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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Bella Vista, Italian Restaurant, Victoria Street, Bristol

01/05/2014 - Bella Vista - Restaurant Review

Being the son of Italian immigrants I can freely admit I am totally addicted to Italian food. Barely a week will go by without pizza and if I don't eat pasta at least twice a week I start to get agitated! But there are two good reason for this addiction, 1) Italian food boasts great flavours and versatility, and 2) the calibre of Italian restaurants in Bristol is startlingly high.

Bella Vista's lunchtime offer is worth the money

 Bella Vista is the newest restaurant spot to open on Victoria Street, which is incidentally the area where I work. Sat on a corner of Bristol Bridge, with a "bella vista" over the river and Castle Park, this restaurant was ideally located for a spot of lunch and I couldn't wait to try it.

A colleague of mine was having a leaving lunch so I made sure I was in charge of booking the venue, and surprise surprise come 1pm on Thursday six of us were sat around a table in the middle of the restaurant. The place was humming with the murmurs of the other diners and was refreshingly light and airy with windows stretching the length of the riverside wall.

The menu boasted lots of traditional Italian fare including pizzas, pastas and salads. The lunch time menu was a reasonable £7.95 and included a trip to the salad bar and a main as listed. The salad bar was surprisingly good, none of the cheap nasty "salads" one has come to expect from salad bars. I filled my plate with shredded creamy mozzarella, soft and warm bread sticks, freshly baked garlic pizza bread, deliciously tangy coleslaw, garlic mushrooms and a few slices of tomato and cucumber.

For main I opted for Lasagne, a top tip from me is don't order pasta in a restaurant you don't know well enough to trust, it is usually overcooked and soggy ( a HUGE gripe of mine) but as it was lunchtime I didn't feel I could conquer a pizza! I was pleasantly surprised when this turned up at my table:

The ragu sauce was vivid red and looked amazing against the melted cheese that was dripping teasingly from the sides of the pasta sheets. Thankfully I was proven wrong and the pasta wasn't over cooked or soggy, each forkful retained its form and you could really taste the texture of the pasta against the sauce and cheese. 

There were two points worth raising, firstly, it was slightly cool in the middle. I appreciate that you don't just zap a slice of lasagne in the microwave but have to heat it in an oven, perhaps it came out 5 minutes too soon. 

Secondly, the cheese. So much cheese that I struggled with it towards the end, next time it would be nice to see a slightly more balanced plate. Nevertheless I thoroughly I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

No. 4 Clifton Village - Restaurant review

10/04/2014 - No. 4 Clifton Village 

Those of you who follow this review blog will know that my reviews so far have been largely positive, with no real awful experiences. Unfortunately the No. 4 Clifton Village restaurant ended this run of good luck - ironic considering it prides itself on being an "award winning" restaurant. 

The whole experience was shoddy from start to finish. I didn't realise the restaurant was part of a hotel but this in itself is not an issue, what was an issue however was the fact we were dumped in the corner of the hotel bar without a menu or any explanation of what was happening. 20 minutes later, after we had finished our drinks, we were escorted into the restaurant and to our table with a menu. The dessert menu.

Try as I might I could not catch the servers' eyes, two waitresses for a full restaurant of around 20 - 30 people. One waitress was dismissive and curt, the other obviously stressed but as polite as can be expected from someone so arduously overworked. In the end, another 15 minutes later, we managed to ask for the main menu and quickly settled on our food. 

The choice of food on offer was disappointing and none of the mains really jumped out at me. I ordered goats cheese to start, followed by pheasant breast for main. The starter took an hour and fifteen minutes to arrive. For goats cheese. An hour and a quarter. Come on, seriously?!

The goats cheese was very nice to be fair to the chef, a light brulée on the surface gave it a delicate crack before a melt in the mouth. Although I will admit I was disappointed at the lack of creativity it exhibited, for an award winning restaurant I would have liked a little more from this dish.

Brulée adds an extra crack to the soft goats cheese
The main was also not what I had hoped for. Bordering on the dry side, the pheasant breast was not enjoyable and the accompaniments were not thrilling either. I ate it due to the fact I had waited two hours for it, and again I was disappointed

When the waitress finally cleared our plates and asked us if we wanted to see a dessert menu I felt no remorse in saying no immediately, apart from the fact that I had been given the opportunity to study the dessert menu in intense depth at the start of my meal, I wanted to try and salvage what was left of my evening!

