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since 30/09/2007


Mud Dock Cafe, Bristol 17/12/2011


Mud Dock Cafe, Bristol Up until 1994, the premises used to be a derelict dockside warehouse, in a particular part of Bristol where the docks were run down, fairly seedy and certainly not the sort of place you would go to unless you really had to. Then in 1994, Jerry Arron and Beverley Newman transformed the premises into a high end bike shop and a smart café. Many have said that the Mud Dock kick started the regeneration of the area, especially in terms of places to eat and drink, and they blazed the trail for everybody else to follow. Saying that, it still took quite a few years before other notable Harbour side eateries started to appear in the area, such as Riverstation, Severnshed and The Olive Shed. Now after seventeen year, the Mud Dock is basically the same as when it first appeared. The café, which when if first started consisted of a handful of tables within the bike shop itself had expanded due to demand and it is still a busy place, especially in the summer when the sunny terrace comes into its own and attracts customers from miles away. The café has a quirky design and has most certainly stood the test of time. It is considered by many as one of the first places in Bristol to make a point of using reclaimed materials, and which is something that has become almost the norm in new cafes and bars. Bicycles dangle precariously from the ceiling, next to abundant hanging baskets. The tables and chairs are wooden or metal and the wax covered vodka bottles contain the flickering candles ...

Poco, Bristol 03/12/2011


Poco, Bristol The owners of this new venue have spent the previous seven years roaming the country as what I would describe as a festival café, but Poco has now settled down on its first permanent location in Stokes Croft, Bristol, and is run, in my opinion as a collective. I am reliably informed that there are four main people running it. Tom Hunt was once head chef at Aqua Italia in Bristol and worked for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage HQ and I believe worked behind the scenes as a food stylist on the River Cottage cookbooks. All four owners work from the same believes when it comes to sustainability, using local produce, reducing carbon footprints, reducing food miles and minimising waste. Poco is only currently licensed to sell alcohol at weekends, and for the rest of the week it is a case of bring your own, but all their ciders and beers are locally brewed. When it comes to the food, the meat is generally organic and sourced from Wales and Bristol, and apparently the fish is from a sustainable source. The venue is open all day, and the menus roll through breakfast, brunch and lunch into tapas in the evening, and apparently there are also plans to serve tapas during the day. The venue officially opened last week with what they call a soft launch, and during my visit, there was certainly a buzz. Apparently it was so busy on the first weekend that the café closed on Monday to allow the staff to have a well deserved break and prepare for its first proper week of ...

San Carlo, Bristol 26/11/2011


San Carlo, Bristol THE CHOICE OF THE PEOPLE If one restaurant in Bristol falls into the category of ‘The choice of the People’, it would have to be San Carlo. This is a glitzy and glamorous Italian restaurant which in my opinion serves more customers than any other restaurant in Bristol and probably makes far more money in one week than most other restaurants in Bristol make in a year or perhaps even two. You only need to look at the gallery of photographs on the walls of San Carlo to see that it seems to appeal to celebrities and locals alike. Apparently fans of San Carlo include famous people such as John Prescott, Tom Jones, Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp, and only last week, apparently the whole of the Bristol City football squad were in the restaurant. It is over fifteen years since San Carlo opened a restaurant in former offices of a London and Lancashire Insurance Company. I have enjoyed some good meals here over the years, often with my family, as it is simply one of those restaurants that seems to appeal to all ages. It has mirrored walls, hanging baskets, stone pillars and a host of smart waiters, and seems to tick all the boxes and simply feels like a proper and real Italian restaurant. It does look in places as if it is still in the 1990s, but in other ways, it feels completely timeless and once inside, you could be in Bristol, Bologna or quite simply anywhere you like. Part of its success I feel is the fact that the restaurant offers excellent value. It is one of those ...

Haven Hotel, Poole 08/10/2011


Haven Hotel, Poole We recently decided to have a weekend away, and had heard a lot of good things about Sandbanks in Poole, Dorset, and as it was relatively close, decided to head to the area we had heard so much about. The area, which is a peninsula for all of you that enjoy geography, is famous for being the home of multi millionaires, who seem to gather along the narrow stretch of land at the mouth of Poole Harbour. Some of my friends had previously told me that run down bungalows are snapped up for literally millions of pounds, demolished and then replaced with pop star styled mansions behind towering electric gates and security cameras. I recall that Piers Morgan even did a documentary for the area, highlighting the notoriously wealthy residents and their properties. What I had not realised was just how small and residential the peninsula actually is. There is a one way road looping around the headland, about a mile long, and the traffic is either heading for the Swanage car ferry at the end, or having a nose through the previously mentioned security gates. There is simply no other reason to go there unless you are staying overnight. On our visit, we stayed at The Haven hotel, which is right next to the ferry terminus at the harbour mouth. I must mention that Poole Harbour is an undeniably spectacular sight. It is a vast and natural harbour, and during our stay, was full with boats of all sizes, pleasure seekers in speed boats and on jet skis, dozens of kite surfers close to the shore ...

