Tag Archives: Bristol

Love Cooking Festival, Bristol

Whenever I brag and rave about Bristol, I tend to mention the festivals that are such a huge part of life here. Sometimes there’s one every weekend, I say and what I really mean is that they’re all the same, pick one and go to it and you’ll find the same stands, the same crafts, the same people wandering in and then leaving again. Some charge and some don’t and occasionally that seems to be the biggest difference.

With this thought in mind, there wasn’t much surprise when reading about the Love Cooking Festival although its location at Colston Hall was an interesting twist. However, who would want to go see people cooking on stage at around £20 a ticket? A visit seemed to be a good idea.

Richard Allen was the first chef I saw and she was announced on stage by Nigel Barden, the food and drink presenter for BBC London TV, Radio and Online.

Nigel did not just do the presenting and introductions but stayed on to help Rachel with the banter and consistency. She had been up since 2.30am to make her way to Bristol and my heart sank a little at the potential half-hearted performance. The show proceeded at a steady pace and Nigel filled in with chat for about half of it.

Rachel cooked a three course menu of Scallops with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Orange; Roast Duck Legs; Lentils with Red Wine and a Treacle Tart. Her commentary was consistent, her manner professional and by the end I thought I would try out the recipe. I couldn’t help but be distracted throughout the session, however, with crying babies, half empty rows of seats – it was held at 2pm – and general thoughts of ‘this would be just as good on TV’.

All the slight detachment disappeared when Ainsley came out to play. Ainsley Harriot was on between 4 and 5pm and he was magical. A well seasoned TV presenter who has hosted various TV shows and food specials and is probably best known to daytime viewers as the host of Ready, Steady, Cook for 20 seasons. His ease and charm with everyone in the room meant that Nigel’s role quickly became redundant as he sat back and also enjoyed the show.

Ainsley danced and cooked and sweated and told us all about his life. In the early 1990s he was part of the musical act Calypso Twins with schoolfriend Paul Boross and released a hit record in the early 1990s, “World Party”. We were treated to various renditions of calypso music throughout the show which accompanied his dishes. The chilli cornbread muffins were prepared as a side to Peppy’s Ackee And Salt Fish In De Pan which brought with it stories of his mum. The Chargrilled Jerk-Slashed Chicken brought up opportunities for banter with the audience and he even promised some food to a woman a few seats in front of me.

Ainsley stepped out into the crowd, joyfully hugged a woman celebrating her birthday, interviewed the catering college students from the City of Bristol College who helped out with the preparations, and brought to the stage an audience member tasked with tasting the wine and the food.

He put on a show and I would pay to see him again but I must confess it was Rachel’s duck dish for which I passed by a supermarket and bought the ingredients. The Love Cooking Festival in Bristol was a great example of how not all festivals are alike and there was not a Pieminister pie in sight.

Love Cooking Festival sessions: London, 2 November. Harrogate, 5 December. Tickets are still available.


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.

Caffe Gusto vs Starbucks


The staff at Starbucks, Bristol Temple Meads, are the friendliest that I have encountered so I was a little surprised not to be greeted with a smile yesterday. Turns out that the soy milk delivery was late so they couldn’t serve me.

Instead, I found myself heading to Caffe Gusto to buy a coffee before the morning train. I had just missed mine by about a minute so I wasn’t in much of a rush. The Gusto branch, which is one of many that surround and inundate the city centre (four more outlets than Starbucks), is found at the very front of the road that leads to the train station. Next to it is the Passenger Shed and a nursery.

I walk in and there’s a soft orange light that fills the cavernous interior leading to the counter. To my right are the tables and chairs for the customers. The light is more natural and it’s very quiet with a couple of occupied tables. Free wi-fi is advertised by the door.

