Tag Archives: food

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. www.wagamama.com


Pancakes, in Bristol

Today’s inspiration for pancakes came from the Bristol Wine and Food Festival. Two stalls down from Jimmy’s Food and across from some organic chocolate was Clark’s Foods selling maple syrup. I had bought some from them last year and the idea of it stayed with me. Where to get pancakes though?

On Sunday, the Bordeaux Quay Brasserie serves butter milk pancakes with poached summer berries, crème fraîche & maple syrup for £6.00. The pancakes are superb and fluffy but I didn’t fancy going on my own.

I had pancakes at the Arnolfini last summer and while their mint tea is almost authentic in its mint suffused presentation, their pancakes were rubbery and flat. The strawberries and cream topping was nice but I wasn’t willing to try again.

I wasn’t sure whether the Clifton Lido breakfast menu included pancakes and luckily I didn’t venture as it doesn’t appear to do so.

The Boston Tea Party, on Park St, serves Belgian Waffles with all manner of toppings but no pancakes on the menu. The Glassboat has been doing a lazy Sunday Brunch menu but it’s a lovely place designed for lingering meals with company.

I decided that I wasn’t meant to eat out so instead I would cook at home. I bought some milk from Sainsburys for 45p and headed back. Pancakes don’t require many ingredients and I already had flour and eggs. I double checked my recipe against the one on the dedicated pancakesite and the rest was quite easy.

100g (4oz) plain flour
1 egg
300ml (1/2 pint) milk
optional pinch salt

sugar and lemon juice to serve
oil for frying

1. Add the flour and salt to a bowl and make a well in the middle.
2. Add the egg and slowly stir in with the flour.
3. Add the milk slowly until it’s all combined.
4. Heat some oil or butter in the frying pan.
5. Pour some mixture over the surface of the pan and wait until one side cooks.
6. Flip pancake over and slide on to plate when done.

I didn’t have any creme fraiche or poached fruit so it was sugar on the pancake, I then rolled it up and sprinkled sugar on top. Just the way my mum used to make them.

Zen: Restaurant Review

Zen is a Chinese Restaurant located by the Bristol harbourside on Millennium Square. It has been the restaurant of choice for myself, my friends Graeme, Kristine and her husband Andy for the last year or so. Along the way we have discovered a selection of dishes which make up an amazing dinner. Occasionally we will try a new dish or two such as ‘Smacked Cucumber’ or ‘Bang Bang Chicken’ but invariably the core components stay the same.

¼ Crispy duck for a starter, kung po prawns primarily for myself and Kristine, BBQ ribs cooked in a stone pot and egg fried rice for all, and aromatic chilli chicken primarily for Andy and Graeme.

The crispy duck meat is brought to our table as the actual quarter of duck and the waiter then strips it off the bone with a fork before passing it over. Alongside is a dish of sliced cucumbers and spring onions. Only six pancakes are provided and usually the four of us have one each and then share the remaining two. However, on Sunday, we were brought eight after we mentioned we would all be sharing. The duck has so far been ample for all four of us and the quality of the meat is wonderful. I have not had better duck in Bristol yet, definitely not at Cosmo or at Mayflower.

The Kung Po Prawn dish is a fascinating mix of king prawns and vegetables, mostly carrots and crispy things like celery, cut into small pieces and served on a big triangular white dish. The BBQ spare ribs cooked in a stone pot are soft and so tender that the meat falls off the bone as soon as you start eating. The marinated meat is permeated with the flavour and the sticky sauce is also a great accompaniment.

The favourite dish for the guys is the aromatic chilli chicken which consists of cooked dry chillies and small southern fried chicken pieces. By the end of the meal the tears were nearly welling up and they were both slightly perspiring. The dish is spicy with a lemon tang, it is also offered with a warning but this dissuades no one.

The rice is well done and served in small white covered dishes. Two were enough for the four of us. I have yet to try dessert there but I have had a Zen mojito which included some lemongrass with the mint for that oriental twist. The house white wine has consistently been pleasant and the prawn crackers are brought to the table with a chilli dipping sauce.

All in all, Zen is an excellent restaurant with a delicious choice of dishes which are not always your typical Chinese restaurant selections. The Smacked Cucumber was not entirely a success as it was served cold as was the Bang Bang Chicken which left an unpleasant sensation since the fat was still left on the chicken. However, the mixed meats noodles which contains seafood such as squid and prawns is a tasty and fresh tasting selection and the crystal rivers prawn dish has a green tea tinged glaze which is fragrant and unusual enough to be quite tasty.

They currently have an offer through Toptable of 50% off until July 11.

