Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Food Friday: Jack Spice, Swindon

Jack Spice, Swindon

In my office, it seems to be more normal to commute an hour to work than to be native to the area (Swindon). Consequently, when it comes to eating out, our limited knowledge of the area means we always go to the same three restaurants and pub within a five minute walk. There’s nothing wrong with these places at all, but, having previously worked near Oxford Street in London, the lack of variety did come as a bit of a shock at first!

But for a recent evening do we pushed our boundaries; following the recommendation of the one local on our team, we tried out Jack Spice, an Indian restaurant about five minutes’ walk from Swindon station.

The first thing that struck me about the restaurant was quite how extensive the menu was – and how many of the dishes on it I wanted to try. Each one is also handily labelled with a recommendation like ‘suitable for everybody’, ‘not recommended for children’ or (perhaps slightly confusingly) ‘suitable for non-curry eaters’ (I assume by this they mean curry newcomers or people who avoid the spicier/more traditional options…). This makes it a perfect venue for something like a work meal where you’re catering for lots of different people and tastes.

After much deliberation, I eventually went with the Lamb Korai, a ‘highly spiced’, tomato-based dish served sizzling in a pot. I also shared a Pashwari Naan and Basmati rice with colleagues. The lamb was lovely and it was certainly full of flavour, but I’d say it was a relatively mild dish – if you were expecting ‘highly spiced’ to mean it had a bit of a tang then you would be disappointed. That said, it was a ‘recommended for everybody’ dish, which does, I suppose, suggest it’s unlikely to be particularly hot.

However the mild nature of the dishes was a common comment from the table; everyone agreed that their dishes were tasty, but lacked that heat you usually expect from an Indian meal, especially ones rated medium or even hot.

Sadly that wasn’t the only downside; I personally found the Peshwari Naan – usually one of my favourite things about an Indian meal – to be a little on the plain side. It was perfectly fine, but nothing more, and certainly as sweet as I’d have liked.

On the plus side, the prices were really reasonable. Depending on the meat you choose, a main dish could cost as little as £5.95, and very little – if anything – cost more than £10. The rice and naan weren’t quite as good value at £2.50 and £2.75 respectively; not exactly expensive (or even more expensive than normal), but just not a great price considering the size of the rice and quality of the naan. (Also worth noting is that, from memory – it was a few weeks ago now! – my main was more expensive than the price advertised on the website due to the meat I chose so just be aware than this could be the case for all meals. But it’s still very affordable.)

Overall Jack Spice was a perfectly pleasant place for a meal out. Decent service, decent interior and decent food. It’s not the best Indian I’ve ever experienced (or even in my top five). But it was still mostly nice – just slightly lacking in sweetness and/or spice. Despite these shortcomings, I’d still recommend it for someone looking for a curry close to Swindon town or station – just don’t expect to be needing milk to wash down the meal!

The Details
Jack Spice
61 Fleet Street, Swindon, SN1 1RA
01793 488098
Website: http://www.jackspice.co.uk/
See reviews on Tripadvisor

Image Credits
Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor

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Balloons!

One of my favourite things about living in Bristol is how, on a clear day, you’re almost guaranteed to see a hot air balloon or three floating in the sky.

And sometimes, on a really special night, you can be sat in the garden with a cup of tea and ten will glide past – a mini balloon fiesta – passing so close that you can hear the roar of the fire in the basket.

You’d think I’d be bored or at least complacent about them by now, but no – and hopefully I never will be. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about a hot air balloon that never fails to make me smile.

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Food Friday: Ode to the Chippy

Fish and Chips

Dear Local Chippy,

I read an article today, discussing how chip shops are undergoing a revolution. I’m fine with that, I really am. I’m all up for making sure fish is sustainably caught and freshly cooked (though I think you’re already doing that, to be honest). Even if I’m more of a battered sausage girl myself.

But don’t go going too cool on us, will you? Not like all those burger joints where you have to queue for hours to get into. Don’t forget that the burger is American: it’s overconfident, it knows it can be big and bold and flashy. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, not if you can pull it off. But you, fish & chips, are the British national dish. You can’t quite get away with it. You’re just too humble, almost to the point of self-deprecation, always in disbelief that you are quite so loved.

