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Image from Ebisu Restaurant’s Facebook page

We don’t often make it over to Weston-super-Mare. But on a blazing hot Saturday, the sun shining and the city feeling stiflingly hot, we decided a bit of beach time was needed.

I know Weston has a bit of a mixed reputation, but we love the place. The huge beach, the traditional donkey rides, the thrills of the amusement arcade on the pier…it’s everything that a British seaside visit is supposed to be.

But luckily that doesn’t wholly apply to the town’s food. Sure, there are plenty of chain pubs and restaurants, fast food places and seafront venues selling chips, coffees and doughnuts. But head further away from the beach and into the town, and you’ll find some hidden gems.

One of those – which had been recommended to me just a few days before – is Ebisu Restaurant: a Japanese venue on Regent Street that opened in April 2019. It’s a relaxed, canteen-style setup with a diverse Japanese menu. Everything is prepared and cooked fresh daily, and can be ordered either to eat in or take away.

By the entrance, a chiller cabinet is packed with drinks, fresh sushi boxes, bento boxes and more – and at the back of the restaurant, you’ll find the open-plan kitchen area, where a single chef was busy making sushi, wok-frying noodles and grilling meats while we sat at the table next to him and watched.

We could have sat at the counter on high stools and had a clearer view – but not with the highchair! Orders are taken at the counter, so after grabbing a couple of menus, we sat down to have a look through Ebisu’s offering to decide.

It’s a very diverse menu. As well as the sushi (maki, nigiri, sashimi and California rolls – generally priced between 50p and £1.50 per piece), there are rice dishes, noodles, katsu curries, teppanyaki grilled dishes, bento boxes, donburi rice dishes…we were spoilt for choice. And with most of the main courses around the £10 to £15 mark, they seemed pretty good value for money, too.

The place is licensed, so you’ll find Japanese beers (Asahi and Kirin) on the menu, along with Japanese whisky, gin, vodka and sake – as well as a short selection of wines, beers and ciders from elsewhere in the world, plus hot and soft drinks. We placed our order at the counter and headed back to the table, which was adorned with all the cutlery, chopsticks, napkins, soy sauce and chilli oil we might need.

Looking for speedy Japanese food in Bristol? Try Yakinori on Park Street!

In the end, we both went for the same choice: Ebisu’s Tōgarashi chicken donburi (£10.25). Donburi is essentially a bowl of rice topped with a variety of ingredients – and at Ebisu Restaurant, mixed salad, boiled egg, ginger and pickles come as standard, and you choose which additional meat/fish/vegetarian topping from the menu you’d like.

The Tōgarashi chicken option promised sautéed chicken, mixed veg and chillies in a spicy red sauce. What is Tōgarashi, you ask? It’s a Japanese spice blend that’s commonly used for all sorts of dishes: a bright red mixture generally including chilli, Japanese pepper, sesame, orange peel, seaweed and more – pretty fragrant, and pretty spicy!

It was an attractive – and huge – dish of food, packed with vibrant colours and, from first glance, the promise of plenty of texture and flavour. The chicken certainly had a kick to it, but plenty of aromatic flavour too, while the gently stir-fried peppers, carrots and other veg gave the meal a nice amount of crunch. We weren’t so impressed with the half a boiled egg, its grey-tinged yolk and its texture both making it clear that it had been overboiled, but we loved the juicy pickled ginger and the amount of sauce that soaked through to the rice and imparted it with a ton of flavour.

Neither of us managed to finish the entire bowl – a shame, as I was keen to sample some of the Ebisu dessert menu, which includes ice cream-filled mochi dumplings, green tea cheesecake, chocolate gyoza, and ice cream in flavours that include green tea and black sesame.

I guess it just means we’ll need to head back – no great hardship. It’s by no means the only Japanese restaurant in Weston-super-Mare, but its casual style, competitive pricing and speedy service set it apart from competitors like Yo-Ji and Sakura – not to mention the fact that they offer delivery, too. Open seven days a week, from 10am (12pm on Sundays) through to the evening, we definitely recommend paying them a visit if you’re in the area. Visit the Ebisu Facebook page to find out more!

The post Ebisu Restaurant, Regent Street, Weston: Review appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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After deciding at Christmas that they wanted to open a second Bristol shop, the team at Preserve Foods have signed a lease on a premises on Church Road in Redfield.

