Category Archives: restaurant

Severnshed, Review

The view from the Severnshed is one of the loveliest in Bristol and it held my gaze for most of the evening although it was mainly the smokers who enjoyed the fresh air on the balcony. The lounge / bar area to the left of the entrance is suffused with warm lighting in a comforting dark wood environment. The restaurant to the right is spacious and has a similar set of doors that look out towards the floating harbour and the houses on Redcliffe.

The Severnshed changed owners in March 2010 to the same people who own Coal Grill and Bar at Cabot Circus although apparently the staff stayed in place. Monday night provided an opportunity to sample the new wine menu and some new dishes. There were four of each and I expect they were either chosen for their differences in order to demonstrate the range of the kitchen or because they were the best of what was available. I’m hoping it was the former.

The first combination was lime and chilli king prawn skewers seasoned with just salt and pepper, accompanied by an Australian Riesling. The prawns are on the starter menu for £6.95 and they were quite under seasoned with no hints of citrus or spice. In contrast, the pineapple addition to the skewer was juicy and had a just barbecued, sweetly grilled flavour. The wine, of which I had a taste was pleasant and chilled enough.

This was followed by chorizo with garlic oil accompanied paired with a rose cabernet sauvignon tempranillo. The spicy sausage flavoured with paprika was thickly cut, full of flavour and the best dish of the four. The rose had a nice colour and was suitable for the dish. The cost of the dish at the restaurant is £4.50 for a small dish or £11 for three dishes out of a selection.

The lobster risotto had an actual piece of lobster which was cooked from fresh. Sadly the dish was slightly under seasoned and the parmesan cheese added a gloopiness to the very well cooked rice which was interesting if not actually useful. I’ve had better risotto so not sure how happy I would have been with the menu price of £11.95 for the slight blandness which was served.

The last taste was a dish of beef on skewers in meatball sized portions. I managed one of mine but it took so long to chew that I didn’t bother with the second one. It was served with a more robust merlot red wine which was nice enough and could have been a good choice for a meal.

For most people the highlight of the evening seemed to be the service and the cocktail served at the start. For me it was the atmosphere and the view although the latter was slightly marred by the blackboard by the balcony doors which had a list of drink prices. At £4.50 for a pint of Westons Organic Cider it would have made an expensive round for two. This slightly spoiled any thoughts of a future visit although the chorizo promises that there may be some hidden treats on the menu. Despite the waterfront location, seafood was not a winner on this beautiful evening.


Hooters, All About The Girls?

In the US sitcom Frasier in season 3, Frasier responds to Daphne’s comment about men using sex to get what they want with the following: “How can we possibly use sex to get what we want? Sex is what we want!” the audience laugh cheerfully because of course it rings true. Populating a fast food restaurant with skimpily clad women seems to prove the point.

Today was the public opening of Hooters in Bristol and my friend Martin and I were there to try out the chicken wings and the atmosphere. I was curious to see how my self-esteem would hold up when my noticeably six-month pregnant body was compared with the young women in short, orange shorts, tan stockings and very tight fitting tops.

Surprisingly, there was little, metaphorical, space to be anything but cheerful inside. ‘Welcome to Hooters’ was shouted when we entered and this happened with every customer’s entrance. There were songs for birthdays and stag dos and dances for special songs such as Cotton Eyed Joe.

The customer service is done American-style with a varied-in-length chat approximately every 10 minutes. The protests against Hooters were mentioned and our waitress Haley thought they were misunderstood, after all there were strip shows about which people could complain. And this isn’t a strip show is it? I asked and she was almost horrified. Not at all, she replied, it was a lovely friendly place to work. She was raising two little ones, aged three and one respectively, and she even asked about the bump.

There were few other women in the restaurant and the men weren’t lecherous or even drooling. The customers were quiet and getting on with their dining amongst the noise and the constant interaction, our waitress visited our table over 10 times.

The girls were enthusiastic, bubbly and constantly smiling. With all the movement, how could they not be in a good mood? I was feeling great but then it may have been the company or the chicken wings but it was also the enthusiasm of something new. The waitresses were almost child-like in their level of interest and intimacy but lunch time on the first day isn’t where the problems are going to appear.

The announcement of Hooters’ opening was greeted by some advocates of women’s rights with outrage. I agree that dressing women in skimpy clothes and using them as bait to lure in men in order to sell fast food is probably not a great use of women. The prices aren’t that cheap with burgers at around £8 and 10 chicken wings selling for £7.49 or £7.99 boneless.

The price of women selling their bodies is sometimes not much more than our meal at lunch £15.98 for two plus a £2 tip. On June 8, 2010, a man was jailed after subjecting his 28-week pregnant victim “to a terrifying rape after he refused to pay her £20 for sex”.

