My favourite things to do in Paris

I’ve been really lucky to spend a lot of time in Paris over the years while visiting my grandparents. I absolutely love just wandering the streets, spotting interesting things that you may miss if you just stick to the tourist traps. Having recently visited again over Easter, I thought I should write down a few of my favourite things to do while I’m there (outside all the museums!).

Stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg

Located between Saint-Germain-des-Prés (a favourite area of mine to go walking) and the Latin Quarter, the Jardin do Luxembourg is a lovely mix of art and horticulture. I’d only ever been through during the winter, but this year I was lucky enough to walk through during Spring and it was nothing short of divine (in my opinion). Gorgeous flowers everywhere, sculptures aplenty, people chilling out in the sun or going for a jog. There’s really something about having a tranquil spot in the middle of chaos.

Bringing this back to food – there are a few cafes and plenty of space to sit down and eat if you decide to put together a little picnic.

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Gyros in St Michel

I can’t remember who took me here the first time, but whenever I’m in Paris (and I have time), I always go for lunch. It doesn’t look like much, but the gyros are tasty, cheap and very filling.

Maison de Gyros: 26 Rue de la Huchette, 75005 Paris

While you’re in the area, you can see the Notre Dame and the Fontaine Saint-Michel.

Gyros is St Michel, Paris

Tea and lemon meringue in Le Marais

One day, my cousin promised me the biggest lemon meringue tart I’d ever seen and took me to a funky little cafe called Le Loir dans La Théière (which translates to ‘the dormouse in the teapot’, cute huh!) in the Jewish Quarter (Le Marais) and I was not disappointed. Every time I’ve been it has been very busy and there is often a queue to get a table. Don’t let that put you off though; if you’re in a small party they usually get you seated pretty quickly and it’s so worth it for the tart!

They serve other things too, but I can’t comment because every time I go I order the same thing. So naughty of me!

Le Loir dans La Théière: 3 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France

Le Loir dans La Théière, Paris

Window shopping in Les Halles

Les Halles has changed significantly since my first visit back in 2004, when it was a shopping quarter with what seemed like a few buildings and a lot of random shops attached in some way to the Metro/RER station below ground. It’s still a shopping quarter, but now it’s massive and a little less random, with big brand names having set up shop in the extension they have built. However, my favourite part of visiting Les Halles has always been wandering down the smaller streets to visit the random shops selling everything from vintage clothing to art.  I may have bought more than one pair of shoes from shops at Les Halles because some of them have excellent bargains.

There’s also plenty of food options, including brasseries, fast food and the all-important crêperies.

Nearby you’ll find Centre Pompidou – the home of a huge library and the Musée National d’Art Moderne. I haven’t actually visited, but I’ve been told it’s excellent.

Explore the flower market on Île de la Cité

This is a bit random, but every time I pass through here I can’t help but poke my head into the various shops selling flowers and other greenery. It’s in between Les Halles and St Michel, so it’s an easy stop on your way. Not all the little shops are open during winter, but in spring, it was magical. Flowers of all types and colours make you want to buy, buy, buy!

Marché aux fleurs: Place Louis Lépine, Quai de la Corse, 75004 Paris

Browse the books at Shakespeare and Company

I’m not the only person to include this on my list, but I do love walking into the shop and breathing in the delicious smell of musty paper. It’s a popular spot, but worth a visit. I don’t really need to say anymore.

Shakespeare and Company: 37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris

Explore the unknown in the Paris Catacombs

I went on my own the first time. Music in my ears, I wandered quietly around the labyrinth of bones that were moved to their current position in the late 1700s from various graveyards in Paris. Despite it seeming impossible that the remains of millions of people have been stacked and positioned in the catacombs, when you get there you’ll believe it.

If you’re into archaeology, the Crypte Archeologique du Parvis Notre Dame is also worth a visit.

Paris Catacombs

Bask in the decadence that is Versailles

I’ve been to the Château de Versailles many times because it’s hard to get sick of something so beautiful. The only reason I’m ever disappointed is if the garden is closed. Unfortunately, I’ve been unlucky the last two visits.

