Tag Archives: Clifton

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.

Upmystreet.com 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 upmystreet.com 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)

The Lido, Bristol

My first visit to the Lido was for a black coffee in the middle of winter. The winding route to the quiet and shadowy Oakfield Place was confusing enough to make me late when I tried to follow it for my second visit last Autumn. The first visit was beautiful but quiet, cold and moody and didn’t inspire much in the way of a friendly return. The second was a birthday treat of a massage and spa treatment last November and the sunny atmosphere could not have been more welcoming. The third was this past weekend and an unplanned lunchtime coffee meet up turned into a sunny Mediterranean style tapas lunch outside by the pool.

The plan was a to meet up for coffee with Nigel and the housemate but the setting and prices were too perfect to ignore. I was also very hungry after having been to the gym that morning so there wasn’t really much choice. The blackboard outside highlighted a list of dishes for either £3 each or four for £9.50. Our choices were humous, babaganoush, pickled white anchovies, olives, manchego cheese with quince jelly, tortilla a plate of charcuterie, and bread with oil.

The pool had about 10 people in it, swimming their gentle laps in the 1.2m deep water. The restaurant was busy upstairs and downstairs and while the service was pleasant and friendly it was also slightly forgetful. The first order of drinks arrived with Nigel’s house red wine, not offensive but nothing special, housemate’s pint of No 7 beer (not bad) and my glass of ice with lemon. They had forgotten my sparkling water. They then forgot our olives and the oil never arrived with the bread, even after we asked for it again.

Ah well, it wasn’t the kind of day where much mattered so we let it all go. The humous was flavoursome and creamy, the babaganoush was tasty and soft although it leaned towards tasteless rather than fresh. The tortilla was very well cooked although the eggs were still slightly liquidy and sweet from the mix with the onions. The air dried meats with the added cornichons were very tasty, as were the white anchovies with their slightly sour vinaigrette. All the dishes were accompanied by the rustic and, slightly floured chunky bread although perhaps there could have been a little more. I’m surprised the bread had to be ordered separately however because how would we have eaten the dips without it? We also didn’t have plates and had to use our napkins. Still, it worked well enough and the price was £23 for everything.

The trip to the Lido became a lovely little outing by the water. The food was tasty and it all felt perfectly seasonal. So far I’ve visited in autumn, winter and spring and am not sure what’s in store for summer but it may include a dip in the pool.

The Lido, www.lidobristol.com, Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2BJ
0117 933 9530

Clifton, somewhere

Clifton, somewhere, originally uploaded by still awake.