Currently occupied by Gregory & Main Estate Agents (who are moving to Redland), 132 Church Road will, in August, become east Bristol’s first zero-waste shop.

Preserve Foods already has a shop at 208 Gloucester Road: a shop with zero plastic packaging, where customers bring their own containers and buy as much or as little as they like. Here, you’ll find all sorts of wholefoods (mainly organic and vegan), along with non-food products like washing liquids, soaps, deodorant, shampoo bars and more. There’s also a nut butter and milk machine – simply buy your own ingredients and turn them into fresh nut butter or milk within minutes.

Owner Tiriel Lovejoy had a 25-year history working in food retail – but for others – before he decided to go it alone with Preserve Foods in June 2018. And zero-waste shops are becoming more and more popular across the city: along with the original Preserve Foods shop and the upcoming opening, we also have Zero Green in Bedminster, along with Smaller Footprints in Clifton Village.

Follow Tiriel’s progress via the Preserve Foods Facebook page – good luck with the opening!

The post Preserve Foods to open on Redfield’s Church Road appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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Please note: our stay and all food and drink at Hotel du Vin & Bistro Bristol were received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

Hotel du Vin Bristol, on Narrow Lewins Mead, is a building steeped in history. There’s a plaque in the courtyard detailing the history of the building, and it’s well worth a read. The first sugar house on the site was built back in 1728, and closed as a refinery in 1831. After lying empty for 11 years, it was reconstructed by The Alternative Hotel Company (the company from which Hotel du Vin stemmed), and reopened as the Grade II listed Hotel du Vin Bristol in late 1999.

It’s a beautiful courtyard, too – set back from the main road, a little oasis of calm. After the small amount of parking out the front (bookable on a first-come, first-served basis), it’s the first introduction you get to the hotel premises, walking through to the far end to the reception desk.

While the glass door directly in front of the front desk isn’t accessible, there is a step-free entrance through the door to the bar and round (and a lift to the upper floors, too). The guy on the front desk when I arrived was smiling and friendly, interacting with the baby, and double-checking the timing of our reservation for dinner when he noticed it on the system.

He asked if I’d stayed before – and when I said no, he asked if I wanted help with the pushchair or our bags (Chris wouldn’t join us till later on), walked us to the lift and showed us directly to our room.

That room was Laroche – named after the Domaine Laroche in the Chablis region of France. Every single room is named after a wine producer, with a bottle of that vineyard’s wine in a lit, glass-fronted shelf just outside. It was lovely to see a framed letter on the wall inside the room from the vineyard owner too – a nice touch. It’s one of 40 rooms in the hotel, ranging from standard doubles to suites, and huge split-level rooms with open plan bathrooms on a mezzanine floor.

That framed letter was just one of the many lovely touches we’d experience throughout our stay. The HdV staff member opened the door and talked me through where everything was, explaining that the bottled water (both still and sparkling), the fresh milk in the mini bar, the tea, coffee and biscuits and the pods for the Nespresso machine were all complimentary. And on a hot day, it was great to walk into a room where the air conditioning had already been turned on ready for us.

There were a few little extras that we could have paid for if we wanted: a basket of sweet and savoury snacks, the contents of the mini bar, a half bottle of wine – and the option of 24-hour room service.

It’s a truly beautiful, spacious room, with multiple wardrobes featuring an iron, hairdryer, trouser press and extra towels and slippers (as well as the aforementioned mini bar plus cups, kettle and glasses) by the door. The sofa with plump cushions and a sizeable coffee table gave us somewhere to sit and relax, a desk by the window housed the Nespresso machine, and the huge bed with its handsprung mattress and fine Egyptian cotton linen was definitely the focal point, backing onto a feature papered wall.

We’d asked for a cot for the baby, and a travel cot with bedding was already there when we arrived – along with extra blankets if needed, plus a towel for him. We peeked through the window and the views was of neighbouring rooves – not the most impressive sight visually, but a glimpse of Bristol’s architectural history.

The layout of the room seemed a little odd…neither the sofa nor the bed was in the ideal position for watching the plasma TV, while the design of the bed – with its chunky wooden frame – seemed incongruous with the rest of the room. The baby loved it, though…

The bathroom was incredible. Double doors opposite the bed opened out to a stunning rolltop clawfoot bath, while behind it was hidden a shower that can be accessed from both sides of the room, which could easily fit ten people. It was powerful, too – and along with the fluffy robes and L’Occitane toiletries, it’s clear that the bathrooms at Hotel du Vin Bristol are designed with relaxation and luxury in mind.