Versailles started off as a hunting lodge. King Louis XIII loved the area so much he built a basic lodge that would allow him to stay overnight when he went hunting in the forest. By the time his son, Louis XIV came along, it had already been upgraded. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, would go on to turn the hunting lodge into one of the most beautiful palaces in the country. A lot of this may mean nothing to you because you don’t recognise the names or numbers, but you will probably know the name Marie-Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI, and their roles in the French Revolution. But that’s a story for a different blog, I think!

Paris Versailles

Paris Versailles

I recommend planning in advance where you’d like to go because not everything on this list will be open every day of the week and opening hours tend to be different depending on the season.

I hope you love my picks as much as I do.

Be there or be square: Bristol’s Square Kitchen

Before we got to Bristol, we had booked an AirBnB in Berkeley Square (pronounced Bark-ley for my Australian audience). I had no idea what the area would be like and just hoped for the best. Luckily, it’s lovely little square in Clifton, a beautiful part of Bristol. On arrival, one of the first things I noticed were the restaurants in close proximity. Particularly, the aptly named Square Kitchen, part of the The Square Club.

When old meets new

Berkeley Square was laid out and built in the late 1700s, so it’s made up of beautiful Georgian buildings (which I love). However, when you walk into the Square Club it’s a very different feel, and in fact a pleasant contrast from the outside. Modern art adorns the exposed brick walls, and the furnishings are a mix of old meets new. You don’t feel like you’ve walked into a stuffy fine dining restaurant, but you still know you’re going to get some excellent food.

We began our evening with a cocktail in the underground bar. The Square Kitchen’s extensive drinks menu won’t leave you without choice and it took me a while to decide on what to get. In the end I chose a Caribbean Cosmo at £7.50. It was a sweet tipple, that really made you feel like you were at the beach.

Classic fare

We were then taken upstairs to the dining room where we were treated to a little amuse bouche of ham hock terrine with piccalilli. It’s one of those dishes I usually associate with old-fashioned food, but it was surprisingly light to eat (not just because of the portion size) and the piccalilli picked it up and stopped it from being just a boring piece of ham.


Head Chef Kyle Jordaan aims for a menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients and for good reason: when fruit and vegetables are in season, they taste better, and he makes the most of that.

My first course was deep-fried goats cheese, pickled beetroot carpaccio, garden peas and cider reduction at £6.50. For the price it was excellent. Personally, I get a bit confused when a menu says ‘carpaccio’ if there is no meat involved as carpaccio is thinly sliced raw meat with a vinaigrette, but I just went with it because I really like goats cheese.  It was a surprisingly rich dish – too much gorgeous creamy goats cheese is actually not as easy to eat as it sounds!  In fact, I’d perhaps recommend sharing it with someone because of the richness. Based on what my fellow diners ordered, I think the options are varied enough to have something different and go halves.

For the main, I chose my usual – pork belly. It was served with crispy squid, globe artichoke, white polenta, crispy capers, aioli and gremolata for £15.50. Overall, it was a nice dish, but I did miss the crispy crackling. It was obvious a lot of love went into the dish as each element was cooked really well. I also had some food envy when the assiette of lamb came out though as it really looked like it made the most of the different cuts and their various textures.

A sweet finish

Sadly, we came to the end of our meal. But not so sadly, that meant dessert. At the time we dined at Square Kitchen I was going through a rhubarb phase, so I couldn’t pass up the poached rhubarb, vanilla panna cotta, rhubarb consomme, almond clusters at £6.20. It was my favourite dish of the night – soft poached rhubarb that wasn’t too sweet, thin and chewy rhubarb straps (I assume dehydrated), sweet and luscious rhubarb soup and a creamy vanilla panna cotta to round it all out.  I was actually disappointed that the bowl had such a large lip because it stopped me from drinking the rhubarb – perhaps they do it on purpose.

A couple of my fellow diners chose the chocolate bomb and none of us were disappointed when the waiter came up with a perfect sphere of chocolate and proceeded to pour warm caramel over it to melt it. I do love a bit of showmanship!

