Bristol vs the world

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

Tag: restaurant

Food Friday: Lisbon eats part II (3 years later)

We visited Lisbon three years ago, and, as I wrote about our visit then (well, on another blog and I kind of just brought the post over here), another city-overview post might be a bit of overkill. But I can assure you that we weren’t disappointed with our decision to spend a few days revisiting the city at the beginning of our recent Portugal adventure.

We did have a few new discoveries on our trip though: firstly nearby Sintra, and also lots of lovely restaurants. More on the former soon, but as it’s Friday today, I make it Food Friday! So here’s Lisbon Eats: Part 2!

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Fumeiro This little restaurant is tucked away on the corner of two quiet streets in the Santa Catarina area (near Bairro Alto); we were staying five minutes away, yet if it wasn’t for Tripadvisor’s ‘best nearby’ feature, I doubt we’d have discovered it.

Each dish at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is contains a smoked element (smoking meat is an Iberian tradition – but it might not be the meat that gets smoked here). It’s not quite tapas, but plates are small – our waitress recommended we ordered three between the two of us, which was enough, but we probably could have fit more in if we wanted to gorge – or couldn’t make up our minds (which looked to be the case for some of our fellow diners).

We went for the roasted vegetables with mozerella, broad beans with ham, and octopus in a barbeque vinegarette. They were all delicious; the smokeyness really added something to all the dishes (I particularly enjoyed the flavour it gave to the aubergine), without being overpowering. However the octopus was definitely the star of the show.

Mozerella and vegetables Fumeiro Santa CatarinaOctopus at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina, LisbonBroad beans fumeiro

Service was friendly and prices were good; two (small) alcoholic drinks, three mains and olives came to under €30. (As with many European restaurants, the extras they place on the table aren’t free, but the olives were worth it. We resisted the very nice looking cheeses, so I’m not sure how much they would have cost, but the olives were just €1 so don’t worry too much about tucking into them.) Even on a Wednesday night, the restaurant was full by 8:30/8:45ish (still on English-eating time, we turned up at 7:30 when it was just us and one other couple – the Portuguese eat much later than us Brits). So it’s probably worth a reservation if you want to guarantee yourself a spot past 8. Also worth noting is that they can’t take overseas bank cards and the nearest cash machine is just under ten minutes away, so make sure you’re stocked up on Euros before visiting.

Great food and an interesting experience in a relaxed atmosphere, Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is a must-visit if you’re in the Bairro Alto or Santa Catarina area – and well worth making a trip for even if you’re not.

The Details

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina
Travessa do alcaide, 4C
Open Tuesday – Saturday, 19:00 – 00:30
Telephone: 92 640 9775 – 213471002
Website: https://www.facebook.com/fumeirosantacatarina/info

Mercado-da-Ribeira_Time-Out

Mercada da Ribeiro
The one change we did notice about Lisbon was that the area we were staying in – particularly Rua Boavista – seemed to be at the beginning of a process of gentification. Among the old ginja bars and pastelerias was a furniture store full of ‘hip’ furniture, an electric car shop and a shabby-chic style bar complete with table football which seemed to attract a younger crowd than the surrounding places. The older, more traditional outlets still far outnumber the ‘cool’ ones, but I couldn’t help wondering if this was the next ‘cool’ Lisbon neighbourhood (if it’s not already).

The nearby Mercado da Ribeira development has certainly helped add kudos to the surrounding area. The 19th-century building itself isn’t new; it has been home to the traditional market for many years. But the new Time Out development in another part of the building only opened a few months ago and it’s clearly already a popular hangout. The Mercado is like a massive, upmarket food court, hosting a number of stalls from well-known Portuguese restaurants, and five with food by their top chefs. You grab your food and sit down on a stool at one of the communal benches – although it looked pretty busy both times we visited (3pm for lunch, and 9pm for dinner. Yes, on the same day), we managed to grab two seats together both times – though it was much easier at lunch.

I say grab your food, but there’s a bit more waiting involved than in your typical food stand. It’s made fresh to order in front of you, leaving your mouth watering. But if there’s likely to be a long wait (in the evening, our meals took 20/25 minutes or so) they’ll hand out a buzzer that’ll go off when the food is ready, so you can relax in your seat and take in the atmosphere instead of hanging around at the stand.

Most of the stands also serve drinks, but there’s also a bar in the centre of the room – with ‘self-service’ beer!

