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!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Cocktail of the Month - January 2013

Not that I need an excuse to guzzle cocktails on a regular basis but seeing that this naturally occurs as part of the social whirlwind which facilitates my work-life balance, I thought that it would be fitting to provide a timely update in regards to the top tipple indulged in each month...selflessly identified for your drinking delight! So, to kick start proceedings, January's coveted creation is as follows... 

Behold....The Melon Margarita 
Which can be found at…Giraffe, Cabot Circus - Bristol* 
Which contains….Cuervo tequila, midori melon liqueur and fresh lime 
Described as….’Green and Gorgeous!’ 
Which will set you back…£6.20, though only £3.10 as part of the bar buddies deal (more on that below...)

'Green and Gorgeous' indeed...!
Yes, an unlikely venue given Bristol's outstanding expertise when it comes to mixology but, a reputable selection nevertheless due to the availability of such an affordable yet well-executed concoction. The Melon Maragarita is vibrantly-coloured and tart; satisfyingly sour yet fruity with the unmistakable kick of an ample alcohol content. Reminiscent of the bitter-sweet appeal of Haribo Tangfastics, this is a cocktail which I’ve even asked Milk Thistle to replicate; a request which, as per the aforementioned reference to the city's masters of mixology, was accurately met, (yet it has to be said, at almost triple the price!) I've also thrown-together the ingredients myself within the comfort of my own home which although didn't entirely constitute a DIY fail didn't quite cut it either!...What’s that? “Welcome to Giraffe...table for one?” Hmm, I *may* have a problem here…!!
My DIY Digestif
* http://www.giraffe.net/classic/location/bristol 
NB. Bar Buddies equals 50% off selected drinks...
Available Monday – Wednesday from 5pm until close, Thursday and Friday from 5pm until 9pm and Sundays from 6pm until close. Excludes Bank Holidays. Subject to availability and not valid with any other discounts or promotions.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Brunel's Buttery – Wapping Wharf, Bristol

I'm pretty sure I'm friends with the Buttery's biggest fan...he has been visiting this much-loved Bristol institution on an almost daily basis since childhood and has been singing its praises since he learned how to form the words to do so! OK, so I'm exaggerating a little but it is fair to say that he has been encouraging me to overcome my coffee snobbery and visit the home of the city's best bacon butty for quite some time now. Thus, making the most a rare bout of January sunshine, I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about, finding that it really is one of the City's hidden gems – a greasy spoon with community-spirit at its core...

Date and Time: Wednesday 9th January 2013, 2:30pm
Name of Establishment: Brunel's Buttery*
Location: Wapping Wharf, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Peer pressure and then some...!

Situated on Wapping Railway Wharf where the odd steam train has been known to roll by, Brunel's Buttery is essentially an old-school brick-built outhouse with a small hatch from which your order is taken (and your numbered ticket allocated with which you later claim your grub) – marvellous if you consider the rather intimate space the team have to utilise in order to whip up brekkie for the masses but not quite so awesome if you're after somewhere warm/comfortable/a place to plug in your laptop – delete as applicable. Furthermore, if you're a bit of a princess when it comes exposing oneself to the elements, this is probably not the place for you as a sprinkling of picnic-bench style seating denotes the grand tradition of alfresco dining...on a year-round basis! That said, its dockside location makes for an attractive back-drop and allows for a spot of people-watching. It's also a stones-throw away from a number of Bristol's most iconic landmarks; including the likes of the SS Great Britain and Clifton Suspension bridge; creations of the café's namesake no less.

There is nothing glitzy or over-done about the appearance of this space; it seems as though the quality of the fare speaks for itself as despite the venue's humble disposition, the queue of people that often snakes beyond its well-attended boundaries seems to hint at the notion that its reputation well and truly proceeds it. Yes, although I was convinced that I was an 'Eggs Benedict' kind of girl, the bacon sarnie (£2.80) that I indulged in was undoubtedly first rate. With bread which had so obviously been freshly baked that morning and good-quality bacon which had been generously portioned so to melt the butter spread beneath it, this was the kind of comfort-food to remedy a hangover or mend a broken heart! Leafy garnishes seem somewhat superfluous and condiments are self-served from industrial-sized dispensers on the shelf to the right of the counter – meaning that you're not lumbered with anything you wouldn't necessarily choose to sandwich elsewhere. There are a range of fried favourites to choose from but egg, bacon or sausage sarnies, or any combination there of, seem to warrant the most attention. Chips appeared perfectly executed, golden-brown in colour and served in newspaper-effect cones for nostalgic effect. Furthermore, the range of cakes available would put granny's kitchen to shame; fruit scones piled high with jam and clotted cream were particularly coveted, my dining companion having to cut hers into four so to consume it in a lady-like manner! I also have it on good authority that the rock cakes are to die for; though they are snapped up rather quickly and, as such, I haven't been lucky enough to bag one just yet, (a sound motive for a return-visit if ever an excuse was needed...!) I also liked that the establishment functions as an old-fashioned tuck-shop which, complete with Freddo Frogs and cartons of Ribena, is great for younger visitors or for the big kids amongst us!

To wash down one's spoils, I'd suggest that an 80s style glass mug containing what can only be described as 'builder's tea' is pretty much the drink of choice and although I'm sure that the friendly work-force will fix a brew to your particular requirements, I observed a lot of 'milk and two sugar' orders which gave the impression of a tea-time trend that us coffee addicts simply aren't privy to. Speaking of which, coffee is of the instant variety and thus, the initial cause of my hesitant approach to this eatery...but a fine eatery it is and I'm certain that you would be able to pick one up 'on route' if you just couldn't do without.