A prostitute is a professional sex object and I can’t find much argument for saying that women in Hooters aren’t objectified as the same – sex objects. They get dressed in a sexy way to promote the restaurant and get paid for it. The difference between the two is that in the restaurant there seems to be some form of protection, the four walls, the managers, the bouncers who may well be there on a Friday night. Not quite ‘harmless fun’ but perhaps a good advertisement for legalised prostitution and brothels.

I enjoyed my lunch but I don’t think the waitress needed to talk to me for 20-30 minutes to prove that she was an individual.

Souk Kitchen, So Loud But Hard To Resist

From the outside, Souk Kitchen looks like one average sized room with a bright and colourful menu posted on the window. The bright pink, yellow and blue of the menu is not exactly what I expect from middle-eastern cuisine with its modern brightness. I also find it surprising that they do a breakfast menu but it’s 11.40am and it will have to do since the Tobacco Factory does not open until noon.

We are seated quickly at the last empty table and the service is friendly. The dark brown tables look similar to the ones at Flinty Red and the wooden white chairs are comfortable. The place itself though is so loud. We can barely hear ourselves across the table and have to repeat things and point to menu items. There are 10 tables in the restaurant and four of them are playing host to infants. There’s a very cute six-seven month old who finds it entertaining to practice her new noise-making skills. At the start of the meal this is lovely but by the end it has become mind-numbing.

Suki: tea of the month – Mango Tango £1.70

Weekend specials
Vegetable chorba soup, cauliflower puree, toasted almonds + bread £3.95
Souk Mezze + grilled flat bread £7.50
Chicken Shawarma wrap, hummus, red cabbage & fennel slaw £6.95

The food specials sounded delicious and colourful but I didn’t think there was much you could do with breakfast. I was wrong.

They had ‘the local’ for £6.25 which comprised Lincolnshire sausages, grilled back bacon, two free-range fried eggs, fresh grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, homemade bubble & squeak cake, toast with butter + jam or marmalade; eggs on toast with possible extras; basket of toast; basket of pastries; granola;and french toast with the possible toppings of – cinnamon +almond French toast, with seasonal fruit compote, crème fraîche and maple syrup £3.95, – Crispy bacon, grilled banana and maple syrup for £4.50.

I didn’t go with any of those and instead we both chose something that sounded more like a special, the Shakshouka, which for £4.95 was described as a typical Middle Eastern breakfast dish of poached eggs cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions + spices, served in the pan with homemade zatar flatbread (extra grilled merguez sausage £1.50 or feta 50p). I ordered mine with both sausage and feta while companion chose only the feta.

The dish was very tasty and the eggs were cooked (poached) well but with a yolk still runny while the whites were firm. There were peppers in the sauce which itself was well seasoned and fresh tasting. The feta cheese was very good, and I’ve tasted many varieties over the years. This was a salty and firm cheese that wasn’t too sour while the heat from the food helped it become even creamier. The sausages were firm and spicy and well suited to the dish.

The breads were also very good with a spicy rub as a topping and served warm in a basket.

I ordered a decaf Americano which I enjoyed and there was a special little touch of bringing heated up and frothed milk as an accompaniment (a shame I didn’t use it). My companion ordered a green tea which was served in an individual teapot so that it was freshly brewed from tea leaves rather than a tea bag.

If I was awarding marks then Souk Kitchen would easily get 5 / 5 or 10 / 10 for food. The service and atmosphere, however, were a whole other story. Admittedly there were only two people serving and while the guy seemed distantly friendly, the service from the woman was poor and sloppy. My coffee was sloshing away as it was placed down with the waitress barely breaking stride before she was off to the table behind us. I saw her smile only once when an older woman walked out after asking her a question and not waiting for a reply – it was more of a ‘why are people so strange’ expression that included a smile. It was the kind of service that didn’t expect a tip so I didn’t leave one.

The noisy children and the groups of people on tables made the place very loud and conversation for us was nearly impossible. I ended up writing in my notebook while he read a book he had with him.

The food may be too tempting though, enough to overcome the atmosphere. Some more dishes:

  • Chargrilled lambs liver, cabbage, walnut & barberry bulgar pilau, pomegranate & cinnamon molasses £10.50
  • pan fried salmon, zatar roast anya potatoes, roast red peppers, courgettes, harissa & mint £10.95
  • Greek yoghurt panna cotta, saffron poached fig £3.95

They sound quite hard to resist.

Souk Kitchen, 277 North Street, Southville, Bristol, BS3 1JP, 0117 966 6880

Tobacco Factory: Tapas and Coffee

The Tobacco Factory for lunch on a Sunday did not offer a roast. Instead, there were some warm brasserie style lunches, baguettes, English muffins and a selection of tapas dishes.

Luckily they also had decaf coffee so along with the bread and humous (£3.20), olives and humous (£3.20) and patatas bravas (£3.80), I was able to enjoy a vanilla soy latte (£2.10 + 0.20p) and my friend had a green tea.