Scores (as much as I hate to do this):

Food: 3/10

No. 4 Clifton village is award-winning, so I am grading it as such. Don't get me wrong, compared to some other places it is great but judging it by the standards it sets for itself I had to give this a paltry 3.

Atmosphere: 7/10

Admittedly the bar and restaurant are well decorated with traditional period features and rustic tables and chairs. If I wasn't seething at the time we had spent waiting I may have reviewed it more highly. 

Service: 3.5/10

No communication. Not enough staff. Not welcoming. It gets 3.5 points as the staff were not directly rude and one waitress did seem to be doing her best.

Value for Money: 0/10

Don't waste your money.

This review was hard to write, I don't want to discourage local restaurants from doing well, that's not why I do this, but I feel like a warning is warranted. Try if you must, but you may be clearing an entire evening for mediocre food.

Over and out
- the EnFoodiast

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Nomu Bristol Review

11/03/2014 - Nomu

Delicious food, a great atmosphere and host to a wide choice of drinks you will be hard pressed to find another Japanese restaurant of this calibre in the area. This self-styled Japanese Kitchen & Cocktail Bar is well presented with a host of orient-inspired art adorning the walls, my personal highlight being the Godzilla themed city-scape silhouetted above the door! Every table is laid with chopsticks and plenty of cushions for that authentic-yet-cosy feel

A cherry blossom tree ordains the walls (from the Nomu website)

Why I don't mind if I do....

I have been to Nomu at least 3 times in 2014 so far, it's one of my favourite restaurants in Bristol and when my friend's birthday came around I couldn't help but suggest we celebrate at Nomu. There were 6 of us in total, and we ordered a lot of starters so we could taste a variety of the menu's offerings.

A selection of the starter dishes on offer.
Amongst the dishes we ordered to start were the following:

Spicy Tofu Fries in Japanese Mayo

Yakitori Chicken - Cubes of tender grilled chicken skewered and glazed with a sweet tangy sauce. (middle left on the picture above)

Spicy Tofu Fries -  Strips of tofu marinated in a spicy seasoning then deep fried until golden brown and dusted with some unknown Japanese herb. Hints of ginger, garlic and chilli permeated each bite. A pleasure to eat! (left)

Avocado Fritters

Ebi Bites - HUGE prawns in a light, crispy tempura batter served with a healthy dollop of miso mayonaisse. 
Definitely one of the top starters. (top left and middle right on the selection picture above)

Avocado Fritters - Crispy, breadcrumbed slices of smooth avocado. The crunchy bite complements the texture and taste of the avocado perfectly. Not your average starter, and certainly a unique taste but my favourite of the ones we ordered( right).

Prawn Korokke

Prawn Korokke - Sounded better on the menu but essentially these were potato and prawn croquettes. (left)

Dynamite Rolls - Standard salmon and avocado sushi with added wasabi. Battered and deep fried to give the seaweed wrap that extra crunch! Highly recommended. (below)

Dynamite Rolls

The main meals were equally as interesting and delicious as the starters, normally I would only review my own food when eating out but seeing as I have eaten both dishes listed below (on separate occasions) I will be telling you about both... aren't you guys lucky!

Kai Sen Udon - Essentially the stir fry equivalent of seafood heaven. Massive prawns, squid and Japanese fish cakes tossed through udon noodles, oriental greens and stir fried with a homemade sauce. I love udon noodles, and this dish was no exception. 

The thick noodles had just the right amount of "bite" and the squid and prawns were plentiful and well-cooked. The fish cakes were a bit bizarre (they sort of looked like cocktail sausages) but I enjoyed them nonetheless. The sauce gave an authentic taste, tangy yet not overpowering.

Teriyaki Salmon - Pan seared salmon glazed in a sweet sticky teriyaki sauce. Served with slices of pickle and rice. This was delicious!

The salmon was flaky and full of flavour and the skin was well crisped. This created a great combination  of textures when eaten.

I loved the deep flavour of the teriyaki and the rice was perfectly cooked. The sweet pickle was a surprising yet welcome addition, balancing well against the Salmon. This is my standout dish on the menu and I would highly recommend it. 

Apart from the food, Nomu also offers a strong compliment of alcoholic cocktails but for me the strongest item on the drinks menu was the Bubble Tea. A fruit tea brewed by the barman, cooled over ice in a cocktail shaker then poured over "bubbles". These bubbles were little pockets of fruit concentrate which you sucked up through the jumbo straw.

