Monthly Archives: April 2012

Cosmo, reopens

Last Wednesday, I was enjoying a Michelin-starred tasting menu in a Tipi on Queen Square while the live act sang soothing Laura Marling tunes.

Three days later I was dodging elbows in the back, and plates piled high with chips, while holding my 14-month-old-daughter, at Cosmo which has reopened on Clifton Triangle.

The pan-Asian restaurant provides a buffet of up to 120 dishes from nine countries including China, Japan and India. There used to be three sections in the first version of the restaurant although the curries were never particularly appealing as they swam in their soup-like sauces; the fried foods were passably good, and the Chinese dishes were mostly quite nice.

Around the time that buffet-extravaganza Za Za Bazaar opened on the Harbourside, Cosmo shut down and in the hands of new management took some time to transform itself. The seats used to be on the outer edges of the restaurant with the central floor space left for the food.

The new Cosmo sees every available space filled with seating and with the seating area at the back of the restaurant extended to provide more covers. They have increased the number of dishes and improved the curries.

There used to be more Asian-styled desserts with jellied mousses and individual cups of creamy sweets. This has now changed to slices of cake, fruit (including cherry tomatoes) and Summertime ice cream straight from the tub.

The perils of a buffet were made apparent as my daughter and I watched a bowl of very nice looking grapes be picked over and handled by one diner before he chose only one or two bunches. The profiteroles were from frozen and some were still ever so cold. The cakes were tasty though.

The renovations mean that the food space has expanded and the aisles narrowed. One row of warmed food tubs was made of only fried food like spring rolls, prawn toast and chicken dumplings. It looked like a sea of light beige. The Chinese dishes which used to be quite edible in a late-night-takeaway sort of manner had lost any of their charm and tasted vinegary and plain. Sauces were in big squirty bottles like mass catering offerings although more care had been taken with the Indian food.

There were fresh naan and a tandoor oven for the chicken which seemed colourful and not unpleasant. There was mango chutney and lime pickle for the fresh popadoms and the usual rices. The sushi bar is only open on Sunday lunch time and evenings but the food was already being prepared and looked as it should.

The whole experience was quite depressing and not just because it was a buffet prepared for the masses but because the previous incarnation was actually quite nice.

The lunch time price of £7.99 for adults and children 1.5m or less at £3.50 means that it is accessible to families and a cheap way to eat out. It’s a shame however when eating out equates to a rushed service, a poor selection of not very appetizing dishes and a cramped experience.

As Mersina and I were venturing back to our seats, Laura Marling started playing on the radio and I guess that’s the only time that this buffet style cattle market will have anything in common with the fine dining experiences available at the moment.

See the following blog post for my housemate’s experience at Cosmo of having to delete his photos from his camera phone.

Bristol Energy Cooperative looking for investors

A new cooperative in Bristol is raising money to set up solar energy sites on two buildings in the city centre. The not-for-profit Bristol Energy Cooperative is looking to raise £87,000 through a share offering and has already had an 82.4% pledge for the amount from 74 investors who can invest as little as £50. The returns are hoped to be up to 4% a year.

The initial investment has the following aims

• to buy 20kW of the solar PV installation on the roof of Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, and
• to install 19kW of solar PV on the roof of Knowle West Media Centre.

The share offer closes on 18 May.

Lovely Bristol, hashtag

The Twitter hashtag #lovelyBristol has me reminiscing and getting inspired about my fascinating little city. Share some thoughts if you like, the following are mine.

The places which hosted some lovely experiences: Flinty Red, Brandon Hill, the Grain Barge, the Harbourside, the aquamarine bridge just before the Pump House #lovelyBristol

drinks by the Arnolfini, scrambled eggs at the @wshed, a Ferry ride from the Cascading Steps, the Harbourside Market and the non-smiling man from what was Booty now to be called Makers #lovelyBristol

Tweetups and beer, wine and sherry taste-offs from the @BrisBeerFactory. Milk Stout and violet and rose chocolates from Guilberts. Samosas from St Nicholas Market, the (missing) jacks from Christchurch and St Ewan on Broad Street.

The seemingly neverending season of festivals. Toy Story 3 on Millennium Square by the Planetarium. Looking for Jupiter and Venus on the pointing direction thing by Las Iguanas. Avoiding Las Iguanas. Pero’s Bridge and the buskers who play Spanish guitar and jazz respectively.

Art at the Arnolfini and the Architecture Centre, theatre and performances at the Old Vic, the Wardrobe Theatre, the Hippodrome, the Brewery Theatre and Mayfest. Foodie blogs with reviews of nearly every restaurant in Bristol. National food writers such as Mark Taylor and Fiona Beckett who are based in Bristol but recommend and inspire places far and wide. Two Michelin starred restaurants. Both of them in Queen Square as we speak / read / write.

