Breakfast at Wallfish Bistro in Clifton


Two days ago, I had some black-looking thick and ugly mushrooms on toast at River Cottage Cafe. They were most unpleasant to look at with the grimy streaks they left on my place and weren’t exactly exploding with flavour. A week before that I had been served the most beautiful looking girolles on toast served with herby butter and arranged like little flowers around and top of a slice of sourdough.

The Wallfish in Clifton may only have started serving brunch for the first time last weekend but they were certainly miles ahead of the River Cottage on service and flavour. They were perhaps a little overenthusiastic with the drinks menu which I was handed as I walked in and all the cocktails listed on the breakfast menu are a bit daunting for 10am but nevertheless, I have become a big fan of their breakfasts.

Their baked beans are home-made and taste authentically country-farm (probably). They were lovely and smokey and have bits of bacon. I ordered them for my daughter but she was not impressed as they tasted nothing like Heinz.

I did wonder about the freshness of our bread as the delivery came in from Jo’s Bakery on Gloucester Road after we had been served but it was toasted and sourdough so I wasn’t surprised at needing a knife to cut it, it tasted ok. The water jug looked like a fish and glugged when you poured in a most pleasing way. I liked it. I’ll be back.


Favourite photos from last week

On Wednesday, last week, we went to visit Mersina’s childminder in Clifton. We then went by Papadeli where I enjoyed a delicious coffee and and a chocolate croissant while Mersina ate some of her plain croissant. It was lovely.

The Lahloo Pantry, Clifton

If any place was suited to host a fine dining experience in tea then it was meant to be Clifton and it could only be from Lahloo Tea.

The premises of what used to be Thaiphoon have been transformed into a light and open establishment set over three levels. There are seats upstairs and downstairs while just past the entrance there is a bench full of freshly baked cakes, scones and salads. Tarts, salads, eggs and cinnamon buns are all made in the little kitchen downstairs and there is a toaster available for some self-service snacks.

Scones I

A bookcase is filled with jams made on the premises: strawberry and vanilla; lemon, grapefruit and orange; and cherry and ginger. Most importantly, there is a menu dedicated to the excellent loose leaf tea which varies from herbal, green and includes a Bristol Brew.

The highlight of my two visits so far has included the honey matcha latte made with soy milk (£3) and a cheese scone served with ricotta creme fraiche and chilli jam. Indeed, the latter also produced one of my saddest moments there, as I finished the scone while I still had chilli jam left but nothing on which to eat it.

Matcha Latte

On the last visit, my friend Matt ordered the banana bread which was served with a rich looking, almost orange in colour, butter. Enjoy some of his pictures.


Lahloo, 12 Kings Road, Clifton, Bristol

Papadeli Cafe at the RWA

Papadeli is one of my favourite places for a coffee, a wander and some delicious food. Today they also set up shop a few hundred metres closer to me at the Royal West of England Academy.

The decaf, double shot, Americano was very nice and there is a selection of cakes, sandwiches and various other foods on the menu. The soup of the day was lentil with cumin while some crusty roll sandwiches had toppings such as prosciutto with tomato and rocket, and chorizo and goat’s cheese with rosemary. The rolls are £3.95 for take away and £4.75 to eat in.

I enjoyed a superb brownie that was on par with the amazing one from Sourdough in St Nicholas Market and a sweet San Pellegrino soft drink.

Accessibility is great with a sloped entrance at the front and plenty of room inside for a pram. The cafe is divided into two areas. The store part is in one narrow room with a long bench that fits all the food and the cash register. There is a separate room with tables and cutlery which has high windows but is mostly closed off from the rest of the world. There are also three tables near the entrance to the art gallery but they don’t have too much of a view either.

It’s a lovely place for great food and coffee which are a bit of a treat at those prices but delicious nevertheless.

Royal West of England Academy, Queen’s Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1PX

Data: in the eye of the beholder

A few weeks ago I was having breakfast at Primrose Cafe in Clifton. The sun was shining, the radio was on too loud, the place was crowded as usual and the conversation was almost flowing. In the midst of all this my companion made the point that there seemed to be more beautiful people in Clifton than there were, say, in Bedminster, and didn’t I think so? I looked around, and as the source of the comment was a single man, I tried to spot and remember how many young, slender, brunettes we had passed on our way.

