Monthly Archives: February 2010

Bristol performs

Bristol performs, originally uploaded by still awake.

Graze, a comfy experience

Friday night in Bristol and it’s after 9 o’clock by the time a friend arrives to visit for the weekend. We stop off for a quick drink in the Big Chill Bar and they have just stopped serving food. We decide to try out El Puerto, a tapas bar opposite the Arnolfini, for some food although some friends have just gone for dinner at Graze. The Spanish restaurant is too full to even wait around for a table and we watch the couple in front of us get turned away. We pass by the helium balloons of the leaving party next to the door and head out and back to Queen Square to join the friends.

The time is after 10 by now and the group we join has just ordered but the staff at Graze are more than accommodating. They immediately move us all to a bigger table, ask if we all want to eat at the same time and with a slight encouragement for us to order soon they adjust and it all flows smoothly. Out of habit I order the house red and it turns out to be a light though not too mellow grenache, it was a nice selection. As a Bath Ale gastropub it seemed only suitable that three of the guys ordered the Gem Wild Hare (green label). The table was by the window and easily seated seven of us. The atmosphere was pleasant and even though Graze was nearly full there was no distraction from other noises.

Four sirloin steaks (£15.95) were ordered and there are six choices of sauce such as green peppercorns and brandy, port and Stilton, and a type of mustard sauce. I chose the Cornish Pollock (12.95) which came with curly leaf kale and some other red bits of salad.

One person ordered the duck breast and was very complimentary. The steaks were quite thick and cooked to personal taste and were served with a side of triple cooked chips.

I ordered some of the chips as well and they were very tasty. Not sure what the triple cooked part means but the chips have a thick crust and while they looked overdone they didn’t taste it.

Since we were so late to dinner we didn’t order a starter but I wasn’t willing to skip dessert. I don’t consider it a proper meal without at least two courses, preferably three. The last time I was at Graze it was for four hours on Christmas eve and my meal at that time was finished off with an amazing crème brulee. Surprisingly,the creamy custard part was slightly chilled and with a layer of mixed berries at the bottom. I wasn’t sure if I should be affronted at being tricked out of my usual favourite dessert but it was delicious. I hate to give away such an intriguing little surprise but it would be a shame to keep it secret.

Last night’s intriguing little version of the creme brulee was a banoffee one and it was served in a little pot with a smokier than usual burnt sugar crust. The delicious and delicate tasting toffee cream part sat on top of a layer of banana sweetness which was more fruit puree than syrupy goo. That is definitely going on my list of favourite desserts.

The cheese board that some friends ordered was incredibly varied, not only in terms of cheese but also a fun selection of bread and crackers.

Graze may not be the culinary extraordinary experience of places like Flinty Red or the Glassboat but it’s comfy and relaxing and the food tastes good. I think of it as a lovely choice right in the city centre and next to the beautiful Queen Square.

Graze, 63 Queen Square, Bristol BS1 4JZ, 0117 927 6706,

Pink, purple, blue and yellow

Pink, purple, blue and yellow, originally uploaded by still awake.

Left over signs after the Bristol Half Marathon

Taking the fun out of hard work

My initial feeling at deciding to run a marathon was a quiet, bubbling, enthusiastic sense of excitement. Not for the completion or the success but mainly for the practice, the training and perseverance required. I pictured night after night of going out running around the harbour, towards the train station and around Queen Square, infrequently up at the Downs. Getting rained on, legs being elevated and iced, putting the hours in, eating right, lots of carbs, lots of water, those gel energy packs perhaps.

Mainly, what I envisaged was a lot of effort – physical effort. My intention was for my body to contribute a hell of a lot to this process and in return I would repay it with some tasty food and a sense of achievement.

Instead what I encountered was a month of barely running at all. After my first week of increased training my right knee hurt so much that I couldn’t walk up or down stairs properly and I couldn’t be out walking for more than 10 minutes without needing to limp and then going home to elevate and ice.

The physical exhaustion made no appearance and instead I started to lose all enthusiasm for anything. I found runners even more mesmerising than usual and all of a sudden everyone seemed to be out there and training. My sister would tell me about her runs and a friend would remind me of how she had increased her time on the treadmill. I, on the other hand, was not out there hitting the pavement, I was sitting, or more likely lying, at home working on my leg muscles. Intellectually I knew that this was a temporary setback and I was doing more good for myself in the long run. I would hopefully be harder, better, faster, stronger by the end of it all and even more excited about training.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, I encountered a real gap in my exercise regime which, once running was elminated, was reduced to bouts of walking around town and to the station. I stopped going to the gym because the only thing I wanted to do was go on the treadmill. Instead of leaping enthusiastically into the marathon lifestyle I dibbed and dabbed into bits and pieces of advice but on a piece-meal basis. I read and followed the advice by Steve Halsall and switched to eating a proper breakfast of porridge and some fruit. I read the occasional post on marathon training and took some comfort from similar injury stories from Mostly, however, I ignored it all and hoped it would go away. I slid into a softer physique and it wasn’t hard to extend the Christmas lifestyle into January and February.

I continued to do my exercises though and this week there was no pain at all in my knee. The Bath half-marathon is taking place on March the 7th and I was asked whether I wanted to try running it. The surge of happiness I felt was incredible and I felt a little more alive than normal. The physio/osteopath guy advised that there was always some risk and that if I wanted to play it entirely safe I could avoid the half and train just for the marathon (nope!). I asked what I should watch out for and he said that if I started to hurt enough to need to alter my running then this would be a cause for concern. Ultimately though there was no pain right now and I am back to training every other day.

I went out around the harbour yesterday and according to the little Garmin I only ran 3.48km and at a little over 6 minutes a km. A voice in my head kept saying, does that even count as a run? Yes it bloody well counts as a run!

Now I just need to raise £1000 for GAN but that’s another post for another day.

Fountain, excitement

Fountain, excitement, originally uploaded by still awake.

Taken in Barcelona, July 2009.

Ponyo, just magical

Ponyo is a wonderful tale of a love that moves heaven and earth and is as loud as the piercing exuberant scream of a five year old. There are two sides to this love and while the first is the risk-taking part where a whole lifestyle is sacrificed with boundless joy and excitement, the second is the practical and responsible love which is filled with determination and acceptance.

That’s the message that I understood from Hayao Miyazaki’s animated tale about Ponyo, a perky little goldfish who adventures on to land and is rescued by Sosuke, a 5-year-old boy who lives on a cliff above the ocean and promises to protect her always. Their friendship strikes in Ponyo a burning desire to become human, but the actions she takes to achieve her dream trigger a catastrophic tsunami that floods Sosuke’s village. How will they put the natural world back in balance? A visually wonderful, truly unique and charmingly gentle mix of fantasy, adventure and affection (Watershed).

The beautifully drawn and animated Ponyo has already won seven awards (including a BAFTA) and been nominated for more than 10. The English version is showing at the Watershed in Bristol until tomorrow evening. I’m looking forward to seeing the Japanese version as well.

Oh, and Mark Kermode loved it as well!

Watershed, 1 Canon’s Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TX. 0117 927 5100,

Starting my day at La Bocqueria (July 2009)

Starting my day at La Bocqueria, originally uploaded by still awake.