Cozinha de Felicidade

At lunchtime, we sampled Cozinha da Felicidade. I had the scrambled eggs on bread with sausage, which was amazing. The sausage was really meaty and gamey and the bread was gorgeous. John’s meal trumped it though – a meaty ‘pie’, but with mashed potato instead of pastry – very fuzzy photo above (apologies). (Though the Portuguese menu I’ve found describes it as a ‘Rosti de batata’ – potato rosti – which is probably a more accurate description.). My food was great, but I still had food envy. In the evening we went for Cafe de Sao Bento, the outpost of a well-known restaurant in the city once voted the best steak in Lisbon. John went for the steak sandwich, whereas I decided I had to sample the ‘steak sao bento’, which came in a creamy sauce that was almost like a less-rich bearnaise. (I plumped for the rib eye as it was by far the cheapest cut on the menu, but other options were available). We both thought our meals were on the well done side of medium, so if you prefer more pink to your meat then do ask for it medium-rare or rare. Otherwise both dishes were excellent; I definitely wasn’t trying to spoon the remainder of my sauce into my mouth at the end (and by spoon, I mean try and get a substantial amount onto a fork)…

Cafe Sao Bento Mercado RibeiraCafe Sao Bento Mercado Ribeira

If you fancy a more traditional restaurant experience, there’s a couple of outlets on the outside with terraces and tables. There’s also a gelataria and pastelaria for dessert and a cocktail bar if you don’t fancy the self-service beer.

On a Thursday night, the room seemed full of a huge mix of people from families to young and old groups of friends catching up, to couples to tourists. It was lively, loud and a great way to sample some of the local restaurants and chefs in an informal atmosphere – and ideal if you and your party are at odds about what you fancy for dinner that evening.

The details
Mercado da Ribeira
Avenida 24 de Julho, Cais do Sodré

Opening Hours
Sun-Weds: 10am-12midnight
Thurs-Sat: 10am-2am

View from Ibo, Lisbon

Ibo
We ummed and ahed about Ibo. It had good reviews and plenty of very positive blogposts about it. We love curries. It overlooked the water. But it was expensive, especially for Portugal. Eventually we decided to spoil ourselves. This turned out to be the best food-related decision of the holiday.

Sat in a former warehouse on the waterfront behind Cais do Sodre station, Ibo’s menu is inspired by Mozambican and Portuguese dishes: think seafood curries, fish dishes and steaks. I had the prawn curry, which came with rice and two condiments (some of the best chutney and lime pickle I have ever tasted). John went for the octopus fillet with beans and coriander rice. Both dishes were amazing – fresh and full of flavour, and mine had a hint of spice without it being overpowering.

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And then there were the desserts. I tried the caramelized banana with cream ice-cream and sesame seed brittle, while John plumped for wild berry cheesecake. There aren’t enough adjectives to do justice to these meals so let’s just say that they tasted even better than they looked.

Ibo dessert

Ibo dessert

Coming in at around €60 for poppadoms, two mains, two desserts and a glass of wine (they ask you what you like, whether you’re happy with house white or more, bring out a suggestion and check whether you like it), Ibo’s not exactly a budget option. But considering the quality of the food and the location (we watched the sun begin to set over the river as we ate, the area relatively quiet save for the occasional passing cyclist, runner or walker), I certainly wouldn’t say it’s overpriced. The perfect place if you’re a curry and/or seafood fan after a slightly more ‘special’ meal in Lisbon.

Ibo

The details
Ibo
Cais do Sodre (behind the train station)
Website: http://www.ibo-restaurante.pt/
Opening Hours:
Tues-Thurs: 12:30pm-15:30pm; 19.30pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 12:30pm-17:30pm; 19:30pm-01:00am
Sunday: 12.30pm-15.30pm
Closed Sunday evenings, Mondays

Park bar Lisbon

Where to drink
We loved Park, situated on top of a multistory carpark in the area where Santa Catarina meets Bairro Alto. We initially went to watch Portugal’s last world cup group game, but the television was in a covered area and we couldn’t resist the lure of the terrace overlooking the streets below and the river and 25th of April bridge beyond. Complemented by table service and a soothing soundtrack, Park is the perfect place for a relaxed couple of drinks after a day’s sightseeing.