He insisted that it wasn’t just about young women so I asked if it was related to age, are there more young people in Clifton? is it the clothes, the brushed hair, the jewelry, the make up, the colour of the skin, were there more white people? At this point he started to get a tad defensive at the suggestion that I might be calling him either shallow or racist or both. We didn’t get very far as he insisted he knew what beautiful meant and he didn’t have to explain it while I persisted with the thought that he should learn to quantify these abstract notions.

There’s always a chance that we were both somewhat wrong and right at the same time but I’ll stick to arguments that favour my own particular biases as this will be quicker.

“Nothing is considered to be beautiful by all peoples everywhere” says Desmond Morris. “Every revered object of beauty is considered ugly by someone, somewhere … There is so often the feeling that this, or that, particular form of beauty really does have some intrinsic value, some universal validity that simply must be appreciated by everyone. But the hard truth is that beauty is in the brain of the beholder and nowhere else” (pp 421-2).

Morris goes on to write of how humans are master-classifiers of information. When it comes to identifying beautiful and ugliness then he suggests that we have an internal classification and according to the properties we assign to this category we call something beautiful when it excels in those particular qualities and ugly where it doesn’t (p423).

This is where data comes into it because if we can identify characteristics it means that we can measure them and compare Bedminster and Clifton. I didn’t go ahead and measure them but I do know that when I think of people or places as beautiful or scummy or amazing or poor etc that there are plenty of biases that underline the concepts.

There are also plenty of sites which make data available on locations and which already provide categories. is a website that uses demographic information to provide snapshots of areas. 1.4 miles separate the Royal York Crescent in Clifton from West St in Bedminster but in terms of household income, interest in current affairs and education there are vast worlds of difference.

Bedminster, West St

Family income, educated to degree level and interest in current affairs are all high in Clifton whereas in Bedminster family income and educated to degree level are medium and interest in current affairs is below medium.

I’m using demographics and as examples of what data can add to meaning. There is a lot of information about data journalism at the moment and how it’s the new big thing and that can’t be a bad thing since apparently, “a lot of journalists are innumerate and a lot don’t know much about history” (CJR). What I think it comes down to is adding a meaning where facts just aren’t enough and by the way, without context, facts may be sacred by they are rarely enough.

When the Guardian advertises its credentials in promoting the West Country and suggests that Bristol featured in their [readers’] top ten UK cities in the 2009 Guardian and Observer reader Travel Awards you would probably not need help to figure out that Clifton features more than Bedminster. If you weren’t from the South West or Bristol, however, there is a fair amount of data out there that would help you figure it out and that’s the beauty of it.

Arch House Deli, Clifton

Chipotle chilli mayonnaise for £3.00 and lavender rice pudding for £3.50 are just two of the reasons that make the Arch House Deli a special treat to visit. The varied, and mostly imported, products in this emporium mean that it is extremely colourful but also slightly out of reach in terms of cost.

Some events that are a little more accessible are the frequent tasting events which are hosted there such as the free Strawberry Hill Vineyard wine tasting two days ago and a free cheese tasting nine days ago with cheese connoisseur Emma Johnson.

Freshly prepared food is available from the cold counter and this includes a wide variety of cheese and pastries while there are freshly baked cakes on the large table in the centre of the shop. All look delicious and most importantly the selections can be quite unusual. However, trying one of each of the lovely offerings would be a bit too expensive so sometimes the easiest choice is the cafe.

A cup of the decaffeinated Lahloo Rosebud tea costs £1.65 and is served in the heavy, individual tea pot recommended by the company. The tea is delicate and contains actual rose buds.

There are tables just past the shop area, in front of the deli and around the side of the building in the alleyway. On a Tuesday morning the only thing to spoil the quiet of Clifton was the kitchen right next to the tables in the alleyway where two women kept up a constant stream of gossip and singing.

I probably wouldn’t spend hours there, but for a touch of magic and creativity, it’s a nice little place in which to browse and discover new things. The Gustosecco lavender rice pudding is something I hadn’t heard of before but would love to try. The packet contains all the dry ingredients necessary to infuse with milk and then bake in the oven. Apparently it goes well with poached peaches in syrup.