Chef Kyle is taking some stunning ingredients and turning them in to excellent dishes. I can highly recommend making a booking and going for a celebratory meal in the modern meets historical atmosphere or perhaps a Sunday lunch with a few friends.

Details:
Square Kitchen at the Square Club
Opening hours: Mon–Sat: Breakfast, 7–9:30am; Lunch, 12–3pm; Dinner, 6–9:30pm | Sun: 12-4pm
Address: 15 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HB, UK
Phone: 0117 921 0455
Web: thesquareclub.com

Bristol Gin Festival from a Finnish perspective

Like Karis, I don’t enjoy ginger but gin has never been a problem. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I was excited to hear the Gin Festival was coming to Bristol while I’d be visiting.

The festival, which has been touring the UK since 2013, was set up at The Station in the Bristol city centre. It’s an easily accessible venue with a great courtyard. We arrived about an hour after gates had opened and the place was packed, music was playing and people were mingling happily.

While the atmosphere was great, the queue to the ticket counter was a bit daunting. I guess that’s the price to pay for an atmosphere like that, but at least the crew were up to the task and the line moved quickly and efficiently, and before you knew it we had our stack of vouchers.

Gin Festival

Vouchers and brilliant glass now in hand, we browsed the comprehensive event guide about all the gins available at the festival. The booklet was complete with drink recipes, gin quizzes, tasting notes and other interesting info. We picked various drinks from the booklet (admittedly, the garnishes played an important role in the decision making) and headed over to the bars. They were divided into four different areas and the booklet guided you to the right corner of the counter. Very efficient! Cocktails were also available, but we stuck to the main feature of the night – gin and tonic.

Speaking of tonic, there was a selection of Fever-Tree tonics available as mixers and the guide book came with recommended tonics for each gin. And the recommendations seemed spot on.

After cruising around the crowded expo hall we headed out to the courtyard to enjoy our drinks. It was surprising and pleasing to notice how different all the different variations were and I developed a new-found appreciation for the different styles of gin and the versatility of such a simple combination.

Gin Festival

What we drank (garnish and mixer):

  • Blackwoods Vintage Dry 60 (mint & lime with Fever-Tree aromatic tonic)
  • Poetic License Old Tom (apple with Fever-Tree ginger ale)
  • Trevethan Cornish Gin (orange and clove with Fever-Tree elderflower tonic)
  • Eccentric Citrus Overland (lemon and thyme with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic)
  • Kalevala (lime with Fever-Tree Indian tonic)
  • Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger (apple with Fever-Tree soda water)
  • Ely Dark Chocolate (with orange juice)

We really enjoyed our night and the drinks we tried (sadly all agreed that the Ely Dark Chocolate wasn’t to our tastes, but it’s good to give things a go, though!), so thanks to the Gin Festival team!

Perhaps the Gin Festival should come to Finland?

Juho.

Details: The Gin Festival has regular events around the UK, take a look at their website to see where they will be next!

A long weekend in Amsterdam

My holidays are usually pretty packed, but now that we can go away for 3-4 days at a time, we have a little more time to relax. Not.

Earlier this month, we finally made it to Amsterdam. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. As a history buff and foodie, I’m keen to go anywhere with old buildings and good food.

As it was my first time in Amsterdam and we only had four days, we did a lot of the very touristy things – ate cheese, visited some windmills, walked through the red light district and ate some dutch goodies.

We had a really good weekend, so I thought I’d share what we got up to:

Explore the canals

This one is pretty easy – walk around. Amsterdam is compact; there are a lot of different aspects to the city in a very small space (it seems). I can highly recommend just walking along the canals, taking in the sights, particularly the houses:

  • You’ll note that some a bit wonky – in some cases this is on purpose because apparently if your house leans forward, it looks bigger.
  • Keep an eye out for the hook holders jutting out from the top of many – they were used to haul up goods to the top level of the house so they remained dry.
  • Take a look at the make up of each house – many have coats of arms and imagery to show who owned the house and what that person did for a living. I think the more detailed the image, the more ‘well-to-do’ the person living there.