You are, should always be, those small takeaways with white-tiled walls. Where we queue for our dinner and wait for it to be doled out in paper growing increasingly transparent from grease, careful to not look the other people waiting in the eye. You are the shop I leave with my mouth watering and my hair smelling of vinegar.

I like how you serve my mushy peas in a Styrofoam cup and I like it when you give me piles of the crispy, orange-brown chip ends you hardly ever get in a pub or restaurant (or not enough, anyway). I like how your batter is as thick as the meat it covers and how it crunches when I bite it. I like how you drown my chips in oil and vinegar and grease that drips down my fingers as I eat.

I like that your food works as well in front of the telly on a cold Friday night as it does on a British beach in summer. Even if the latter does involve fending off seagulls with a wooden fork.

I like how you don’t need sexy-sounding names, like those cool burger places. Your names are fun instead, like ‘Paul’s Plaice’ and ‘Frying Nemo’ and ‘Codfather’.

I know you’re not all as good as one another. I know some chip shops don’t quite have the batter recipe right, or don’t deep-fry the chips quite long enough (or maybe it’s too long?) so they’re too soggy, too chewy, not-quite-the-right flavour. I know it’s not easy doing what you do well.
Chippy, I know we’re both too British to be comfortable with me expressing too many emotions about why I like you. So I’ll just say that you’re doing well just as you are. Don’t go changing too much.

See you soon,

Amy

Visiting Bristol this summer and fancy trying the British national dish? My personal favourites are Farrow’s Fish & Chips in Totterdown and Crispies. But others I’ve seen recommended are Fishminister in Southville, Bishopston Fish Bar in Horfield, Argus Fish Bar in Bedminster. Bristolians – where are your favourites?

Image Credit
Fish & Chips: Alamy/Simon Belcher via The Guardian

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Walking Copenhagen

Christianshavns
Copenhagen harbour

Copenhagen is best seen from the pavement. It’s a city where your journey could take you down a street pock-marked with foosball tables. Where a riverside walk leads you past moored boats painted with happy murals and bursting with flowers on their decks. Where the suddenly slow-moving traffic you pass by is the result of a sausage cart vendor dragging his stand to work.

Copenhagen

Assistens Cemtery, Copenhagen
Assistens Cemetery Copenhagen

We wandered through Assistens Kierkegard, final resting place of Hans Christian Anderson and exactly the lively sort of place you don’t imagine when you think of cemeteries. A sunny afternoon, locals (families, friends, couples) were scattered among the graves – reading, talking, kissing, sleeping – with their bikes at their feet.

Frederiksberg Gardens

We strolled through Frederiksberg Gardens, whose grass stretches for miles, past post-work runners. We climbed its hill and looked down over the city we for which we fell, instantly, head-over-heels in love.

Tante T, Viktoriagade, Copenhangen
Tante T tea
We were typical Brits; in a city known for coffee, we sheltered from the rain in Tante T on Victoriagade, a tea shop filled with chintzy chairs and black and white photographs on the wall. (John, to be fair, did then order a coffee.) They provided an egg timer with different strengths marked at different points, to make sure my coconut-flavoured tea would be just right.

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Illums Bolighaus

We discovered the beautiful Illums Bolighaus, which feels more art gallery than designer furniture shop. We spent an hour drooling and planning which sofas and chairs and lights we’ll buy when we make our first few million.

Lego Nyhavn

We found ourselves in the Lego shop a few streets later, marvelling at their models of Nyhavn and other landmarks and making plastic versions of ourselves. We even managed to represent the almost-a-foot height difference. By giving me a Lego child’s legs.

Copenhagen Latin Quarter by
Latin Quarter by Ania Krasniewska

We took right turns and left turns at random in the Latin Quarter’s bright backstreets full of vintage clothes shops and studenty bars. One of the city’s many cyclists passed us, eating an ice cream.

Copenhagen botanic garden

We slowly circled the lake in the (free) botanic gardens and found ourselves in one of the greenhouses, surrounded by cacti and other spiky, wonky, jutting, alien-like plants.

 

torveshallerne

We resisted eating everything in the Torvehallerne, glass-walled markets with stalls selling coffee and spices and vegetables and larger meals from around the world.