Mango, Lychee and Passionfruit bubbles were on offer to drink with a variety of fruit teas. Mine was Lychee tea with Lychee bubbles and I couldn't get enough of it!

Score card:

Food: 9/10

As I said, I rate this restaurant amongst my favourites, and this is primarily because of the food.  A highlight of the local area.

Atmosphere: 8/10

Well decorated with some interesting artwork. Maybe feels a touch too formal but suits the cocktail bar look they are going for. 

Service: 7.5/10

On this occasion we were left waiting quite a long time between courses, and unfortunately the main dishes were brought out before the waitress had cleared the starters away. On other occasions service has been excellent. 

Value for Money: 8/10

Not the cheapest Japanese restaurant but worth the money.

The conclusion to this review is simple, you have to go to Nomu! If you do, let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

Over and out
- the EnFoodiast

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Zen Harbourside Bristol - Mini review

Hot Pot - one of the most traditional Chinese dining experiences available in Bristol, a few places do it but I doubt they're as nice as Zen. The restaurant is located in the harbourside on Millennium Square, well decorated and with a slightly classier feel that your average Chinese restaurant, it ticks a lot of boxes. 

The whole premise was that you cooked as much as you could eat, the list of ingredients was staggering: Rashers of lamb and beef, pork luncheon meat, fillets of fresh white fish, raw shell-on king prawns,  two types of tofu, bread-balls, crab sticks, crab balls, mussels, delicious pak-choi, cabbage, cubes of potatoes, Chinese mushrooms, glass noodles and I am sure I am forgetting some! 

The chilli sauce was FULL of chillis, when running the little scoop (pictured) you came up with a bunch of fresh, dried and flaked chillis. It was also extremely well balanced in terms of seasoning, having an almost peppery taste to it with the spice being a natural addition and not too over powering. The stock was plain but simple vegetable stock but I found cooking the meats in the plain stock then dipping them in the chilli sauce for flavour was the best way to cook them.

Soup options happily bubbling away on a camp stove

Fish and vegetable options!

This was AFTER we'd finished an hour and half's worth of food!

The whole experience was so much fun, we spent an hour and half in the restaurant cooking and tasting everything and didn't even notice the time! It was a little daunting though, I was a bit uneasy about the mix of raw food on the table and not having separate utensils to use to place it in the soup – I decided to hold the chopsticks in the stock to boil them off between rounds. 

Overall this was one of my favourite dining experiences of 2014, I would heartily recommend the hot-pot concept for everyone to try. Having been to Zen before I know the normal menu is very good, next time I’m back I’ll be sure to give it a proper review!

Please note that this was a Groupon offer so is not 100% reflective of Zen's usual offering but it was such a great evening that I couldn't help but break my study hiatus to blog about it! 

Anyway... back to work :( 

Over and out
- the EnFoodiast<

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Hiatus - Exam times!

Study study study! It's exam time for me at the moment, which means no meals out, no hour long lunches and no time for posh nosh cooking, these have all been replaced with this....

When I resurface I'll be sure to let you all know.

Over and out
- the EnFoodiast

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Turtle Bay, Review.

17/02/2014 - Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is a whole load of cool wrapped up in a restaurant, awesome surroundings, reggae music, 241 cocktails for most of the day and most importantly delicious Caribbean food.

On the night I drank three of the cocktails, each with a particular flavour and twang. To start a FIERY Jamaican Mule, with spicy Ginger Beer and spiced Rum, followed by a couple of sweet and refreshing Strawberry Daiquiris, Havana rum based drinks but with the added fresh lime and strawberries, and to finish a cocktail based on orange liquor whose name escapes me - cannot remember the name, but I was a few drinks in by then! Favourite was the Daiquiri by far. 

Now on to the food. Carribean food has always been a favourite of mine, I love the earthy flavours, so I was looking forward to trying this menu. Two types of main-meal were on offer, alongside lighter lunch dishes and tapas-style cutters. The choice between One-Pot dishes "rich, slowly simmered and uniquely Caribbean" and the "succulent authentic Jerk dishes" on the Jerk Pit BBQ section was a tough one but in the end I settled for a Trinidad Curry Chicken One-Pot. 
The pot was brought to the table and lid removed to 'unveil' this gorgeous looking curry

Tender chicken breast slowly cooked into a delicate yet tangy curry, topped with sweet onion chutney and fresh shavings of coconut then served with a side of well-seasoned "rice 'n' peas" - the pot dish was gorgeous. The Jerk sauce on the Cheesy Jerk Fries was also delicious, although I did find myself a little disappointed as they were sweet potato fries, the texture of which I just can't bring myself to like even though the majority of people seem to love them. The Coleslaw complimented the meal well as promised and I particularly enjoyed the sweetness from the raisins. 