Amsterdam canals

I found it interesting that because space was so sought after, housing lots were narrow and tax was charged on frontage. Therefore, houses were narrow, but often extended backwards a fair way. These houses look very small on the outside, but some have 30+ rooms and would be considered mansions.

I could keep going because it was absolutely fascinating learning about how things worked in old world Amsterdam, but I’ll let you figure all of that out when you get there.

If you don’t want to walk around the entire time, I can highly recommend a canal cruise. You’ll get a bit of commentary and you can see a huge amount of the canals, without needing a foot massage! We did a cruise with the Blue Boat Company.

Amsterdam canals

The infamous red light district

One of those places you read and hear about often. You’ll find that it’s crowded once it starts to get dark and the throng of people don’t really stick around, they just take a look and move through. I can recommend doing the same. Take a look – see what the buzz is all about – and then move on to other (more interesting) things, like the Museumplein to get your obligatory photo with the Iamsterdam letters. Keep in mind that food and drink is expensive in the red light district because it’s so touristy.

Amsterdam redlight

Markets

I love markets and I always try to fit one or two in wherever I go, much to the annoyance of my husband. We were very lucky in that Dappermarkt was right outside our AirBnB, so even walking from the train station to the place we were staying was fun!

We also went to the Albert Cuyp Market. It was long and there were plenty of goodies to view (and eat!). You probably don’t need to go to both, but I recommend going to at least one.

Amsterdam markets

A countryside tour

All you need for this is half a day, really. We chose a half-day tour that would take us to see the windmills in Zaanse Schaans, try cheese in Volendam and see clogs being made in Marken. We had a quick lunch in Volendam, which consisted of kiplings, oorlog patates and we may have had some poffertjes to round out our deep-fried meal of champions.  The tour we took was excellent, because we got to see plenty in a short space of time.

Amsterdam windmills

A cheese tasting class

What’s a trip to Amsterdam without cheese? I found this by accident and I’m really glad I did! For 16 euro, you’ll get an hour full of cheese with a few wines. Held at Reypenaer Cheese – an unassuming shop front on Singel representing a company that doesn’t actually make the cheese, they just ripen it.

Amsterdam cheese tasting

You’re shown downstairs in their shop to a small room with desks all set up for our session. No joke, kind of felt like we were in a classroom – it has tables with all the implements you need to taste cheese successfully.

We were given the history of the company and what they do, as well as a taste of their five cheeses. The best part – the cheese was left on the table with you, so you could have as many testers as you wanted to get your mouth around the various flavours and textures.

Amsterdam cheese tasting

On the plus side, we scored cheaper tickets to the Bols experience as a package deal…

Heineken and Bols experiences

There’s always seems to be some kind of alcohol-based museum in the cities we go to. In Amsterdam, there were two: the Heineken Experience and the Bols and Genever Experience.

We went to both.

The Bols and Genever Experience was actually really interesting in terms sensory activities. My favourite part was smelling the flavours of the various liqueurs and trying to work out what they were. It takes about an hour to go through and at the end you get a cocktail of your choice.

Amsterdam House of Bols

The Heineken Experience was actually disappointing for me. I didn’t like the way they had set things out and I didn’t enjoy waiting 20 minutes for the ‘brew you ride’ which wasn’t anything spectacular. Part of the ticket price gives you two beers at the end of the experience and you get a quarter-pint or so right after the ‘brew you ride’. If you must go, I can recommend not going on a weekend – we stopped by on the Saturday and we could see from just the outside that it was packed because the queues were huge.

Amsterdam Heineken experience

This was clearly no relaxing tour of Amsterdam; we were most definitely tired by the time we’d finished everything on this list, but I really felt like I’d managed to see so much of Amsterdam. I should also note that we also went to a few other places not mentioned here, but the above were my highlights (or things I felt I should cover).

Happy to share my tips if you have any specific questions!

A Grand old time: Bristol’s Mercure The Grand Hotel

Being in the UK means I’ve had the opportunity to travel so much more. This means scouring travel websites looking for the best deals on flights, accommodation and tours in brilliant locations (and I’ve really spent a lot of time looking!).