Rupsha South Asian Restaurant, Clifton 24/09/2011


Rupsha South Asian Restaurant, Clifton Just like many others, I like a good curry. One of my usual haunts for a good curry in Bristol is at the award winning Thali Café in Bristol, but this is always a popular venue, and on my last visit it was fully booked, but I still wanted a curry, so I decided to visit an alternative venue a few doors down the road, which I had heard about, but had never visited, called the Rupsha. Rupsha’s location, being close to the Thali Café is actually a blessing as the Thali Café is always packed to bursting and there are always people looking for an alternative place nearby if they cannot get into their first choice, and Rupsha fits the bill because it is just as colourful and contemporary, and like the Thali Café, is a world apart from the flock wallpaper Indian restaurants of old used to display. The owner, an Asif khondker, worked at the Brunel Raj restaurant in Clifton Village of two years, and decided he wanted a place of his own, where upon he decided to transform with his wife, the site that once was known as Soul Kitchen, into the new modern South Asian restaurant, taking them six months to undertake the transformation, with their hard work appearing to have paid off as it has become a much talked about restaurant with good local reviews and recommendations. Asif is very different to the usual front of house staff that you tend to see in most Indian restaurants. Rather than the typical black suit and bow tie, he was wearing a rather smart tweed waistcoat and trousers, ...

The Bird In Hand, Long Ashton 17/09/2011


The Bird In Hand, Long Ashton I’ve recently purchased the latest edition of The Good Food Guide and in the introduction, it says that the gastropub has had its day and as such has been ‘banned’ from the guide, indicating that pubs can not afford to ignore drinkers looking for flexible options to eat and value for money, and that it is time for returning to good old fashioned hospitality, which should be enjoyed in pubs and inns. The Bird in Hand in Long Ashton, Bristol is owned by Toby Gritten and indeed does offer value for money with flexible food options, and wonderful hospitality. Toby, the owner, also owns and runs The Pump House in Hotwells, Bristol, and before that apparently he made a name as one of the launch chefs at The Albion, in Clifton Village, Bristol and at Bell’s Diner, Bristol. I have learnt that The Bird in Hand is his second solo venture and the idea originated from the simple fact that he lives in the same area and the pub became available. I had never visited the property prior to his takeover, so I decided to take two of my friends who have been living in the area for some years, to the venue. Apparently, before the takeover, according to my friends, it was a sticky floored drinker’s pub but is now a bright and smart place. The premises itself is not what I would call huge but it is divided into three separate rooms that simply wrap around the bar. The first room that we went into is painted in a very attractive blue with a restored wooden parquet flooring, a stags head and ...

CJS Autos Limited, Bristol 10/09/2011


CJS Autos Limited, Bristol It is not very often that the average person decides to buy a car (brand new or second hand). I have been driving now for 26 years, and I have just bought my 7th car. On my reckoning, that means I change my car every 4 or 5 years. However, buying a car is possibly the second most expensive thing that somebody may purchase in their lives, coming only second to a house or home. Buying a car has many pitfalls, and depending on where it is bought, can come with many advantages as well as possible downsides. However, my last car was starting to get old, and having recently changed jobs, which involved a longer daily motorway commute, I decided to upgrade to a more suitable make and model that would deal with the motorway commute, and at the same time, act as a taxi for my family, with my teenage son and daughter wanting to be commuted more often to parties, after school events etc. I had a particular make and model in mind, and after doing an internet search, spotted a suitable ‘candidate’ with low mileage. The vehicle was for sale at CJS Auto Sales in Bristol. Previous experience from purchasing a vehicle at other outlets did not leave me with a wonderful experience, finding that car salesmen would often try to direct your purchase preference to a vehicle that they would rather sell, thus earning them more commission, or moving a vehicle of their lot that may have been there for some time, trying to hard sell extra options, such as highly priced finance, gap insurance, over ...

Graze Bar & Chophouse, Bristol 03/09/2011


Graze Bar & Chophouse, Bristol Although I like the taste of foreign foods, I still think that you cannot beat the perfect steak. We all have different ideas as to what actually makes a great steak and we all have our own preferences with regards to the ways of how it is cooked. For me, I think it is all down to where the meat actually comes from, how long it has been hung, and this may sound odd, whether or not the cow enjoyed a free range and happy life or not. For those of you that know Bristol, you will realise that the city has had a long history of steak houses. In the 1960s and the 1970s, Bristol saw a huge increase in Berni Inns selling the classic combination of prawn cocktail, steak and chips followed by gateaux. In the 1980s, Keith Floyd actually had an outlet in Clifton Village in Bristol. However, over recent years, I have felt that Bristol has been missing on what I would call a full on steakhouse, but there have been a few restaurants that have tried to fill the gap. The Graze Bar and Chophouse is situated in Queen Square (for those of you that know Bristol), and is a bar and dining room owned by the local brewery Bath Ales. It is based on the chophouses and bars from New York, and opened in 2009 and has over the last two years quietly gone about its trade as a venue that serves excellent good real ale, excellent wines and modern British food with a meaty influence. Like I have already said, it is situated on a prime site on the edge of Queen Square, which is a short walk from King ...