A stunning central library designed by Charles Holden, next to the Bristol Cathedral and with a view of the open expanse of College Green. The unicorns on the Council House which still remain a mystery, to an extent. The Old Duke on King Street, which the Old Duke actually visited one evening years ago, and the Apple cider boat which many Bristolians visit every day.

Book clubs at the central library, at the Waterstones on Union Street, book signings with authors. Pop-up: Wine tastings, restaurants, cafes, breads, and custard tart offerings.

What are your thoughts on #LovelyBristol?

Spamalot, review

Monty Python’s Spamalot has nothing to do with the internet or the status of your inbox. It is set over 1000 years ago and is a musical, which in its own parlance ‘farts in the general direction of other musicals’.

Lovingly ripped off from the performance of Monty Python and the Holy Grail it provides not only a parody of the Arthurian legend but also of other musicals and more often than not, of itself, too. The jokes and the witticisms will be familiar to Monty Python fans but there are twists and new additions and most of all there is the fun dancing and self-mocking songs such as The Song That Goes Like That Is.

The crowd are suckers for the classic set ups and they riproared with laughter and recognition at the knights of ni and then the knight who insisted he was merely suffering a scratch as he lost both arms and legs.

There was a dig at Samantha Brick and some praise and reverential singing towards the mighty fine city that is Bristol. You’d think the crowd would be a little more cynical, seeing as most of them were in their upper middle ages but perhaps they don’t get out much.

Marcus Bristocke, as King Arthur, and his companion Patsy, better known as Mark Fowler from Eastenders or Todd Carty, were the big names who got themselves put on the posters outside the theatre. They were ok but were massively upstaged by the rest of the cast.

The glamorous Bonnie Langford, as the Lady in the Lake, hammed it up with her magnificent voice and stole the show from a lot of the other performers. The dancers from the ensemble with their stunning costumes were quite spectacular and the dancing from the rest of the knights was very well done so some well deserved praise to choreographer Jenny Arnold.

Kit Orton as Lancelot was outrageously and wonderfully fantastic as the French Taunter who told King Arthur that his master already had the holy grail. What a giggle. He was great throughout the show and his energy never seemed to let up.

Great costumes, great choreography and so much fun. Spamalot is destined to be one of the best productions at the Hippodrome this year and remember, it is not about the internet, it is because they eat spam a lot. See?

At the Bristol Hippodrome until April 28.

I Love You, fading

B is for Bristol and C is for Crimefest

Crime news does not get any bigger than this without actual blood being involved and spilling from the bodies. In this case, the bodies are world famous authors Sue Grafton, PD James and Lee Child among others who are attending the fourth annual Crimefest in Bristol.

The event takes place at the Royal Marriott on College Green from May 24 to 27. There are workshops on crime writing and pitching an agent and the programme is very busy.

One of the most exciting sessions – Kicking Ass: Spirited Protagonists and Tricky Situations – includes the panelists Lee Child, Sue Grafton, Brian McGilloway and Jaqueline Winspear.

Sue Grafton is the very popular author of the Alphabet series of books, the latest of which is V is for Vengeance and Jaqueline Winspear writes the Maisie Dobbs mysteries. Fans of the Killing will also come away very happy from the attendees.

The programme is a treat that will have many mystery and crime fans’ hearts aflutter and the tickets are available from the following page.

Bristol Festival of Photography, Colston Hall

Ah landscapes. Where would postcards be without them? They are an effective promotion because sometimes their beauty and depiction is inspiring enough to let you see your own city with a fresh glance. And it is just this opportunity which is going to be available at the Colston Hall from May 4 with the second Bristol Festival of Photography.

Local photographers Sheona Beaumont and Walter Dirks will show off their creations which include both local landscapes and scenes from further afield in an exploration entitled The Colour of Landscape. It takes place in The Glass Room, Colston Hall’s gallery, and will combine wide angle landscapes plus intricate close ups of nature.

Sheona Beaumont uses digital manipulation to create collaged scenes, exploring the more spiritual aspect of an environment. Walter Dirks photography aims to capture simplicity, reflecting an uncluttered way of seeing nature’s forms and colours.

There will be a preview event on the 3 May between 5-7pm with accompanying live music. The Colour of Landscape will then be open to the public daily from 4 May-2 June.

The Glass Room will be open from Monday to Friday 8am – 11pm and Saturday 9am-10pm (in quieter times space may close early). On Sundays Colston Hall is open when a show is on.

Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5AR, 0117 922 3686