sticky that it can even prove difficult to keep one's shoes intact! The central clearing, undoubtedly the makeshift dance floor, is further emphasised with neon lights, an array of revolving glitter-balls and most notably, a range of chart-topping dance tracks - facilitated on the large part by venue's resident DJ – which arguably, resounded at what could perhaps be considered a somewhat unsuitable pitch for a low-key Tuesday evening! That said, given the distinct lack of clientèle (which, we were promised, would pick up considerably after 11pm - something we didn't stay put long enough to find out) it did improve the overall ambiance; saving it from what could have been otherwise written off as downright vapid! For the record, though I'm aware that the preceding paragraph has hinted at the demise of my 'inner party-girl' (seriously, it's not a crime to want to be able to converse with those around you without falling victim of a raw throat the following day) I will duly point out that I had to show ID before being deemed of an appropriate age to enter this establishment, (much to the amusement of my drinking companions)...So there!

You might say that the venue's most notable pull-factor is the price of its drinks which are, on the large part, £2 each. This includes all the usual suspects including a large range of bottled drinks – from Peroni, Corona and Tiger to Magners, Bulmers and Kopparberg. Teeny-bopper alco-pops also make an appearance; the likes of Smirnoff Ice and WKD lurking behind the bar in all their 'kid-of-the 90s' glory! Spirits (complete with a choice of mixer) also come in at £2 each and it’s fair to say that the selection is pretty impressive. That said, I was disappointed that the gin varieties were limited to either Gordons or Bombay (Sapphire) and any chance of executing a Caipirinha was lost on account of the omission of cachaça from the otherwise ample rum/liquor selection. Shooters have also been brandished with the £2 treatment as do the range of soft drink options (bad news for the designated driver of the party I'm afraid). Hence, I'd advise that you bus into town and get involved with a few B52s instead which combine Kahlua, Baileys and Sambuca with delicious, albeit lethally moreish, results! Nevertheless, on this occasion, I opted to tread the cocktail path with a classic 'Black Russian' which at a mere £3, was generously measured (with that familiar mix of vodka, Tia Maria and cola) and even flourished with a pink, curly straw – hello Benidorm! The Dark Mojito also sounded rather alluring; its spicy noted appeal adding a new angle to the tried and tested classic that incidentally, happens to be a personal favourite. You may also be interested to know that a jug of any of the available cocktail concoctions will set you back a rather reasonable £9; for which you might even find yourself the proud owner of a decorative parrot* - here's hoping?!

OK, so contrary to what seems to be the case from its exterior, this is not a posh cocktail lounge, in fact it is almost a little seedy in terms of its disposition. I’m also not convinced by its suitability as a bookable venue for functions, though its arguably passable as the base for an 18 year old's birthday party! Furthermore, it needs to offer some kind of sustenance (or a small selection of salted snacks if you will) for, what is actually alluded to via the ‘Dining Room’ aspect of its namesake, might actually aid the mopping-up process required to counteract the affordability of the alcohol. That said, I have to question whether this unmistakable value for money will still be at large in six months time? I mean, once the Bristol Freshers descend upon the city and get a taste for Salute's current status as *the* place to begin one's night-out, coaxed in from the roadside by the A-framed posters sporting the numerous money-savers on offer within, will the prices inch their way into the remit of what is affectionately referred to (at least by me) as the grand Clifton price tag? We can only wait and see but at least for now, I can certainly recommend Salute for an affordable beverage or two...will it be heaving? Yes probably, will it be tacky, humid, noisy and potentially full of knob-heads? Yes, for sure, but do you know what? You'll bag yourself the cheapest drinks in town and if that isn't worth enduring all of the above for (or escaping these eventualities in favour of an early-evening visit), then I don't know what is!

And now for the second opinion...
The lovely BR gave Salute a rating of 4/10 and in three words, described its overall atmosphere as a 'little bit 90s'! 
Salute is open from 18:00 - 04:00 every day 
 *This is, of course, completely speculative!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Burger Joint – Cotham Hill, Bristol

The Burger Joint all but saved the day last Tuesday from what could have otherwise been hailed as a dinner-time disaster. I think it speaks volumes that my friends and I opted to trek all the way from Gloucester Road, in no less than monsoon-style conditions, from the venue initially chosen for our natter and nosh up. Although our 'first choice' served up a catalogue of errors which caused us to jump ship, the pull of The Burger Joint's undisputed reliability factor led to a burger-based pilgrimage across town and will no doubt underpin the (rather gushing) review that follows...