Our first customer service challenge came when Chris arrived and discovered that the beds featured feather pillows (he’s allergic) – but a quick call to reception and equally comfortable and supportive synthetic replacements were brought up super-promptly.

We’d booked an early dinner in for 6.30 (the Hotel du Vin Bristol restaurant opens at 5.30pm during the week) to fit in with the small person – and while the bar was quiet, we weren’t the only ones in the relaxed yet formal-looking restaurant at that time. We asked for a highchair on arrival, and it was brought over and set up for us straight away.

We dined from Hotel du Vin Bristol’s new prix fixe menu, attractively priced at £24.95 for 3 courses. I started with a tomato and watermelon gazpacho – mainly tomato but with added freshness from the watermelon, smooth in texture and unexpectedly spicy. The chunky croutons were sprinkled with Wyfe of Bath cheese, but in all honesty, the flavour was a little lost.

Chris’ beetroot and gin-cured salmon was more the latter than the former, its cure very delicate. Thickly sliced and quite floral, it was served with a well-balanced horseradish cream that gave a great kick.

I went veggie for my main: a firm-fleshed courgette stuffed with cherry tomatoes and finely chopped carrot and onion, with plenty of soft cheese bubbling away on top (including the rind, for added flavour). The accompanying herby couscous was very oily and pesto-like in flavour, with various diced veggies flecked throughout.

Chris’ char-grilled poussin was coated in a sticky, sweet Bristol Beer Factory BBQ glaze: he could taste the beer, but said it would be enjoyed by non-beer drinkers too. The skin was crisp, not overly oily and the meat fell off the bone…perfect! He wasn’t too impressed by the pommes pailles, though: while they looked pretty and were nicely seasoned, they were quite hard to eat and he’d have preferred French fries instead.

The desserts were amazing. My Bristol Mess, topped with half a huge fresh strawberry, included airy and lightly sweetened cream, incredible melt-in-the-mouth meringue pieces and strawberries macerated in a Bristol Syrup Company concoction of strawberries, cider and balsamic vinegars and a touch of black pepper giving a lovely tang.

On the other side of the table, the lemon posset was velvety smooth and tangy, served with a lavender “shortbread” that was more of a thin, very crunchy caramelised biscuit, the two flavours pairing in perfect harmony.

Service throughout was a bit hit and miss. The highchair was set up for us and the team interacted with the baby…but we weren’t asked if we wanted to see the drinks menu, we weren’t offered a second round of drinks, and my dessert dish was nearly whisked away while I was still eating.

We retreated back to the room to find it lovely and dark – they’ve clearly invested in decent curtains. And it was a great night’s sleep with no interruptions: the firm mattress surprisingly comfortable, the pillows offering a decent amount of neck support. After a coffee in our room from the Nespresso machine, we headed down to check out Hotel du Vin Bristol’s breakfast offering.

Guests have three options to choose from: cereal or toast, juice and hot drinks for £8.95, served to the table; the Country Table with toast and tea or coffee for £13.95, or the second offering plus one hot breakfast choice for £16.95. Of course, we went for the third choice, starting with being able to fill up on juices (including some in cute little glass bottles), natural or flavoured yoghurt and various toppings, mini boxes of cereal, fruit, cheeses, meats, toast, bircher pots and plenty of pastries.

On the other side of the table, the choice was thickly sliced sweet and sticky brioche French toast, complemented by salty bacon which could have done with being a tad crispier. For me, the galette complète: a thin crêpe topped with a sprinkling of thick, juicy ham chunks and bubbling melted Gruyère, topped with a runny yolked-fried egg.

We were impressed that check-out time at HdV Bristol isn’t until 11am – so while Chris headed off to work, the boy and I lingered a little longer, taking advantage of having some time to let our food settle before packing up to leave. And leave we did, with a smile and greetings for the day from the lovely people on the front desk, who had been nothing but helpful throughout.

