Pieminister shop gets a whole new look

The Pieminister shop on Stokes Croft has had a refurbishment and is now looking more like a bar and acting like one too. It is open until 11pm and serves a good selection of beers and drinks. They even have the sparkling Wild Beer Co and 6 o’clock gin and tonic.

There are still plenty of pies along dishes such as cheese platters, popcorn crayfish and other English tapas.

See more about the new shop on Bristol Culture – and a photo.

Bristol Energy Cooperative looking for investors

A new cooperative in Bristol is raising money to set up solar energy sites on two buildings in the city centre. The not-for-profit Bristol Energy Cooperative is looking to raise £87,000 through a share offering and has already had an 82.4% pledge for the amount from 74 investors who can invest as little as £50. The returns are hoped to be up to 4% a year.

The initial investment has the following aims

• to buy 20kW of the solar PV installation on the roof of Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, and
• to install 19kW of solar PV on the roof of Knowle West Media Centre.

The share offer closes on 18 May.

Zazu’s Kitchen, Stokes Croft

The bright dining area with Story I by Mila Furstova, a £4,500 art work, on display may be surprising for Stoke Croft but wait until you taste the food. It is shockingly elegant and delicious.

Of course, if you’ve already eaten at the Runcible Spoon you may be a little less taken aback at one more of the area’s restaurants providing good, local and seasonal offerings.

What stood out for me was the chips. I still keep thinking about the perfectly seasoned, hand-cut chips which were ordered as an aside. (A side as an aside, get it? I’m being silly.)

They were even better than the posh chips with parmesan and truffle oil at Jamie’s on Park Street.

I had a whole mackerel which was almost beautifully cooked. It was nice but slightly, and I mean barely, overdone. However, the raspberry and lemon sauce was just right with the salad and samphire and the fried new potatoes also very good. The dish was of exceptional value at £7.95 and it was equally to, if not better than, the one at Jamie’s for £13.

The restaurant provides no menus. The dishes and specials of the day are written on a blackboard. The orders are taken at the front which was interesting as we were seated at the back.

A few rattles, a broken cup and the general cooking noises seemed loud to my ears which were mindful of the fact that my five month old daughter was sleeping but she didn’t seem to mind.

Many people passed water glasses over her pram as they helped themselves through the free dispenser.

I’d like to go back for a rooibos espresso and cake sit for a while. Zazu’s Kitchen is friendly and warm and feels very inviting. If you’ve passed by outside you’ll definitely be surprised at how much more spacious it is.

Not huge, but there are six or seven tables at the back and some space at the front for the cafe. Our party of six was lucky to book on a Saturday as it got very busy.

I recommend the chips. I hope to have more recommendations in the near future. This restaurant is a much more authentic choice to Jamie’s and I keep picking on it because the meal was almost identical but much cheaper and tastier.

For further details on the background of Zazu’s, see Bristol Culture.

Zazu’s Kitchen
By Jontangerine

Zazu’s Kitchen, 45 Jamaica Street, Stokes Croft. 0117 923 2233.

Stokes Croft, and why Northcliffe should wish for a riot in Clifton

banksy sniper

I keep bumping into blog posts about the riots that took place in Stokes Croft this past Thursday and the one before that. I don’t have much of an impassioned opinion on the events themselves. I live maybe 15 minutes away by foot and feel it’s local story but I can’t really relate to the events with as much interest as others. See Kerry MP, Don’t Forget The Sun, Nancy Knits, Tigerlilyquinn, Bristol Culture, Eugene Byrne and Something Doing among others.

The thing to which I do relate and enjoy is the way the conversation about Stokes Croft took place. Crises are one of the best ways to get people talking to each other and not only because we all have the same thing to talk about but that helps.

I heard about it on Twitter first where it all became very lively. People were taking pictures and getting involved in a way which, had it taken place on a Northcliffe hyperlocal site, would have counted as a success. Anyone ready for Stokes Croft people yet?

I chatted to the guy in the lift on the way to Swinky’s the next morning. It made for conversation over coffee and cupcakes, then over lunch, then over the next few days.

Twitter kept updates going even when the BBC and the Evening Post failed to report. The UK bombs Iraq and we get instant coverage but at 1.30 in the morning there was apparently no one in the office to cover a riot just down the road (or close enough).

All the talk is a positive sign. I once sat in the central plaza in Amsterdam while the government drove by to resign and no one had any idea what was going on. I found out when I returned to Athens.

At university, during exam time, people were the friendliest and most communicative than at any point in the year. External stresses that bind us together are even better than drugs at making a social atmosphere and there’s no come down.

To tap into rational choice theory again, the ties that bind us together socially are theorized as the concept ‘social capital’. It’s the value we place on our relationships with others. There are weak ties and strong ones and various researchers have defined these in numerous ways but it all comes down to that distinction, pretty much.

Strong ties can be found in close knit communities and can be good and bad. Good because there can be reciprocity and support and bad because it can be hard to break out. For example, the ghetto sections of England where ethnic divisions are reinforced by voluntary segregation, i.e. areas that are predominantly Pakistani or Greek communities whose members interact only with each other. A great example of the latter is My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the difficulty in bringing in a non-Greek to that group. Exaggerated somewhat, obviously, but not by as much as you’d think.