Because my wanderlust usually takes me further afield, unsurprisingly, I often forget about what’s happening right here in Bristol. But, I know some of you don’t come from here and perhaps you’ve been thinking of visiting.

When I’m looking at hotels, people often say “it doesn’t matter where you stay because you’ll be out and about and you’ll spend very little time in your room”. I think that’s half true – you spend longer than you realise in your hotel room and the more comfortable it is, the better. I also think it’s nice to walk into a lovely clean room with practical features and nice things to look at.

I was recently invited along to Mercure’s The Grand to see their very funky makeover. I know this isn’t the 70s, but they really have done some amazing work with the refurbishment.

Located on Broad Street in the Old City, close to Broadmead and St Nicks’ Market, it’s the perfect place to base yourself if you’re in Bristol.

The building itself is gorgeous. I couldn’t find any history on the building itself, though it’s Grade II listed. When you see the outside, you imagine you’ll walk into something old world. But after the refurbishment, it’s now a stunning combination of classic and modern. You walk into the lobby and it feels bright, clean and modern, but it the old and new world compliment each other well.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol

Local artists

The team who designed the new look and feel of the hotel worked closely with Upfest to give the hotel the ‘Bristol’ feel. More than 500 pieces of art have been created by local artists. So often when you walk into hotels, they are bland and clinical, you could easily imagine yourself in any city in the world because there’s no art or even personality in the hotel, let alone the rooms. I think it’s brilliant that Mercure has taken the opportunity to make use of Bristol’s creatives to make the hotel something to write home about.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Art

Comfortable amenities

The rooms aren’t just pretty. They are practical too. The beds are amazingly comfortable and the bathrooms are classic and clean.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Room

Keepers Kitchen and Bar

As part of the refurbishment, the restaurant has had an even bigger makeover and it’s not your usual boring hotel restaurant. As you’ll see from the photos below, you’ll note that Keepers has a theme – honey! Their plan is to eventually have bees on the roof of the hotel, so they can use (very) local honey in their cocktails and on the menu.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Speaking of cocktails, they have a brilliant range on offer in the bar, including three honey-based cocktails.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

On the food side, the restaurant has a solid menu to please everyone. We were treated to anti pasti, pizza, and small versions of mains from the menu, including mushroom pappardelle, pan-fried sea bass, glazed pig cheeks (my favourite from the night), and the Keepers posset made with honey, of course.

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol - Keepers Kitchen and Bar

Mercure The Grand, Bristol is the perfect place for a staycation or if you’re just visiting, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Details
Address: Broad Street, BS1 2EL  Bristol
Telephone: 08713769042
Web: mercure.com

Frome Independent Market

Last Sunday, I joined the throng of people and dogs wandering the Frome Independent market on a stunning Spring day. Taking up practically the whole centre of town, the market covers a really great range of products from independents, including second-hand goods, art, fashion, food and drink.

It felt like a little adventure as we wandered Frome town centre looking at stalls – they seemed to be everywhere! We started in the ‘flea market’ area and browsed vintage fashion, books and homewares. Thankfully, the prices ranged from 1 pound per piece jumble sale style to carefully curated vintage all priced separately. I think it’s nice to have something for everyone. I picked up a couple of cute plates that I want to use as photography props and did some wishful thinking about a few other items.

Frome Market

Because we’d skipped breakfast, we were getting quite hungry by this point and didn’t want to keep wandering until we had found food. Thankfully the next section of the market was the ready to eat food. There was a brilliant selection to choose from, including American BBQ, Italian, salt beef, Thai, Indian, Japanese, pies, Persian, hog roast and more. It made for some serious internal arguments because I hate making a decision when there is so much choice. After passing the Thai stand however, I knew what I wanted – it smelled just as I thought it should and I could see the Pad Thai being made right there in front of me. Despite the noodles being a little chewy, the flavour was awesome and the rest of the ingredients were well-cooked.