The bread was lovely, from Mark’s Bread across the road, and was firm of texture with a harder crust but not too tough. The selection was made up of white and brown bread drizzled with olive oil and supplemented with two triangles of butter. The first basket had five mediocre sized pieces while the second had a better amount.

The patatas bravas were roasted new potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper and parsley. I say seasoned but most were barely flavoured while the rest were nice but the pepper was not entirely appropriate. The tomato sauce / salsa accompaniment had no seasoning at all and I didn’t bother with it after a couple of tastes. The humous was chunky but not too rough although again there was no seasoning apart from parsley and cumin. Salt was not a big factor in the meal at all (the butter was unsalted as well). The best dish was made up of the green and brown olives which were nice and the portion was a good size.

The vanilla soy latte was pleasant and tasty and the green tea was pretty standard and drinkable, apparently.

The meal was nice although it wasn’t meant to be more than a snack. It wasn’t amazing and could have done with more seasoning but it was worth the money. The environment was the most enjoyable aspect to the midday break. The room was large and most of the tables were full, families with little children, men on their own with newspapers and books, gatherings of young women and random urban professionals passing by. The space was large enough to make the conversations a slight noise in the background which allowed for comfortable talk and some semblance of privacy.

I suspect I’ll try a different dish next time and English muffins sounded very good. £5 for one of four selections including mushroom and cheese and smoked salmon with cream cheese. For an additional 50p each you can add a poached egg as well. Sounds ideal for brunch.

The Tobacco Factory, Raleigh Rd, Bristol, Avon BS31TF, 0117 902 0060

Dil Se, Horfield:

Mark Taylor reviews Indian restaurant Dil Se in today’s Metro and in Crackerjack on July 21. This vegetarian restaurant on Gloucester Rd is a venture by by Tosh Lakhani and his son Rumit who also run Myristica on the Welsh Back.

They describe Dil Se as Bristol’s first Vegetarian Indian Delicatessen. Using fresh local ingredients, Dil Se serves the finest Indian delights. Using knowledge and techniques handed down through generations and provides a truly authentic taste!

No alcohol is served and so far only dinner sittings are available but the prices are cheap. The review was a glowing one and Myristica is one of my favourite restaurants in Bristol so I’m adding Dil Se to my list of places to visit. 386 Gloucester Road, Horfield, Bristol BS7 8TR

Fundraising Dinner at Casamia, Bristol

Bristol’s only Michelin starred restaurant, Casamia, has teamed up with YOUYOU Mentoring to help inspire young people and promote their culinary talents. The young mentee chefs James Ashworth (16) and Bart Hayward (17) will be cooking dishes created by the Chefs, Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias, at a fundraising dinner on Wednesday 18 August.

The price is £60 for dinner and a glass of Moet and Chandon and half of the takings and donations raised from raffle and auction will be donated to the charity. This is a great opportunity to help raise money for a charity while at the same time enjoying what is sure to be a delicious menu.

The cooking mentoring scheme ‘Knife & Fork‘ was set up for disadvantaged young people not in employment.

Chefs Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias (Credit photo: Richard Bailey)

£60 per person with a glass of Moet Chandon NV Champagne. For reservations: Call 0117 959 2884.

Casamia, 38 High Street, Westbury on Trym, Bristol BS9 39D

Wagamama, Restaurant Review

Miso soup, with Japanese pickles on the side, £1.40, and edamame beans with chilli salt as starters, £3.70.

A Power Wagamama meal for me included three ebi gyoza, one raisukaree (sound it out) and one juice – that day’s special included cucumber, apple and lemon. The ebi raisukaree is a dish of prawns stir-fried in a coconut and lime curry sauce with mangetout, peppers, red and spring onions, served on sticky white rice and garnished with
red chillies, coriander and lime. £10.15.

Cumin chicken salad with rice for my companion: a warm salad of stir-fried cumin chicken with beansprouts red onions and peppers tossed in
a ginger tamarind sauce, served on baby spinach and dressed with wagamama house dressing, garnished with chillies with a small portion of rice. £9.15.

Dessert was a dark chocolate fudge brownie cake with chocolate wasabi sauce served with vanilla bean ice cream.

The food was fragrant and varied and delicious. As a chain restaurant it does brilliantly at serving food that tastes fresh and healthy, to an extent, but it does vary in its interchangeable university student led service. One meal was spent with batting away the various waiters who tried to take our unfinished ebi gyoza plate three times. We’ve had casual and rude waiters, indifferent and invisible others. On Saturday the person who waited on us was considerate and thoughtful and added to the pleasure of the visit.

We managed to get a table by the window and this helps cut down the noise from the deep restaurant which potentially fits 128 people. The noise can become quite overwhelming the deeper in the room you sit.

I visited three restaurants with an oriental / Chinese theme, Cathay Rendezvous and Zen that weekend. Cathay was average, Zen is a favourite but Wagamamas turned out to be the most fun meal with lots of variety. We were even tempted to go back the next day but it wouldn’t have been the same.

63 Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1QL. 0117 922 1188.