El Guapo, Bristol 22/08/2011


El Guapo, Bristol Perhaps it is just my imagination, but over recent months and years, I get the impression that Mexican food is becoming more popular, partly owing to the rising number of food outlets and TV chefs. Through a variety of books, television programmes and new restaurants, Mexican food has become more accessible and gives the impression of being cool to a wide and in my opinion younger audience. It has now become much more that just dull looking burritos and the age old favourite of chilli con carne. In my home town or city, there has recently opened a new establishment called El Guapo (which translated means ‘the handsome one’), and for those of you that know Bristol, is located in Baldwin Street, on the site of a previous eaterie called Zulu which specialised in exotic meats (which although I did not visit specialised in things like crocodile, zebra and kangaroo). El Guapo has been established by Alex Hayes and his brother in law Conrad Mishan, and according to their website, their love of Mexican food started with their parents Tex Mex tacos which started an obsession with them travelling to Mexico in search of the perfect taco. The impression I get is that the two owners have learnt a lot on their travels, and the location of El Guapo is a stripped back affair giving the impression of street food stalls and cafes across Mexico. It all gives the impression of minimalist and simple, with unmatched chairs (some of them are painted pink and some of them duck egg blue), leather ...

Riverstation, Bristol 08/07/2011

European holiday eating in a British police station

Riverstation, Bristol GETTING INTO THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT “You really could be absolutely anywhere in the world!” whispered my friends, as he took a sip from a chilled glass of beer. Apart from a few fluffy white clouds, the sky was a wonderful blue colour, the water below us was shimmering in the sun and the only noticeable noise was that of the odd boat or two gliding past us, or the occasional seagull. Cornwall, Italy, South of France … on a sunny day just like we had on our visit, you really could imagine being anywhere in the world when you manage to get one of the highly valued tables at Riverstation. Rather that eating in the stylish upstairs restaurant, we decided to lunch downstairs in the cheaper and more informal kitchen and bar. We had not booked, so I had made the decision to go on ahead and grab a good table, which had allowed me to spend a highly enjoyable hour drinking a pint of ice cold Asahi beer and read through the pile of newspapers in the rack beneath the open kitchen. I had been able to grab a table in the doorway that links the inside dining room with the decked terrace area and this provided a degree of shelter and shade from the blistering heat. By the time we were ready to eat, our party had expanded to four, including one child. Even though we were within walking distance from home, we suddenly felt in that strange and wonderful holiday mood, such is the feel good factor of a sunny alfresco lunch by the water. Riverstation celebrates its 14th birthday later this year ...

Padstow, Cornwall 04/07/2011

Fresh Pasties, Ancient Pathways and Good Beer

Padstow, Cornwall I must admit that there was nothing angelic looking about the two of us as we ‘rambled’ along the Saints Way, which is an ancient route of pilgrimage which winds its way through Cornwall. We were on a mission, walking a section of this popular rambler’s route from the village of Little Petherick to the waters edge at Padstow. The signpost said two miles. The day was pleasant and the sky was blue, and the idea of a Chough’s bakery pasty or some of Mr Stein’s fine fish and chips was enough to encourage us on our way. As it turned out, it was a little bit more up and down than we had anticipated and when we finally arrived in this delightful seaside resort, slightly less springy in foot, we decided to head straight to the nearest watering hole to quench our thirsts. The walk gave us a rather smug sense of achievement on our first full day of a short break in Little Petherick. By the way, the word little is the operative word. It is a charming and bijou settlement, divided by a very narrow stretch of the A39 road, handily placed for popping into its bustling near neighbour. We had decided that if we could, we would leave the car back at base most of the time, and hop in and out of Padstow, where some other friends were staying, buy going on the hourly bus service or by taxi, which have bargain rates compared with the fares that are charged in Bristol, and once, on foot, hence our voyage by foot on the Saints Way. Our home for the three nights was Rosehill, one of a small ...