Hotel du Vin Bristol is a beautiful historic building with stunningly designed rooms, accommodating and charming hotel staff and a restaurant and bar whose style match the place’s look and feel beautifully. Room prices start from £109 per night, and there are always special offers to be had. Well worth considering if you’re looking for a centrally located Bristol hotel that’s relaxing, steeped in history and suitable for anything from a family break to a special occasion.

The post Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Bristol: Review appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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In a social media post shared on Monday, July 15th, the team at Pigsty announced that their Gloucester Road restaurant would close on the very same day.

The restaurant at 79-81 Gloucester Road has been open for just over a year, a year and a half after the first Pigsty premises at CARGO at Wapping Wharf opened (you can read our review here).

In a post shared on Facebook, the team stated,

“We’re sad to say that we will be closing Pigsty Gloucester Road on Monday 15th July. We’ve had a brilliant year here, but with so much growth in other parts of our business (our Jolly Hog products and concessions) it feels right to put our focus and energy in to those. Pigsty Cargo will be staying open and thriving down at Wapping Wharf and we hope to see you there soon.”

It’s news that has upset a number of Gloucester Road diners, who are already lamenting the loss of Pigsty’s Sunday roasts (available only at their Gloucester Road restaurant). It’s sad, but I’m glad that their Wapping Wharf restaurant remains open – and it’s great to hear that the team are doing so well with their other ventures.

The post Pigsty Gloucester Road to close on July 15th appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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During the school summer holidays, a number of Bristol’s favourite restaurants and cafes will serve up green colour-inspired dishes in support of FareShare South West’s #ActiveAteBristol campaign.

The colour reflects charity FareShare’s branding – and whether it’s a smoothie, a salad, a cake or a dessert, a percentage of the money made from selling these green dishes will be donated directly to the campaign, which aims to provide over 40,000 meals to children at holiday clubs and other projects across the city.

FareShare South West is the biggest food redistribution charity in our region, saving around 400 tons of good quality surplus food each year. This is collected from right across the supply chain, and redistributed to over 190 charities, schools and community groups throughout the South West.

CEO, Julian Mines of FareShare South West: “When school stops, so does school food support. For some Bristol families, the six-week break can be a challenging time. Increased food, childcare and activity costs can be an additional strain to a family already struggling to make ends meet. With over 7,300 Primary School pupils in Bristol receiving free school meals during term time, a vacuum is left when the holidays begin. We know that 1 in 4 children in Bristol is at risk of experiencing hunger and this will become a reality for many in these summer months. Food insecurity is sadly a growing issue in our region but we hope to support as many children as possible with this summer.

We have been overwhelmed by the support of the food industry here in Bristol to be involved in #ActiveAteBristol, which will this year double its impact in the city. However, our work doesn’t stop here and to allow us to continue to supply the most vulnerable in our region with the vast amounts of in-date, high quality surplus food that would otherwise be wasted, fundraising campaigns like this one are essential. We hope the people of Bristol will get involved by popping to one of the cafes or restaurants and enjoy a dish inspired by the green in our logo: resulting in a donation being made to us!”

Here is a list of locations where you can enjoy a ‘green’ inspired treat from July 19th – 1st September 2019:

  • Hobbs House Bakery, North Street & Gloucester Road – (Tuscan Bread Salad: Tuscan chopped salad of soaked organic turmeric and chilli sourdough, sweet red tomatoes, avocado and fresh herbs)
  • Mud Dock, Bristol Harbourside (Halloumi, new potato & asparagus with harissa tahini.)
  • TinCan Coffee, North Street and Gloucester Road (Green Power Bowl and Green Machine smoothie)
  • No. 12, Easton (Green element to the special of the day)
  • Yurt Lush, Temple Meads (Buddha Bowl)
  • Cafe Des Amis, Easton (Cakes and all main dishes)
  • Pearly King Cakes, Redland (Cupcakes)
  • B-Block Pizza, Keynsham (A green smoothie plus £1 added to all bills)
  • BOX-E Bristol, Wapping Wharf (A green element to all desserts, plus a one-off sold-out event on Mon 22nd July)

Other supporters:

  • Hart’s Bakery (pop-up green lunch event on Mon 29th July – a special opening so come along for lunch!)
  • Wriggle (fundraising through their app and website)

The post Restaurants and cafes go green for #ActiveAteBristol appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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Image from the Oowee Diner Facebook page

There are big changes afoot for Oowee Diner on Picton Street – which will be welcome news for vegetarians and vegans, but not so much for Bristol’s carnivores.