Food at Frome Market Food at Frome Market Food at Frome Market

I should also mention that while we waited in line, we may have bought some ambrosial cannoli from the stall next door. They were perfect. Crispy where they should have been and the fillings were creamy and light (despite being so so naughty).
Food at Frome Market Food at Frome Market

After re-fueling, we continued on to the high street. Here’s where you’ll find green and white striped farmers’ market tents lining the street, separated by that throng of people and dogs I mentioned earlier. We perused hand made homewares and fashion and stared longingly at locally made bread, cakes, pies, dips, beers, ciders and wines, as well as local produce like meat, vegetables, dairy and oils, knowing we couldn’t very well buy one of everything. My husband is a huge fan of Portuguese tarts, so the local purveyor was one of our stops. Probably one of the best I’ve had – a perfectly crispy, light shell with a just-wobbly custard, I can definitely recommend them.

Goodies at Frome Market Goodies at Frome Market Produce at Frome Market Produce at Frome Market Produce at Frome Market

From there, it was up a narrow cobbled street with small independent makers displaying their wares on small tables. Beautiful art, cupcakes and beauty products were just a few of things you could pick up. At the top it wasn’t obvious where to go and going back down the street we just came up seemed a little crazy considering the number of people, but we took a small street and it turns out there were even more stalls there! See, adventure!

At the bottom we went back to the cobbled street to revisit The Bakemonger to buy some of their stunning and colourful edible art. As I said to them, I hate buying such beautiful things knowing I’m going to destroy them (by eating them). Later in the day with a cup of tea, I demolished the citrus tart I bought, which had the most divine thin and buttery tart shell.

The Bakemonger at Frome Market

I can honestly say I haven’t enjoyed a market as much as I enjoyed this one in a really long time. I really did feel like I was on an adventure, even though at the beginning I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer size and choice. I’m really looking forward to going back to find more exciting things that I probably missed this time around.

 

The details
Where: Frome
When: First Sunday of every month, 10am to 3pm
Website: thefromeindependent.org.uk

Not all gingers are soulless – The Ginger People products

Getting more ginger into your life

A few months ago, The Ginger People got in touch to see if we wanted to give their products a go. As someone who isn’t keen on ginger and as I’m currently living in Bristol, I asked Mel if she was keen to try them. Her immediate response was something about a bear in the woods.

The lovely team at The Ginger People sent over their organic ginger syrup, organic crystallised ginger, organic ginger juice and organic pickled ginger. Mel was in heaven and proceeded to go on a ginger binge, essentially gingerising (just invented a new word!) all her food. Since that time, Mel has moved on from But first, we eat!, but I interviewed her last week for her feedback.

Mel is a huge ginger fan. I remember a shopping trip to Sunnybank to buy ingredients for our Chinese New Year celebration. We needed a small amount of ginger and she had used all of hers. Instead of buying a small piece (like I would do), she brought a one kilo bag! I told her she was crazy and she just said I was “missing out”. So, her being in heaven was an understatement when she received a package full of ginger goodies.

Ginger has a lot of uses, including the all important flavouring of food, and it’s well known for coming to the rescue when your stomach is upset. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find good fresh ginger unless you know where to look and not all ginger products have a good flavour and texture or they’re full of chemicals. These particular products, in the Mel’s words “actually taste like ginger”. Given creative license, Mel has come up with a few very easy ways to incorporate more ginger into your life:

Organic ginger juice

Mel said she was actually pleasantly surprised when ginger made a difference in the muscle ache she gets from triathlon training. Turns out, when she got home from training in the morning, she had been putting ginger juice in her water to mix things up a bit and her muscle aches weren’t as bad as the mornings she didn’t. She also said it’s brilliant in ice cold sparkling water (and I gather it would work really well in cocktails)! Since receiving the initial bottle of ginger juice, she’s bought two more because she uses it so often.

Organic ginger syrup

When she needs a quick treat, Mel loves the ginger syrup on ice cream and pancakes. When she needs something a little extra on her breakfast, she’ll pour a little over her yogurt and muesli.