Fayrer Garden House, Bowness-on-Windermere 02/07/2011

Beautiful Destination, Beautiful Backdrop, and Excellent Food

Fayrer Garden House, Bowness-on-Windermere Both myself and my wife debated for a long time whether an eight hour round trip to the Lake District was worth it just for a two night stay, but having previously visited the area, and friends and colleagues also recommending the area, we were eventually convinced that it would be well worth the long drive. Having made the trip, we were glad that we did. The Lake District is truly breath taking and the distance, time travelling and the petrol costs was a small price to pay for what turned out to be a superbly relaxing and uplifting break. On arriving at the beautiful Fayrer Garden House Hotel, which is just off the road which zigs and zags its winding way around fields of sheep and dry stone walls to the shore of Windermere, the sun decided to shine on us as if to welcome us. In view of the fact that we were not going to stay for a long period, and eager to make the most of every second, we parked up at the hotel’s car park and headed straight out, taking a 15 minute stroll down to Bowness on Windermere. Bowness on Windermere in a tourist Mecca on the shore of Windermere, about half way along the 12 mile length of the lake. Many consider Bowness on Windermere to be Cumbria’s most popular destination, and is a picture post card town with lots to see and do, such as taking out a rowing boat, visiting the Beatrix Potter Exhibition, visiting the Steamboat Museum, or if the weather is not up to scratch, catching up on the latest blockbuster at the Royalty cinema, just to ...

The Cow Barn, Tyntesfield 27/06/2011


The Cow Barn, Tyntesfield Having a few spare hours during the week, I thought I would visit the recently opened Cow Barn restaurant located at the National Trust property of Tyntesfield, in Wraxall, near Bristol. Just as I reached the gates of Tyntesfield, the heavens opened, the sky became black and by the time that I had walked half way down the impressive drive, I was soaked. Was this a good idea I kept on asking myself? However, on getting to The Cow Barn, I decided that the weather did not matter, as I was enjoying the feel good factor of getting out of the city for a few hours and breathing in the fresh air of the countryside. A lot has been written about Tyntesfield since the time that the Victorian estate was bought by the National Trust and reopened for the enjoyment of the public. I have been to the house itself once, shortly after it was opened by the National Trust and plan to revisit it shortly once the weather brightens up during the school summer holidays, although that would have to wait for another day, as on this particular occasion I had only a few spare hours and I wanted to check out the newly opened restaurant at the Heritage Lottery Funded visitor centre, which is located in the restored Victorian farm buildings at the back of the property, and restored with a wonderful timber roof structure. Apparently is was originally built in the 1880s and divided over two levels, and the old covered yard used to be where the farm animals were raised and now is an impressive mix of ...

Skoda Octavia Combi 1.6 TDI 16/05/2011


Skoda Octavia Combi 1.6 TDI After selling our 2005 Skoda Octavia estate in February this year, I can now report my findings after three months ownership of the latest model. By the end of April, the car had covered almost three thousand miles, and the question that many of you may be asking is whether the new model is an improvement on the old one? There is no quick answer here, and to be quite honest, is quite difficult to answer really. There are certainly some super improvements in the styling but I must admit I would still prefer some of the things on the old 1.9 diesel that I traded in. A great deal of what is good about the old Skoda Octavia comes under the saying “Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken”. In other words, a lot of the things about the old model were good, so why try and change it. Gradually, I am getting used to the styling changes on the newer model at the front end of the car, but if I must be honest, I still prefer the sharper lines of the older model. There are however reflective inserts in the rear bumper which does improve the looks of the car from behind. I also like the body coloured rubbing side strips, although I must admit that I have already had my first encounter with a rogue supermarket trolley the other day, which has slightly chipped the paint on the moulding. I simply love supermarket car parks – NOT. The small chip would not have shown on the paint free mouldings of the previous car. To people walking past the car, the chip itself is hardly noticed, but to me, ...

Birmingham in general 15/05/2011


Birmingham in general It seems that the good people of Birmingham do not like visitors wasting their time by sleeping in on Sunday mornings. At 7.00 a.m., drills and diggers burst into loud sound life just metres from our luxurious room at the city centre Hotel du Vin. However, a few minutes later, our sleep completely departed, they stopped just as suddenly as they had started. Sunday morning peace was with us and one could almost hear the hotel breath a sigh of relief, so we rolled over and went back to sleep. After what appeared to be just a few minutes later, the sound of giant bells from the nearby St Philip’s Cathedral broke the silence to ring in the faithful to prayer. These were far more persistent than the road workers, with the bell ringers continuing for a good thirty minutes, which destroyed any plans that we may have had for a sleep in. It did not affect us however, and the resting could wait for another day, as we had planned a busy day ahead of us, and Birmingham has loads of stuff to keep any visitor occupied. We had arrived in the city of Birmingham the previous day about lunchtime and had made our way in superb sunshine to Brindley Place, which is a new canal side development of shops, offices, bars and restaurants named after an eighteenth century engineer called James Brindley. Whilst we were there, we boarded the Bosworth Lady, which is a converted working barge, and we spent an hour long journey on the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line to learn about Birmingham’s ...
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