Arch House Deli, Arch House, Boyces Avenue, Clifton Village, Bristol, BS8 4AA, UK

Revisiting Thali Cafe, Clifton

My first visit to the Thali Cafe in Clifton wasn’t a brilliant success, far from it. The food was tasty but the service wasn’t the most enjoyable. The air seemed heavy and everything seemed to drag. We left without leaving a tip. However we were eager to go back and try again. The food was nice and affordable so it didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice to go for a second visit.

We booked ahead of time, having being turned away two weeks previously. Instead of 8.30pm we arranged to be there for 7.30pm. We recently discovered that walking up Jacob’s Wells Rd and Constitution Hill gets us to Regent St in about 10 minutes. That was a little too quick so we strolled around Clifton again. However once we were there the service was friendly and prompt. Our table was by the window this time and we avoided the clip clop of sitting under the stairway.

Sunday night has live music and it was an acoustic set of folksy, Spanish, English and general early-evening-in-a-pleasant-setting kind of singing. My companion was quite enraptured and insisted on clapping after every song. I thought it was lovely but didn’t agree with the etiquette.

Our service was excellent and we tried the chutneys and pickles with the poppadums. There was a garlic tasting raita, a lovely mango chutney, a madras tasting chilli pickle and a coconut with mustard seeds. All were either delicate and interesting but definitely tasty.

We ordered the Mumbai City Snacks again and this time there were two bhajis (much more fresh than last time) and the two others had a potato filling with one of them including ginger and chilli. Only the vegetarian thalis are £5 on a Sunday so we ordered a Southern one with Fish and the Northern vegetarian one. The free range chicken thali was brought instead and to make up for it our waiter brought us a fish dish as well. The chicken was cooked on the bone and was extremely tender while the Fish was fried and served in a sauce. The meal was a completely different experience from the previous time.

The only negative thing, if I was to find something, was that the two tables next to us were made up of over six or seven people. At some point they all seemed to be competing with the music to see who could talk louder. By then it was the end of our meal though so we weren’t too fussed.

We quite happily left a tip even though we were reminded that it was optional and on the receipt was a 50% voucher for breakfast on the weekend. I wonder what that would be like.

Thali Cafe, 1 Regent Street, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4HW, Tel: 0117 974 3793, Open 7 days, Evenings: 6pm – close, Daytime: 11:00am – 6pm

Thali Cafe, Clifton

I thought the service was pretty poor but I still enjoyed the food. The indifference and boredom of the staff was only comparable to the time I went to Hotel du Vin, stood at the bar for 10 minutes without acknowledgement, then turned around and walked out. I wasn’t particularly fussed about missing out on a mojito or so at du Vin but I refused to be dissuaded from a Sunday meal in Clifton.

The first part of the service wasn’t too bad I guess. We walked in at 8.30 and the place was very busy so the couple of minutes we spent being ignored were probably understandable. We were told it would be half an hour so I left my number and we took a pre-dinner stroll around Clifton. Sunset, Suspension Bridge, Observatory etc. By the time we went back half the restaurant was empty and it took only a few more minutes for us to be seated. Note ‘minutes’, not moments.

Under the stairs on the lower level of the restaurant it was quiet and hidden away. The terracota tiles on the floor occasionally met at a little diamond of a flower which gave it an outdoors feel. Wooden tables and chairs which had a space on the back for menus perhaps.

We started with the Mumbai style city snacks which included a kind of spinach bhaji (tasty but dry), a pastry parcel with potato and ginger and one other one which was delicious and soft. The snacks were served with a well seasoned salad. £3.50.

The four specials on the blackboard looked good but were ignored as we wanted to try the Thalis. The ‘Thali’ is the stainless steel plate on which the meal is served. Traditionally the meal consists of a protein dish usually in the form of panner (Indian cheese) or fish, a lentil dish such as samber or dahl, a seasonal vegetable accompaniment and is served with rice and salad. We both chose vegetarian options, mine was the Northern Thali and my dining partner’s was the Dairy Free Option. There was a fair amount of fluffy rice and the dahl was soft and spicy. All Thalis are £5 on a Sunday which is another great reason to ignore the service.