The Details
Park
Calçada do Combro 58
Open every day, 13:00-02:00

Image Credits
Fumeiro de Santa Catarina interior: Fumeiro de Santa Catarina’s Facebook page, by Beatriz Tomáz
Mercado de Ribeira Portuguese Independent News
All other images my own, please credit if using.

(If you want to see where we ate last time, I wrote about them too. However this was three years ago, so I can’t still vouch for their quality.)

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

Food Friday: The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon, Oxfordshire

Two apologies this week: one for the lack of a Food Friday last week. I have no good excuse for it… Secondly, I forgot to take my camera to this restaurant and it’s lacking in food photos on Google Images. So I’m afraid you’re just going to have to imagine how good it looks. But there are interior shots, and it’s pretty, so I hope that makes up for it in some way!

It’s always useful to have a fall-back restaurant. Somewhere close by where you can guarantee a good meal. In my last year in London, it was The Stag in Hampstead. In my university years at Cardiff, Daiquiris (or, um, Gassy Jack‘s) – quite different, admittedly, but by no means inferior. In John’s hometown in Stroud, it’s Nailsworth’s Passage to India or The Amberley Inn.

All of these restaurants Food Friday-worthy in their own rights (and almost certainly will feature in one soon.). But a few weeks ago my family found ourselves celebrating my birthday at our standard special occasion haunt in Oxford, The Mole Inn.

The Mole Inn exterior. Photo Credit: Roger Sweet

Situated about five miles from Oxford city centre in the village of Toot Baldon, The Mole Inn is more like a restaurant than the pub – or even gastro-pub – suggested by its name. It even has two AA Rosettes for Culinary Excellence and has held a Michelin Bib Gourmand listing since 2005. Yet it still retains the charm and homliness you’d expect from a village local. It’s just a bit brighter and more focused on food than drink (there isn’t really a separate drinking area for example, unless you’re waiting for a table or sit outside). The floors are tiled and wooden, the décor country kitchen (as done by Country Life) and brick fireplaces are set into the walls. John is a particular fan of the thick, wavy wooden bar. The staff are always incredibly friendly, too, adding to the cosy feel.

And then there’s the food. I’ve been to The Mole a good number of times and I genuinely don’t think I’ve had even an average meal there. This visit was no exception. To start, I tried the chicken koftas. In squares rather than the kebab-shapes I’d expected, they were tasty and not too dense. The sweetcorn salsa tasted like sweet chilli sauce and added a nice touch, as did the radish tzatziki.

John went for the calamari with aioli, which he helpfully describes as ‘wonderful’. I’ve had them before and can confirm that he is telling the truth. There’s quite a lot of them though, so come prepared with a hungry stomach!

The lovely interior. Photo Credit: Where’s Best

Dad chose the duck, which, although being quite a lot of salad still went down well, Mum enjoyed her thai fish cakes. My sister sampled the only vegetarian option, Goats Cheese croquettes. They looked – and apparently tasted – great, though could easily have been a small main – they were huge!

Mains were equally satisfying. As is tradition, I had the steak. This time it was a bit on the medium side of medium-rare, but it was still really tender and tasty, and the garlic and tarragon butter was nice if a little messy and greasy! The fat chips are always amazing, too.

John enjoyed his usual of the fish & chips, his only comment being that he wished they offered the option of fat chips with the dish (not that the skinny ones aren’t good, but who doesn’t want fat chips when they have the chance?). Mum had the beef bourginon, which she said was lovely, Dad had the fish mixed grill which looked pretty tasty – and I hate fish! Unfortunately there was only one vegetarian option again for Hannah, linguine with wild mushrooms. Not hugely exciting, but it did come as a huge portion size – she said it was good, but quite rich, and that, combined with the portion size, meant she could only eat about half of the dish.Though that could also have had something to do with the aforementioned size of her starter…

Although we were too full to eat dessert this time, from previous experience I know that they’re definitely worth leaving space for if you can.

At £6.95+ for starters, £15.95+ for mains (except the vegetarian option, which is £13.95), £5.95+ for desserts, and wine starting at £17.50 a bottle The Mole Inn isn’t cheap – it’s our ‘special occasion’ haunt for a reason! But it’s worth it now and again for the good food in great surroundings, and the staff are always brilliant – the Chief Proprietor even comments on every TripAdvisor review. It’s more than worth the venture out of the city centre. Just make sure you book first!