Date and Time: Tuesday 7th August 2012
Name of Establishment: The Burger Joint*
Location: Cotham Hill, Bristol
Reason for Visit: A trustworthy tummy tantaliser!

Intimately inviting, The Burger Joint hints at an American diner theme and yet ditches the tried-and-tested 'retro' effect for block-colour and sophisticated simplicity. It fathoms a similar appeal to that of a friend's gaff in that the venue's established neighbourhood-favourite badge has been channelled through its closely-arranged furniture and friendly ambiance; the latter clearly securing a strong following in that it can sometimes prove difficult to bag a table at all. In fact, this is perhaps the primary reason for the hotly anticipated re-location of The Burger Joint whereby owner, Dan and his crew will be swapping premises with the Whiteladies Road branch of Planet Pizza in the Autumn of 2012.
On to the menu and first of all, I have to commend the novelty-factor of ordering from tick-lists; checking the boxes that correspond to your chosen content; toppings, sauces and side-orders. I almost always opt for the grilled chicken burger as it ultimately constitutes a free-range, amply-sized and juicy chicken breast which, coupled with crispy bacon and slathered with melted Swiss is simply delicious! Besides chicken, you can choose from the likes of 6oz prime beef, lamb and mint, pork sage and apple, mixed mushroom and even venison – on the large part, burgers have been priced at £7.50, though there are often 'Voucher Cloud'* deals to be had to satisfy the spending-savvy amongst us!
Toppings, at 70p each or three for £1.80, are positively plentiful and you're encouraged to unleash your creativity with a multitude of available combinations; in fact, a friend of mine once ordered the unthinkable and 'doubled up' his burger via an unusual multi-meat approach; sandwiching chicken with beef with a buffer of onion rings - tasty? We can only take his word for it...! Extremities aside, there are four varieties of cheese on offer including the aforementioned Swiss as well as Brie, Cheddar and a good-quality blue. There is also the option to add chorizo, roasted peppers, grilled red chillis, sautéed mushrooms or even a free-range fried egg! Sides (the first of which is free with your burger) are as equally abundant; the hand-cut chips proving thick and moreish and the home-made coleslaw, flavoursome and creamy. That said, the absolute winner for me has to be the sweet potato fries which are by far, the best I've ever tasted given their well-executed composition whereby a crisp exterior suitably encases the distinctive soft, earthiness within. We're also talking thirteen different sauces - two of which you can choose for free - which include all the usual suspects. These can can either be added to your burger or provided in rather lady-like dipping pots on the side of your plate! When it comes to the bap itself, gone is the doughy, anaemic-looking bloat-provoker that can so often be cheaply sourced elsewhere and instead, ciabatta rolls have been facilitated from a nearby artisan bakery. It is also worth mentioning that lettuce, red onions, sliced tomato and slithers of (the dreaded) gherkin are added to each burger as standard and so if any of these ingredients don't particularly float your boat, it is best to add a brief sub-note to your form, (complete with smiley face as let's face it, it always pays to be polite). Finally, you can remove the carb-component altogether in favour of the burger salad which is exactly what it says on the tin – your choice of burger, with all the trimmings, sans bread!
Grilled Chicken Burger with all my favourite trimmings!
Check out those sweet potato fries!

As a licensed venue, The Burger Joint offers a compact yet thoughtfully arranged selection of beers, wines and cider which, in my view, stand at prices outside of the usual Clifton-style spectrum, (vino coming in at just over three quid for a medium-sized glass). Alcohol aside however, the milkshakes (at a mere £2.60 each) are definitely where it's at given their thick, rich-tasting appeal; the caramel edition in particular proving especially decadent. This also makes up for the limited line-up of puddings which, to be fair, I've never had room to sample!

In conclusion, I really can't recommend The Burger joint enough; if the premise of tasty, build-your-own burgers doesn't move you, nor the notion of fresh, locally sourced ingredients whereby an 'emphasis on quality' denotes that everything is hand-made in a cutesy home-from-home style kitchen, then surely the timely money-saving deals, in addition to the option to order your din dins 'to-go' so to enjoy it from the comfort of your own home, will swing it for you! Yes, it may not be considered gourmet cuisine but The Burger Joint is definitely the best of its kind in our beloved Bristol – get involved...you'll definitely be glad that you did!

And now for the second opinion...
My fellow diner, the beautiful SM, gave The Burger Joint an impressive 10/10 and in three words, summed up her experience as 'satisfying', 'delicious' and 'consistent'.