Going back to the topic of Stokes Croft, all the elements were there to bind people into a community. External forces, such as Tesco and the police; lack of media coverage which meant the conversation wasn’t redirected; and the violent attack against protestors and the police.

As I mentioned before, there are hyperlocal sites set up by Northcliffe which are designed to get people talking but they don’t have the same vibe as Twitter did on both those Thursdays. I could take a guess as to why but what do others think? Will it take a riot in Clifton?

The Runcible Spoon, Stokes Croft

Reasons not to review a restaurant on opening night: things can go wrong. Reasons to review: when things go wrong you can blame it on the opening night. I hope that all further sittings are lacking in the slight issues we encountered.

The new restaurant Runcible Spoon is a confusing mix of excellent food and the casual atmosphere of Stokes Croft. Set up by some members of last year’s pop-up restaurant Cloak and Dinner, it retains a similar feel.

Customers on opening night were served a banquet meal for £25 each which is something that will be available each Saturday night.

The first course was a serving of black pudding scotch eggs; a success because of the much nicer and softer texture than sausage meat. Also, well seasoned and cooked.

The almond and wild garlic soup, which followed, was tasty, thick and enjoyable in a hearty and rustic style. I couldn’t taste the almonds much but they added to the texture.

The mussels were superb and were better than ones I’ve had at Cote, Zerodegrees and Bordeaux Quay. The bacon made the white wine and cream sauce delightfully delicious although the service meant that only one person on the table still kept their spoon. Emily, of Bristol Bites, and I used half a mussel shell and I used my bread to dip in the sauce . One slice each. Poor form.

The horseradish mash was smooth and flavoured enough for taste but just less than painful for the sinuses. The meat was a little chewy and the kale looked uninteresting so I left it. The main was good and I don’t mean to sound as critical as I do because I definitely enjoyed it.

The trinity creme dessert, a brulee by another name, was delicious, the caramelised sugar was just right, slightly browned, crisp and delicate. There were vanilla seeds in the cream and it was warm enough but not too hot. An excellent dessert and almost as good as the one at Flinty Red which is the best one I have had so far.

Unfortunately, and note the motif, we were left without spoons again so I ate half my dessert with my perfect cardamom shortbread biscuits. Others ate their poached pears by holding them from the stem.

The alcohol choices were limited and the prices were a surprise until the end. Not expensive.

The opening night was cash only and I am not sure whether this will remain. There were some issues with opening night which will undoubtedly be resolved. I am a little less certain about what they can do about the cramped interior. There were eight of us at our table and getting in and out was a major issue. Also, the rooms are windowless and a tad cosy, leaning towards claustrophobic. The previous establishment was the Cafe Kino which has opened up across the road in premises that are bright and open, almost clinically so, in direct contrast to the little restaurant on Nine Tree Hill.

Notwithstanding all of this, and the pervasive sense that runcible actually means missing*, the food makes it worth a visit.

A half empty/full bowl of mussels

The Runcible Spoon, Nine Tree Hill, Stokes Croft. 0117 3297645, eat@the-runcible-spoon.com, http://the-runcible-spoon.com/

* hat tip to my friend Martin who pointed out the irony of the missing spoons

Bear Pit, Stokes Croft Streetfest


Singing, freestyle, at the Bear Pit about getting drunk and smoking. Not sure if that’s what it all comes down to. Early enough for the drinking to still be merry.

Update: 26 May 2010 – Turns out that the singer in the photograph is Billy Salisbury, the Undercover Hippy. He provided the best musical experience on Saturday and his sound is understandably compared to Jack Johnson and Ben Harper.

Check out his music at http://music.undercoverhippy.com/. Thanks to travel writer Sophie for helping me track him down.

Stokes Croft Streetfest

The urban cultural area of Bristol, better known for graffiti and Tesco protests, is set to become even livelier next week. A few days ago, a friend from Cheltenham asked if I was going and at that point I hadn’t even heard of it. The flyers are starting to appear around Bristol however or it could be that I’ve only just now had the time to notice the publicity.

The event is the Stokes Croft Streetfest and it takes place around most of that area on Saturday 22 May. Following a public consultation in February, the one day festival was organised in the hope of bringing together the many people who live, work and play there. The aim is to help raise the profile of Stokes Croft’s positive aspects: the art and creativity, inclusivity and diversity.

Activities, described as an ‘eclectic mix’, are arranged over two periods of time: day and evening. During the day, from 12pm to 6pm, there is no entry fee for performances, street theatre, art installations, indoor and outdoor markets which will take place in open areas such as King’s Square and the ‘Bear Pit’.

Events at night, from 6pm to 6am, are accessible with the purchase of one wristband at £5 in advance or £7 on the door. Just Jack at Lakota, the Ten Pound Suit Band at Leftbank and Brazilian Beatz at the Croft are just a small sample of the many acts taking part.


For more information visit www.stokescroftstreetfest.org.uk. Tickets are available from the Bristol Ticket Shop, Rooted Records, Canteen and all usual outlets.

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