In a Facebook post on July 8th, the team announced that this branch of the popular dirty burger restaurant will be closed permanently with immediate effect, three years after opening and gaining rave reviews for its truly filthy burgers and loaded fries.

In August, though, the site will be reopening as Oowee Vebab: a 100% vegan kebab shop, with their kebab “meats”, pickled chillies, sauces, salads and breads made in-house. And if you’re not a kebab fan, there will be vegan cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, dirty fries and sides on offer, too.

The news comes on the back of the success of Oowee Vegan on Baldwin Street, which is proving popular with meat eaters and vegans/vegetarians alike. If you still want the meaty offerings, though, the team have confirmed that the North Street branch of Oowee Diner will remain the same (although we didn’t have the best experience last time we visited).

In comments on the Facebook post announcing the decision, there’s some real polarisation of opinions. While there are plenty of positives (“omfg vegan kebab?!?!?!” and “dying to check out the vegan kebab now”, to name but a few), there seem to be more who are devastated at the team’s decision. “Can’t you just open another restaurant?” asked one commenter. “Worst news I’ve ever received”, said another. “Not even any notice for me to get one last burger there”, wailed a third.

Good luck to the Oowee team with the transformation!

The post Big changes for Oowee Diner on Picton Street… appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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As of September 2019, Redland will have its own family-friendly play café when Skyboat Cafe opens on Harcourt Road.

You’ll find Skyboat Cafe right by the junction with Coldharbour Road, in premises most recently occupied by Heart Space Studios. The idea came about when Lara – a local mum of three kids under 5 – wanted to create somewhere she would feel comfortable and happy meeting friends for coffee or something to eat, while still making sure that her children could have a good time.

And that’s what Skyboat Cafe is all about. The idea is that it’ll be a place for young families to get out and meet new people, a place where young mums can get support, and somewhere parents can enjoy a social life in an environment that the kids can enjoy just as much as the grownups.

Using local suppliers like Hobbs House Bakery, Stream Farm, Roasted Rituals and Bristol Tea Company, Lara plans for all the café’s light lunches, cakes, bakes and superfood salads to be made in-house – with options to cater for all dietary requirements. And the play space? Expect different zoned areas, a sensory room for babies, design-led soft play equipment, and even separate areas for role play and stories.

Down the line, there will also be various classes and workshops for both children and parents, and the play space can be hired on Sundays for private parties.

I’m definitely planning on heading up there with Oscar when Skyboat Cafe opens in September! In the meantime, keep checking their website, Facebook and Instagram for updates…

The post Skyboat Cafe coming to Harcourt Road in September appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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From July 12th to 14th, the Arrogant Sour Festival will be heading to Moor Beer on Days Road for its first international edition.

Normally taking place in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, the eight-year-old festival stemmed from founder ‘Alle’ Alessandro Belli’s passion for sour beers, food and friendship. The publican began his career as a sommelier and master of cheese, but soon diverted his attentions and talents into running pubs and associated events that centred on top quality beer and food.

So, why Bristol? Well, Alle and Moor Beer’s Justin Hawke have known and collaborated with each other over the years, co-running events that have involved music, food, tattoos, donkeys and always plenty of beer…

Speaking of the decision, Alle said, “The Sour Family is my life. The collective passion we bring creates a unique atmosphere. To live it only once a year is not enough. We want to spread the love, and where better than in the wonderful city of Bristol, with my brother Justin from Moor Beer. We have done many great things together over the years – always for love, never for money. Now we will grow the Family and take our philosophy to even more people.  It is a crazy idea, but we are crazy people. And Arrogant!”

Justin replied, “Alle calls and we answer. Sure there will be a groundbreaking selection of amazing food and beer. But it is the atmosphere and friendships built that make this truly unique, why people flock to it from all over the world every year. We may not be a historic building, but there are many parallels between Bristol and Reggio Emilia – the food, the independence, the love for gathering and celebrating. We are looking forward to creating more bridges.”  The relationships and connections that the festival creates are those of an extended family and #sourfamily is the motto of the festival and its devotees.