Zen, Unit 4B, 1st Floor, Harbourside, Explore Lane, Bristol BS1 5TY. 0845 371 3888, 0117 920 9372, info@zenharbourside.co.uk

Toptable offers: Zen on Millennium Square

Zen, a Chinese restaurant on Millennium Square, provides slightly more unusual, some would say more authentic dishes, than other restaurants. The kitchen at Zen has sourced recipes from over 23 provinces in China to create an extensive traditional menu with a contemporary twist. Some favourite dishes include aromatic chilli chicken, where half the dish consists of cooked dried chillies, crystal river prawns which is a prawn dish with a sauce flavoured by green tea and lovely Peking duck with the usual pancake assortment.

This isn’t a review but more of an attention-grabbing post about an offer through Toptable:

If you book through the site you get 50% off food with the following conditions:

…based on each person having a starter and a main. Offer only applies to diners who book online and is only available at the times stated. Maximum of 12 diners per booking applies to this offer. Excludes shellfish. Includes Vat, excluded service charge.


Mon – Wed: 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sat: 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm – 5:00pm, 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Max people: 12

Ends: 11 July

This is a great opportunity to try a not inexpensive and wonderful restaurant in a great location. Also try the Zen Mojito which is a favourite drink and I must say that even their house white wine has always been quite nice.

Zen, Unit 4B, 1st Floor, Harbourside, Explore Lane, Bristol BS1 5TY. 0845 371 3888, 0117 920 9372, info@zenharbourside.co.uk

Grillstock, BBQ Festival in Bristol

If you were wondering what to do with your weekend on the 17-18th of July then wonder no more. Grillstock is a BBQ themed two‐day food & drink festival taking place in Bristol over that specific weekend.

A tantalising line up awaits you at Grillstock including:

  • King Of The Grill – US style BBQ competition
  • Cooking demonstrations from the South West’s finest chefs
  • Live Music from local bands
  • Grillstock BBQ Academy – pick up tips, tricks and techniques
  • Food & drink festival featuring over 130 stalls
  • Product demonstrations

Opening hours are as follows:
Saturday 10am – 7pm
Sunday 10am – 5pm

There doesn’t seem to be much on the menu if you are not carnivorous but probably, just like every other festival on the harbour, there will be the same food stands ready to serve all.

Children under 16 Free. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
On The Day – Adults £5.00 per day or £8 for the whole weekend
Advance Purchase – Adults £4.00 per day or £6.50 for the whole


Eating: yes. Blogging: sporadically. Critiquing: ?

Everyone Eats is a feature article, by Robert Sietsema, in the Jan / Feb 2010, Columbia Journalism Review. Its title continues with the pointedly honest appraisal: ‘but that doesn’t make you a restaurant critic’. Too true. The article provides a history of restaurant critics and the evolution of food reviews. Most importantly, Sietsema notes the process used by a prominent restaurant critic, and it is this latter part that I want to share with you.

Craig Claiborne, food Editor for the New York Times from 1975 and for three decades after, is generally credited with being the inventor of the modern restaurant review.

Claiborne added structure and ethics to restaurant reviewing: reviews would be done by a single individual who would be named in the piece. At least three visits would be made to the restaurant and a party of three or four would eat and try to cover as much of the menu as possible. Some dishes would be eaten more than once to check for consistency. There would be no free meals and the publication would pay for the dining experience.

Most important of all the reviewer would remain anonymous and not allow the restaurant to realise that a review was in progress. Any reservation would made under a false name and no suspicious behaviour would take place during the meal.

These were his rules and the very structure of them provided a thoroughness that almost makes this critiquing business into a science.
I admire the notion that food reviewing is a serious business and should be addressed as such. In my reviews I want to be as truthful as possible while also noting that my opinion is as subjective as anyone else’s.

I would love to be thorough about all the food but I often get distracted by one item and then lose interest in the rest. As an unpaid blogger I also don’t have the funds to visit a restaurant at least three times over a short period, let alone take along three friends, so we can sample all the items on the menu.

Sometimes it’s not the food but the atmosphere or the company that will be the highlight of the evening. The service may stand out or the dessert might be the only thing I remember with any clarity. I take photos of the food before I eat and occasionally may take notes as well. That’s sure to arouse some attention although I can’t remember anyone offering any free dishes.

I have doubts about my own consistency and there are few professional food reviewers I go out of my way to read. I adore the work of Mark Taylor who writes in the Bristol Evening Post on a Thursday and edits the magazine Fork. However there are other reviews, such as ones I’ve read in the Metro, where from the first sentence I failed to believe a single judgement. A particular review was about a place I had visited recently and the effusive proclamations about the food had probably more to do with the two bottles of wine drunk by the reviewer, and partner, than the actual quality of the restaurant.

I raise these points as an exercise in self-awareness and with the intention to introduce more consistency into my critiques. If you also write reviews, professionally or not (i.e. paid or unpaid), then do mention any rules you may have, or procedures you may follow. I would love to hear them. (Don’t forget to mention the bribes.)

The image is from the tapas style lunch I ate at the Clifton Lido in Bristol.

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)