A latte costs £2.15 for a single shot and £2.45 for a double. Soy milk is available for an additional 30p as is flavoured syrup. My decaf, vanilla, double shot latte costs me £3.05. At Starbucks the extra shot, syrup and soy milk are free for Starbucks card holders and if I reuse a tray there is a discount of 25p. Gusto so far cost me £1.20 more. I also order a muffin and an apple as substitute for the porridge I would have had from the other coffee retailer.

The soy milk at Starbucks is Alpro which is the nicest I’ve tasted by far. Their vanilla flavoured one with cinnamon on top was my favourite drink at Dashi before they shut down in January. I don’t know what they use at Gusto but it tastes akin to what skim milk tastes to people who don’t drink it, shit, watery, unpleasant and much like dish water. When you’re drinking decaf, as I am, there isn’t even the compensation of the caffeine hit.

I am not saying that Starbucks has amazing coffee which I choose for its flavour. The soy latte is sweet, milky (to an extent), and comforting. The extras are all free and I can ask for it the way I want it, ‘extra wet’ which means no foam. It’s also cheaper.

The muffin was the best part of yesterday’s breakfast and I wonder if they make their own. The whole purchase cost £5.60 and I am not too keen on going back.

This morning I caught the 7am train and I went by Starbucks for porridge and coffee. They apologised for yesterday’s lack of ingredients and didn’t charge me. The latte is comforting and the porridge is served with dried fruit and tastes great.

For me, Starbucks wins hands down and the service at Bristol Temple Meads is exceptional.

Caffe Gusto, British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, Clock Tower Yard, Temple Meads, Bristol, BS1 6QH
Starbucks, Temple Quay, 1 Temple Square, Unit A, Restaurant/Bar Cafe 2, Bristol, Bristol, City of BS1 6EB

By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

taken on my phone.

Transported: By Commuter Tales

Man sitting opposite: six weeks of train travel he says in a type of weary exasperation. I’ve been doing it for four years I reply. I then have to take out my headphones as he tells me about his shoulder. He’s been on a cycling trip to Wales with a friend, his friend slammed into a gate and he fell after hitting his friend’s bike. His shoulder was compressed and there were various injuries to do with ligaments etc and he is now attending physiotherapy sessions. He’s thinking of going private because the once fortnightly appointment on the NHS is not enough.

The 1652 on the way back to Bristol: A commuter’s husband manages a car rental place. He frequently changes cars and their friends say they never know in which car he will turn up. They also get cheap petrol. Much shaking of head and mirth.

A quiet zone carriage on the 1752 from Cheltenham: The carriage is full and one man is talking on his phone somewhere towards the back. I sit near the middle on the right side by the aisle. At Bristol Parkway the people from one of the tables get out and a young woman not yet in her twenties walks in and sits down while still talking on her phone. A minute or so later a much older woman stands up and is practically shaking. She proceeds to yell at the young girl who looks much bigger than her in stature and to threaten her with ‘if you were a man I’d punch you in the face, no one else is talking on this carriage. I have travelled all the way from Manchester and no one has talked the whole time’. The girl looked up at her then went straight back to her conversation with barely a pause. She seemed most unperturbed but the older woman was so angry she packed her bags and moved to sit elsewhere. I didn’t think it was the right time for me to mention the guy chatting at the back of the quiet zone.

On the bus in Cheltenham around 8am: A woman sitting at the front of the bus leans across to steady herself on the rail across the passageway. She’s in her 50s, wearing a vest and a woolly jumper, has a slightly ruddy complexion and short grey hair. I wonder why she’s leaning but think nothing of it until she takes out a bottle of white wine and drinks some before putting it away in her shopping bag.

The 0730 from Bristol: The king of commuters (unofficially) has been making the journey from Parkway to Cheltenham for 19 years. He has a law practice and has recently been trying out a fold-up bike. He doesn’t have it with him today and I ask how it’s going. He tells me that on his way to work the saddle had slipped, the pedal had fallen off and his leg had been impaled on the latter. He has taken photographs and is ready to sue.

Temple Meads

Neptune Under the Pass, Broad St