The festival will take place at Moor Beer from 12th-14th July – with a rotating range of almost 200 sour beers and a special bottle shop. There’s going to be all sorts of food on offer too (including from Bristol Cheese Monger), along with tutored workshops on different themes, featuring sour beers from all across the globe.

You can see more info on the Arrogant Sour Festival draught beer list – including live updates on what’s currently on – here: uk.arrogantsourfestival.it. And for workshop and skip the queue tickets, click here.
 

The post Arrogant Sour Festival comes to Moor Beer this July appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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And so, the final day of my 2019 Ration Challenge begins. Throughout, people have asked me, “What’s the first meal you’re planning on enjoying after it’s finished?” And in all honesty, I have no idea. Earlier on in the week, I’d have said a big, juicy, fresh fruit salad, but as the days have gone by, I’ve found myself getting less and less excited about food – even my trusted favourites aren’t really appealing.

Plus I also knew I still had two more meals to get through – with the added challenge of the in-laws visiting and bringing tempting goodies like cake and cheese – before I could even start to think about what I’d do once the challenge was over.

Ration Challenge Day 7 was all about tactics. I wanted to make sure I ate my first meal as close as possible to when they arrived, so I was full and as un-tempted as possible by whatever treats they turned up with. So, at 11.35 I chopped the rest of the onion that was in the fridge and fried it up, removing half of it from the pan to save for later before adding my leftover cooked rice from the night before plus – you guessed it – salt and paprika. I don’t know whether I’m getting used to eating this way or I’m just appreciating that I’m nearly back to “normal” food, but it actually tasted pretty good.

I ate that before the in-laws arrived, and stuck to water for the rest of the afternoon. They were staying at an Airbnb, and the mother-in-law had prepared a vegan chilli with rice for them all for their evening meal…and funnily enough, I wasn’t that fussed about sitting and watching them eat mounds of rice…

Instead, I took with me a box filled with basically everything bar rice that I had left over…and what a feast it was! The other half of my halloumi reward, the rest of my tinned sardines, some cooked chopped onion, a spoonful of hummus and a couple of basic flour/water/salt crepes. I’m well aware that it doesn’t look great, but with so many different flavours in one meal, it tasted like a true feast after the last seven days!

And that was it. My challenge week was complete. I’d been asked throughout the week what my first meal post-challenge would be, and it ended up being a salad and some fruit for lunch – my body was crying out for fresh produce.

Taking part in the Ration Challenge was certainly an eye-opening experience. I’m pleased to say that I raised over £450 for Concern Worldwide, which will feed three refugees for an entire year. Pretty shocking, considering how much we spend on food each week…

I also lost 5lb in a single week, which shows just how little I was eating compared with normal. I’m a healthy BMI, too – I didn’t *need* to lose that weight…how do refugees in camps in Jordan fare living on so little for so long…not just in terms of weight, but in terms of nutrition, too?

My sponsorship page is open till August 2019, if anyone would like to contribute to the cause. And I’ll definitely consider taking part in this Ration Challenge again next year…I’m amazed at how supportive my friends, family and colleagues have been – and how much awareness it’s raised of the plight of these people. Well done to everyone else who took part, too!

The post Ration Challenge 2019: Day 7 (the final day!) appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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Please note: our meal at The Curious Kitchen was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

When your server greets your 17-month old and gets them grinning within seconds of getting into the room, you know a restaurant’s family-friendly credentials are legit.

And that’s exactly what happened at The Curious Kitchen at the Aztec Hotel and Spa this weekend when we headed over there for Sunday lunch. It was honestly up there with the best service we’ve had recently, the lady assigned to our table not only interacting with the boy throughout (it’s amazing how many places just ignore the baby’s presence), but incredibly helpful and attentive, too.

The Curious Kitchen opened in mid-May this year, marking a new approach for head chef Marc Payne and his team. The aim? To create as much of what they serve as possible from scratch. Behind the scenes, they’re pickling, curing, smoking, infusing their own mayonnaise with smoked jalapeños, preserving their own lemons, making their own bread…which has been a steep learning curve for some of the team. As Marc says, “It has been so interesting being able to find great flavour combinations and adapting some of the more traditional techniques to create our own styles. The pickling or bread making methods that our great-grandparents used are still the basis of the techniques we are using now, and it shows that these skills are just as important today as they have been for centuries to create good, wholesome and delicious food. The team has been enthusiastic at embracing my vision and have relished learning and developing these new skills.”