The Information
The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon
Location: Toot Baldon, Oxfordshire, OX44 9NG
You can view menus here
Bookings: Phone 01865 340001

Food Friday: Siam Central, Charlotte Street, London

One of my main memories of Summer 2011 is the smell of Thai food. More specifically, the memory of standing outside the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street, cider in hand and catching the scent of the Thai restaurant opposite that made the Salt & Vinegar crisps we were sharing between five feel even more inadequate (the realities of being students/publishers in London, eh).

Outside Siam Central. Photo Credit: Square Meal

That restaurant was Siam Central. It being on Charlotte Street – home to many an expensive and upmarket restaurant – I had always assumed it would be out of my price range and made do with the crisps and cider. How wrong I was! A couple of weeks ago, tasked with finding a restaurant for a department meal, I decided to take a walk up said Charlotte Street to find affordable options (there are more than I first thought, incidentally). But it was Siam Central’s smell, alongside its Express Lunch Menu options starting at £6 that sealed the deal. I mean, for that price even if the food was awful then we wouldn’t have paid much for it. And at least it would smell good (hopefully).

Even at 12.45 on a Tuesday, Siam Central was pretty busy; it filled up considerably in the time we were there so I’d recommend making reservations. We were seated in the basement which was quite simple but more than adequate. Upstairs has a bit more of a ‘Far East’ theme, but nothing particularly extravagant. Not that you’ll be concentrating much on the decor once the food comes along.

One of Siam Central’s USPs is that you can choose from either a regular menu (mains around £7-£8 out of lunchtime) or to have ‘Thai tapas’. Although these cost a little less than the standard mains, other reviews suggest they’re worth indulging in – interesting and tasty.

However, we all went for the express menu, 2 courses for £8 option (you can also get 3 for £10). For starters most of us opted for the spring rolls (fresh, rather than crispy) and prawn toast. Although the latter might sound more suited to a Chinese menu, it still went down well with our crowd and looked tasty. My spring rolls were full of flavour, and the accompanying dip was perfect.

Pineapple fried rice, duck penang curry (I can attest to the lamb version being excellent),  chicken pad thai (very popular with our group) and chilli and basil stir fry with beef. Photo Credit: The Catty Life

For my main, I had the lamb curry. I was a little concerned that the spice might overpower the taste, but needn’t have worried. My only quibble was that there wasn’t more of it. Not because the portion wasn’t generous – it was what you’d expect really – but because I loved it!

Other popular choices were the Penang Curry and Pad Thai. A perpetual favourite with those who chose it, they all agreed that this was an excellent version of the dish. The only critique I heard was that the drunken rice was a little spicier than expected, but still tasted good.

The only downside to the meal is that express menu really did mean express. We didn’t take particularly long over out starters, but some main were brought out while some still had food on their place from the previous course. That said, we still spent an hour or so in the restaurant and otherwise the service was fine so it’s not something that would stop me recommending the place or even returning and eating from that menu again.

The perfect place to go if you’re looking for cheap and tasty Thai food in Central London.

The minimalist Far East interior. Photo Credit: Square Meal

The Details
No website, but reviews can be found at London Eating.
Location: 14 Charlotte Street, W1T 1LX
Price: Express lunch set menu costs from £6 – £10. ‘Thai Tapas’ cost more. Drinks are anything from £2 for non-alcoholic to around £15 for the cheapest bottle of wine (apparently).
Reservations: 020 7436 7460

Food Fridays: Chez Bob, Belsize Park

Chez Bob’s colourful interior. Photo credit: chezbob.biz

With Hampstead’s many gastro pubs just up the road, Belsize Park could easily be overlooked for interesting dining options. Especially as most of the restaurants lining this area of Haverstock Hill are your standard chains. But Chez Bob offers something different.

A restaurant called Chez Bob, and particularly a restaurant called Chez Bob in upmarket Belsize Park, is in danger of sounding – and being – pretentious. But in practice, the restaurant is a lot more ‘Bob’ than ‘Chez’. The floor is lined with brightly patterned tiles, the walls with cheerful, colourful wallpaper. Seemingly always busy, the restaurant’s soundtrack is the happy hum of others’ conversations. There’s also an outside dining area which is lovely in summer, and just far back enough from the road that you can ignore the passing traffic. All in all, Chez Bob is bright, friendly and fun and not at all show-offy. Service too is always great – the waiters don’t rush you, are friendly and seem happy to provide recommendations.