Overall, this really was a venue from which to experience the very best that Bristol has to offer; its defining structures, integral naval presence and West-Country comradery. It might not be to everyone's taste but there is no denying its substance; albeit superseding its style – who needs the great indoors anyway?!
And now for the second opinion...

The Buttery's biggest fan gave it 11/10 (no surprises there then) and in three words, paid homage to its signature dish...the 'perfect bacon sandwich'!

*Brunel's Buttery is open every day from 8:00am and can be contacted on: 0117 929 1696

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Absolutely Cakes: A Review

Being treated to confectionery is always lovely but arriving home from a day at the office to a gift box of twelve sumptuous-looking cupcakes is without doubt an absolute win! I didn't initially plan to pen a review (given that I considered it really rather rude to all but research the gift I'd received!) and yet, upon sampling the wares of Bristol-based company Absolutely Cakes*, felt somewhat compelled to do so as I'll proceed to explain...Now, it's fair to say that I take the art of cupcake creation very seriously and as part of my self-appointed pilgrimage have sourced some of the industries front-runners; indulging in the signature ‘Red Velvet’ cupcake at London’s Hummingbird Bakery and bagging myself some rather innovative ensembles from New York’s Magnolia Bakery. Yes yes...though you'll no doubt frown upon my shameless bout of name-dropping there, the point I'm trying to make is that the dozen beauties delivered to my doorstep that day were right up there with the best that I've tasted...

It's fair to say that since it opened its doors in 2008, Absolutely Cakes has moved from strength to strength; with a couple of Great Taste Awards under its belt (or expandable waistline if you will) and a trio of gold stars awarded by the Guild of Fine Food. Suitable for a range of occasions, cakes of all shapes and sizes are made fresh-to-order from their Westbury-on-Trym premises. Cupcakes are baked using the best quality ingredients – locally-sourced, organic and free-range where possible – and available in mixed Selection Boxes of 6, 9 or 12, party packs of 36 or 54 (with their own 3 or 5 tier stands) or in fact, in quantities of as many or as little as you desire, (though with a minimum order of four - go big or go home, that’s my motto!) I was also impressed at the extent of Absolutely Cakes' 'allergy awareness' whereby all cupcakes can be created to a specific dietary requirement; be it gluten/wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free or vegan. Furthermore, bespoke flavours and toppings are available upon request so if you want your loved-one's name spelt-out in gold leaf, all you have to do is ask*! You might also be interested to know that, besides mail order (BS addresses only, people), you can visit Absolutely Cakes and ogle their offerings at a number of Bristol's Farmer's Markets including the Tobacco Factory Market in Southville every Sunday and the Whiteladies Road Market every first and third Saturday of each month. Absolutely Cakes even supports the Bristol Pound*; which in turn supports independent businesses just like this one...a concept which you may wish to get involved with if you haven't already!
Right then, with the formalities out of the way, let me tell you about the shameless gluttony that ensued…and, unwilling to single-handedly attempt all twelve, I drafted in the help of my house-mate who was unsurprisingly more than happy to lend her sweet-toothed expertise! We initially agreed that the selection had been beautifully packaged; the box wrapped with cellophane and secured with pink ribbon; thus, instigating the wow-factor before the first mouthful had been manoeuvred. And although elsewhere, this is where the buck often stops – cupcakes failing to live-up to their visual appeal – this was certainly not the case here. In fact, I can safely say that – predominantly on account of the magical middle to be found in each – these were quite frankly delicious! The 'Toffee Temptation' proved a personal favourite; the distinctive aroma of burnt-sugar channelled perfectly via a melt-in-the-mouth layer of sticky toffee sauce. I also loved that the 'Jelly Bean Bonanza' had sweets sporadically baked into the sponge and that the 'Terribly Chocolate Orange' concealed a generous measure of sharp citrus curd which appropriately offset its rich, chocolaty body. 'B' reported that 'Let's Go Nuts' was especially intense with its distinctive peanut butter epicentre and the sprinkling of roasted peanuts that adorned its frosting – if truth be told, I was a little miffed that I hadn't got in there first and bagged this particular cupcake for myself! In fact, the only flavour which we felt didn't quite hit the mark was the 'Ginger Nice' which packed quite a punch and thus, could be written-off as an acquired taste. To that end, it would have been preferable to have been provided with details of the boxes content - I mean, I'm all for 'suck it and see' but having to fire-up the website to determine the identity of each cupcake (which would have been entirely necessary had I been subject to the likes of a food intolerance) does seem to detract from the novelty-factor a little...
Guess the Cupcake...!
Each cupcake had been topped with decadent butter-cream icing; appropriately flavoured in light of its theme. That said, it did not go unrecognised that a balanced disposition in terms of the cake-to-covering ratio avoided an overly sickly aftermath. Furthermore, the sponge had maintained its light, subtly aerated texture despite the fact that the package had spent a cold, damp afternoon beneath the recycling box in our front garden as no one had been home to receive the delivery! A finding which only gave rise to the notion that these were clearly baked to a high standard but also that the packaging proved functional as well as frilly. Lastly and quite incidentally (and not that I advocate theft in any shape or form) I mused that had an eagle-eyed passer-by stumbled upon this sugary twelve-pack and let temptation overcome them, they would have altogether lucked out! Though fortunately for me, the pleasure was all mine – thank goodness for Neighbourhood Watch...!

And now for the second opinion...

'B' gave Absolutely Cakes a rather modest rating of 7/10 and in three words, described the cupcakes as: 'original and tasty'. 

*For prices and a full list of flavours, visit the website: http://www.absolutelycakes.co.uk/ 
*Not really...