We ordered soft drinks, lime and soda for me and ginger ale for him. After a sip we both wondered where the flavour was, turns out it was at the bottom of the glass and hadn’t been stirred in. The drinks were fine after a bit of effort was put in.

We loved the starters, enjoyed the mains and appreciated the refreshing drinks. However we were told to keep our cutlery after the starter and then were brought another set for the main so ended up with four each. The food was pretty cheap at £18 for two but I had to go and ask for the bill, the waitress was outside, the guy was busy making coffee and a second waitress was doing something else. It was a bit of a wait. The order was wrong but was quickly fixed.

The whole thing was not too bad but it felt like it all worked in spite of the staff. They were pleasant but maybe tired at the end of the weekend. I’ll go again to see how it is the second time round.

Thali Cafe, 1 Regent Street, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4HW, Tel: 0117 974 3793, Open 7 days, Evenings: 6pm – close, Daytime: 11:00am – 6pm

Fishers, a seafood restaurant in Clifton

There are two Fishers restaurants, one opened in Oxford in 1995 and the second in Clifton, Bristol, in 2001. The second location was the setting of our dinner on Saturday and 11 of us gathered to celebrate two birthdays.

The restaurant interior is designed in a nautical theme: ventilator pipes, sails on the celings, ships lanterns – even the kitchen doors have portholes. The seafood theme is so consistent that it even surrounded the clientele from the walls.

The dominance of seafood on the menu was not surprising but there were a couple of vegetarian dishes as well. The starters included a seafood soup, scallops, 0.5kg of mussels with white wine sauce, deep fried brie and oysters.

A friend and I shared a starter of battered tiger prawns with a soy dipping sauce. £6.95. Crispy thick batter around sizeable chunky prawns made the portion of five seem just right for two. The soy dipping sauce was thick and had a hint of ginger.

Bread. Nice white bread, tasted even better when dipped into the soy dipping sauce.

I had the beer battered haddock with chips, mushy peas and gherkin for my main course. £10.50.

The reference to the gherkin is misleading, by the way. They forgot to mention that it would be found within the tartare sauce. The sauce, with the specially referenced gherkin, was enjoyable, light and tangy.

It was a large portion of fish and chips. Bright green mushy peas were silky and lumpy and most fun. I think the chips were triple cooked for they were similar to the ones at Graze. Not crispy or soggy.

That’s about it for my dining choices and they were all very nice. The part that I’ve left for last however is something that I didn’t try but appeared to be the most wonderful thing that could be found on any menu. The dessert chosen by the person next to me was the Vaspretto, a scoop of organic vanilla ice cream, a shot of amaratto and a shot of espresso. In other places this is called an affogato, “drowned”, and at Flinty Red it was served with Calvados and vanilla ice cream, or PX and Maple and Walnut ice cream. £7 for either.

At Fishers the dessert cost £4.65 and there was only one option of ice cream. I’m not sure why the name is different. I’ve only been able to find it referred to Vaspretto at the Fishers restaurants and while it looked amazing I didn’t try it.

I’m not sure which restaurant I’d prefer to visit for the dessert but it will probably be Flinty Red. Fishers was very nice and enjoyable but I wasn’t exactly blown away. It’s a place I would take family rather than a date and it’s pretty specific about its menu choices. The seafood theme is not misleading at all.

The service was great and surprising at the same time. Prompt delivery of food was completed with one member of our party not receiving his main for an additional seven minutes. His sole had been forgotten. Our waiter put up with our loud chatter, and delays in ordering, beautifully. However, just a few minutes later he was loudly taken to task for delivering a glass of wine five minutes late. I’m inclined to believe that the gentleman diner was at fault, but even though our entire table went instantly silent, we didn’t hear much more.

A very pleasant evening for the celebration of lovely friends but it was no Rockfish or LFR. The choice was just right and casual enough for us to be left undisturbed even after everyone else in the restaurant had left. That was at 10.30 and as we walked past the still half-full Zizzi it felt a little early for the staff to be sweeping up. A good time for me to head home though while the rest went to the pub. It worked well.

35 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4BX, Tel: 0117 974 7044, Opening Times: Mon – Sun Lunch 12-2.30 and Dinner 6-10.30 (Sun 10)

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