The restaurant’s name, presumably, comes from the its premise of ‘French bistro meets steak house’ (Chez being French, Bob being American-sounding – geddit?). In practice, I’d say it’s probably more upmarket British pub food, sometimes with a bit of a twist. But more important than what type of food it is exactly, is that there’s a lot of choice that means everyone will find something that suits both their tastes and budget: mains range from £6.95 – £19.95, with most being around £10 – £13.

Having been a bit of a regular at Chez Bob’s, I have come to particularly love the starter of Bob’s Nachos, which always come piled high and smothered in toppings. £6.50 might sound steep for a starter, but the huge portion can happily feed 3-4 hungry people, if not more.

Choosing a main is more difficult. You can choose from a range of burgers and sandwiches, comfort foods including as mac ‘n’ cheese (£6.95), and more full-on meaty options, such as steaks and ribs. I’m a huge fan of the lamb steak with sweet potato chips (£13.95). The steak is juicy, full of flavour, and always cooked perfectly (I go for medium-rare), and the sweet potato chips compliment it really well. My vegetarian sister particularly enjoys the goats cheese and red pepper burger (£8.95). Bob’s Beef Burger (£9.95, add £1.30 if you want cheese or bacon) always seems to go down well with everyone who tries it. Presentation of the food is also nice, with many mains served on thick wooden boards rather than plates.

If you’re feeling particularly hungry and aren’t on a budget, I recommend the ribs (£19.95). It’s hard to convey quite how large they are, but if I say that there’s a reason they don’t come with a side as standard you might start to get an idea. This is somewhere where quantity isn’t prided over quality, though, and my Dad’s always found them really tasty (I’ve never been brave enough to try them!).

The huge Chez Bob ribs. Photo credit: chezbob.biz

And it’s always worth saving room for dessert. I’m usually a chocolate girl when it comes to pudding – and I can’t deny that the chocolate brownie is good. But Chez Bob’s apple, raspberry and pecan crumble is absolutely stunning. I can’t say more than that it’s just perfect. You’ll just have to try it! As with the mains, though, dessert portions are pretty generous and most people would probably be more than satisfied with sharing one.

Although the list of wine and beer isn’t huge, it’s more than adequate. That said, the beers all hail from the other side of the Atlantic, which may be a problem for some. I’m also not sure what I think of the menu designating the wine as ‘cheap’, ‘decent’, ‘good’, ‘excellent’ and ‘Bob’s pick’: cute and quirky, or just embarassing if you order the cheap option? (Perhaps that’s the point.) There’s also a cocktail menu; ranging from £6.50 – £6.95, the cocktails aren’t cheap, but there is a half price Happy Hour from 5-7 on weekdays making them a more affordable choice. The Frozen Passion Fruit Daiquiri sounds particularly interesting.*

There’s also a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks. As well as the standard fizzy brands, you can also choose from juice, ginger beer, root beer, fresh lemonade (which is delicious), iced tea, smoothies and milkshakes (also delicious).

Chez Bob’s Crumble of Dreams (Picture Credit: chezbob.biz)

If I had one criticism, it’s that the main restaurant can get a little loud at times, meaning you sometimes have to shout accross the table. The outside always feels a little more relaxed but, this being England, eating alfresco isn’t always (or often) an option. As a result, the lively atmosphere makes this a venue more suited to dining with family and friends than a partner.

The only other ‘problem’ is that the restaurant can get very busy, so it’s always worth booking a table if you’re coming for dinner or a weekend lunch/brunch.

With some much choice and such great food, it’s hard to do Chez Bob particularly cheaply out of Happy Hour – though it is possible if you’re careful. Some of the dishes do seem a bit expensive – if you’d forgotten that you were in Belsize Park, paying £12.50 for fish & chips or £9.95 for a plain burger is a quick reminder. However whenever we’ve visited the food has always been excellent and the portion sizes more than generous; on my many visits, I’ve not once been disappointed. This, combined with the friendly service and fun atmosphere, make Chez Bob well worth a visit.

Chez Bob’s weekday 5-7 Happy Hour also extends to the food; during this time, you can get penne arrabietta, steak or Bob’s Burger with a glass of house wine, Red Stripe beer or soft drink for just £8.95.

Contact Details
Chez Bob
205-207 Haverstock Hill
Belsize Park, London
NW3 4QG
Telephone: 020 7435 4925
Website: http://www.chezbob.biz/
Menus: http://www.chezbob.biz/menus.php