Score :

Food: 9.5/10

My meal was amongst some of the best Carribean-inspired food that I have had in the UK. If I went back I would ask for potato fries but that's my fault for being weird with sweet potato!

Atmosphere: 10/10

Such a feel good place. Loved the music, the decorations and the bustle. In a great location right on Broad Quay. 

Service: 9/10

The waitress was excellent and actively made recommendations as to what to have. May have waited a few minutes longer than expected for the last cocktail but I put that down to the bar being busy.

Value for Money: 9/10

241 cocktails are a bargain, made very professionally with quality ingredients. Food is also good value, spent £25 per person but for what that included I can't complain. 

It is rare that a restaurant ticks so many boxes simultaneously, but Turtle Bay really did. If you want to go not only for a great meal but a lively, fun experience I could not recommend it more.

Over and out
- the enFoodiast

Monday, 17 February 2014

Dain Korea, Gloucester Road, Review

16/02/2014 - Dain Korea

A new experience, a new restaurant, a new review - Dain Korea serves traditional Korean food and is a relative newcomer to the Gloucester Road scene. 

This isn't my first foray into Korean food in Bristol, I have eaten at Surakhan (Park Row) before and had a very enjoyable meal, so I was excited at the prospect of some more delicious Korean food with the added bonus of Dain Korea being a BYO (bring your own booze).

Menu with my own bottle of wine

The menu offered a choice of traditional Korean meals including Bimbimbap, a hearty bowl of rice topped with a decorative mix of vegetables, egg and meat which is then stirred in by the diner, and Bulgogi, which I was told is a delicious serving of grilled marinated meats. There was also a long list of starters to choose from. 

I opted for a traditional Korean selection. Pa Jeon (seafood pancakes) to start, followed by a Raw Beef Bimbimbap. The restaurant provided some nibbles as a pre-show in the form of pickled eggs and Kimchee (pickled cabbage).

The starter looked impressive when it arrived, I enjoyed the crunchy texture of the pancake against the softer filling however I found it slightly too oily for my liking. 

Pa Jeon with pickled hors d'oevres in the background

Spot the squid!
The main was quite enjoyable, when it arrive my Bimbimbap looked like this:

Miso Soup served on the side
The contrasting colours worked well and the portions were not skimpy - a mountain of sticky rice topped with greens, meat and egg! I looked forward to mixing my ingredients together into the hot bowl so I could cook my meat and start the feast. 

Post stirring, and after a few minutes of cooking, I was ready to dig in. The meal was delicious, as with the starter I loved the crunch of the rice that had baked onto the bottom of the bowl combined with the rest of the meal. Cooking my own meat was a novelty and being able to season my own bowl with chili sauce and miso soup added to the overall experience.  
My creation - Post cooking

It seems as though the focus here is strictly on food, the decor is lacking (to put it mildly) and the tables are packed in tightly. Heating is provided by a couple of electric stoves, which to be fair to them do a good job of heating the place, and customers are seated at sturdy wooden tables and chairs. 

Score :

Food: 7/10

You will not find food like this in many places, in the UK at least, and I would recommend you try it. Bimbimbap is a great choice but I will be back to sample the Bulgogi.

Atmosphere: 3/10

This isn't the venue for a "nice meal", it's not catering to that market and it doesn't pretend to. Heating ducts wrapped in foil and poorly fitted wallpaper are the norm here, if you come make sure it's for the food!

Service: 6/10

The waiting staff were helpful and friendly although the table was slow to be cleared after each course. We still had our empty starter dishes on the table when the mains arrived.

Value for Money: 7.5/10

We paid £15 per person, including £1 corkage each for our wine. Cheaper than Surakhan and offers a similar level of food quality, although the cost is
 slightly more than you would expect for the surroundings

If you have a desire to sample new cuisines then Dain Korea is a good choice with a traditional menu of Korean dishes to sample. The decor is obviously not putting people off as all tables were taken on the night I visited. Bearing this in mind, I would make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment - and don't forget to bring your own alcohol!

Over and out
- the enFoodiast