Karriere cocktail bar, Kodbyens

We explored Kodbyens, the meat-packing district, come nightfall. We passed al fresco diners making the most of free blankets (they – the blankets – are a common site in Copenhagen), neon lights flashing from dimly-lit bars and a bonfire outside Karriere cocktail bar. We walked through its plastic flaps, left over from its former life as a butcher’s shop, and sipped a rum cocktail.

We meandered past the large ponds behind the planetarium. Down side-streets full of independent shops. Past small artists’ galleries, prints tempting us from the windows.

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We breathed in the coffee and the hot dogs. We sat on benches and the sides of harbours, not because we were tired, but because we wanted to watch the city go by.

We walked slowly (Copenhagen does not rush). Hand-in-hand. Happy.

Summer graffiti Copenhagen

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Copenhagen
Copenhagen botanic garden

Photo Credits
Assistens Kierkegard (x2): Open City Project
Tante T: Tante T website
Latin Quarter Photo One: Euroshop
Latin Quarter Photo Two: The New Diplomat’s Wife
Torveshallerne: Heather Spalling via Flickr
All others my own, please credit if using.

Food Friday: Beese’s Bar & Tea Gardens, Bristol

Beese's Bristol by Andrew Bennett

On its website Beese’s describes itself as one of Bristol’s best-kept secrets. Considering how buzzing it was on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I’d argue that’s not quite true, but it’s still not the sort of place you’re likely to stumble upon. Nestled on the riverbank on the opposite side to the Bath and Keynsham footpaths, Beese’s has to be sought out – by foot, bike, car or, more unusually, river ferry.

(The river ferry harks back to Beese’s roots. It was founded by a Mrs Beese in 1846 to provide refreshments to passengers on the Conham River Ferry, which her husband captained.)

Beese's Bristol

As well as putting in the effort to find Beese’s, you also have to be patient to experience this lovely pub. Although I say you’re unlikely to stumble upon this lovely pub/bar/restaurant, that’s actually exactly how we discovered it. An impromptu Autumn walk in neighbouring Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve spat us out into the Beese’s car park. But Beese’s is only open from Easter weekend until the end of September, we’d been waiting six months before finally, finally a weekend where it was open coincided with a weekend where it was sunny and a weekend where we had decided to take a break from DIY.

We had decided to have a light lunch so plumped for the baguettes – egg mayonaise and brie and cranberry. Simple food, done very well.

If you wanted something more substantial, the Sunday roasts smelt and looked amazing and the burgers were making our mouths water a little too. We’ll definitely be back for a larger meal next time. Possibly in an evening, so we can sit outside as it goes dark, beneath the lights strung between the trees.

Alternatively if you just want a snack (Tarr’s ice cream, afternoon tea with scones) or a drink (alcoholic or non), they cater for that too.

Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve

It’s also in the perfect location for a post-food walk. Very few people seem to take advantage of Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve, which is right next door. To be fair, that suited us fine (so don’t tell too many people about it!). We sat and watched ducklings paddle round one of the ponds (or ‘lagoons’) and meandered through the woodland and by the river. The perfect end to our lunch date.

Whether you’re planning to eat out with a partner, all the family (it’s very kid-friendly) or catch up with friends, Beese’s is the perfect place to while away a Sunny afternoon or evening in Bristol. Simple, beautiful and just plain lovely.

The Details
Beese’s Bar & Tea Gardens
Wyndham Crescent, Bristol, BS4 4SX

Booking is available and probably recommended for larger parties. However there are a few T&Cs.

Getting There
Public Transport: Get the No 1 bus (which starts at Cribb’s Causeway and goes to the city centre via Park St) to the Good Intent Pub, Brislington

A number of Bristol ferry companies run boat trips from the city centre.

Beese’s has a car park (where you can also leave your bike). If you’re on the other side of the river, you can park in Conham Road car park and contact Beese’s, who will ferry you across!

For more details, see Beese’s informative website

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Picture credits
Header of Beese’s: Andrew Bennett via Flickr
Beese’s beer garden: Good Bristol
Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve landscape: Chopsy Baby
All others my own, please credit if using