While the outside of the hotel – and its industrial estate surroundings – might not look like much, The Curious Kitchen is beautiful: decorated in a contemporary style, with balloon murals and other artwork that pay tribute to the local area.

But it was a beautiful day, so we didn’t want to sit inside, instead heading out to the covered terraced area, surrounded by greenery and ponds, complete with ducks.

It’s also great to see somewhere with a pretty varied Sunday lunch offering. At The Curious Kitchen, you can order a la carte or choose two courses plus a glass of English fizz for £19.95, or three and a glass of fizz for £24.95. There’s the chef’s table, for a start – a help yourself option which features salads, home-cured fish, seafood and meats, and various pickles, which you can choose either as a starter or a main course. There are two traditional roast options. There’s a fish of the day, there are sandwiches, there’s fish and chips, there’s a risotto…it’s not just a case of “roast or nothing”.

And it was that chef’s table (£8.95 as a starter, £15.95 as a main) that appealed to both of us to start. There was a hell of a lot of choice, and it was all beautifully presented, too.

I’m well aware that my plate (below) looks massive as a starter, but I had a feeling the small person would end up eating half of it (and I predicted correctly!) There were only a couple of negatives in what I chose – the fennel salad was a bit mushy and the potatoes, while nice and smoky, were a bit too solid. The rest was delicious and varied, the real winners being the flaky cured ham and the sweet and sour chickpea and tomato dish pictured top left in the picture below.

With the sun blazing and no need for a coat, I wasn’t in Sunday roast mood. Instead, I was swayed by the day’s fish dish, which was described as pan-fried salmon with parsley new potatoes, garlic spinach and a lemon beurre blanc.

Again, the presentation was great. It was disappointing to see plain new potatoes instead of the parsley-seasoned variety I was expecting, and in all honesty, they were a little boring and could have been cooked for a bit longer. The salmon more than made up for it, though: it flaked nicely under the fork but was still lovely and juicy…if I had one criticism, it would be that I like my salmon skin nice and crispy.

The spinach was silky, nicely wilted and oozing with a fragrant garlic flavour, while that lemon beurre blanc (which I had a separate small jug of on the side in case I wanted more) was everything I was expecting and more: tangy, creamy, downright decadent.

Chris, on the other hand? He’s always up for a roast dinner, and the rare roast beef with duck fat potatoes, red wine jus, a Yorkshire pudding and a variety of veg (£16.95) wasn’t something he was going to pass up.

It was a towering plate of food – and a huge amount of veg which the three of us shared. The Yorkie and the beef were faultless, the former with a crisp shell and fluffy in the middle, the latter seriously tender and cooked lovely and pink. The potatoes, though, weren’t particularly crispy – they could’ve done with a bit longer in the oven. No complaints about the veg, though: that cauliflower and broccoli cheese in particular may not have had a great deal of sauce, but was nestled under a thick, gooey blanket of mustardy melted cheese…delicious.

Somehow, we managed dessert too. It was the ice cream and sorbet selection for Chris (£6.95), the day’s flavours being blackberry, elderflower and pistachio. Lovely presentation once again, with the pistachio (complete with tiny nutty chunks) the star of the show, the flavours of the other two pretty delicate but authentic.

My lemon posset (£7.25)? Outstanding. Just look at that presentation, for a start! It may be a fairly simple dessert to make but if it’s done well – and served in the right way – it’s pretty damn elegant.

The posset itself was perfectly set, smooth and creamy…but it was that scoop of violet sorbet perched on top that really elevated it to something special. The flavour was as vibrant as its incredible colour, incredibly perfumed but also quite tart, and not too sweet. It was a flavour that paired well with the lemon, and it was great to have the crunch of the pistachios and the powdery crumble of the mini meringues for a different texture.

All in all, our meal at The Curious Kitchen was pretty damn positive. Of the three lots of potatoes we tried, none of them were great. One of the salads on the chef’s table was a bit mushy. But apart from that, we were impressed. Great choice if you’re looking for somewhere a little different for a Sunday lunch where you don’t necessarily need to choose a traditional Sunday roast option, fantastic service, and the excitement of the chef’s table…we’d definitely go back.

The post The Curious Kitchen, Aztec Hotel and Spa: Review appeared first on Bristol Bites.

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