Organic crystallised ginger

You may remember your grandmother always having easy access to crystallised ginger because it’s supposed to aid in digestion and it’s great for an upset stomach. Mel also used hers in baking. She whipped up some delicious ginger nuts with ginger chunks and I’ll post the recipe up soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

Organic pickled ginger

Not just for sushi, Mel loves to top her stirfries with a little pickled ginger for a fresh zing (if she isn’t already using the ginger juice). She may or may not eat it straight from the jar on occasion too.

Mel really enjoyed testing these products and wholeheartedly recommends anything from The Ginger People. She has a couple of recipes to share from her testing of these products, so make sure you check back.

If you’d like to buy The Ginger People products, take a look at their website. I think it’s pretty cool that the same people who started the business 30 years ago are still running it. They source their ginger sustainably and don’t use any nasties!

Important note: While Mel received these products for free, she only provided me with honest feedback.

Bread workshop: It’s all about the buns

I love bread.

The infinite textures and flavours you can create with a base of yeast, flour and water means you will never ever get bored. Add some seeds, maybe some dried fruit, perhaps some pesto. Can’t have wheat? Try the steadily growing range of alternatives and mix with whatever your heart desires. I’m a lover of sourdough and have tried my hand at getting it right (it’s harder than it looks and sounds) and I love experimenting with flavours and shapes – my instagram account reflects this.

Pre-bake brief
Danielle and the team during the pre-baking brief!

Last weekend I was very lucky to attend a bread making workshop with Danielle of Severn Bites. She loves bread too. So much so, she went to France in 2014 for five months to learn the art of the perfect loaf and came back a professional. Originally from a marketing background (so she’s good at communicating to her audience), Danielle has developed classes to appeal to a wide range of people, including people with some bread baking experience like me!

Everything you need for delicious viennoise goodies + Natacha adding the butter to the mix

Late Saturday morning, I picked up the lovely ladies from Yes Starling!, Natacha the Franglaise and My Nothing Book and we took a mini roadtrip to Danielle’s home near Slimbridge. We were greeted with warm smiles and hot soup, along with some homemade foccacia, of course!

Danielle’s fruit mix for the hot cross buns (the peel is homemade and delicious!) + Danielle adding the fruit to the dough

Once we donned aprons, it was down to business. Danielle told us about her experiences in France and gave us a tutorial on baker’s percentages (which I have never used myself) and this was then implemented with our first batch of viennoise dough. I won’t spoil anything here, because you should definitely book in with Danielle to learn a thing or two.

Chocolate viennoise bread
Preparing chocolate viennoise

Despite there being sugar, butter and egg in the dough, it was perfect for a range of breads and we ended up making a total of five different savoury and sweet goodies: burger buns, spiced buns (i.e hot cross buns in this instance), savoury scrolls, small batards and a chocolate loaf. Needless to say, our four hour session was packed to the brim with tips and techniques for replicating the recipes at home.

Preparing the savoury bread scrolls
Preparing the savoury scrolls

And here are the results…

Bread: Viennoise batard + viennoise chocolate loaf + viennoise burger buns
Bread: Viennoise batard + viennoise chocolate loaf + viennoise burger buns
Bread: Hot cross buns + savoury scrolls
Hot cross buns + savoury scrolls

Danielle’s course was a lot of fun and perfect for beginners (and those with a few loaves under their belts will learn plenty too). Danielle is so passionate about bread and it’s contagious. She offers one-on-one sessions and group sessions for up to four people. For information on Danielle’s classes and when the next on is right here.

Thanks for having me Danielle, I had a blast!

 

Chewy chocolate cookies

Now, I’m not saying I make the best cookies in the world, but I am saying that these are pretty damn close.

These chewy chocolate cookies are super simple to make and are sure to be a crowd pleaser (based on my experience every time I make them), which is why I always do a double batch.

The beauty of these cookies is that you can make them whatever you want them to be – a simple chocolate chip or something more fancy like my last batch which included chunks of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Crispy M&Ms and white chocolate chips. Three of my most favourite things. They are also great with nuts and various lollies/candies.

Ingredients

  • 125 grams butter, chopped and left to come up to room temp
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (I’ve forgotten it and it’s been fine, but you can also exchange for other flavourings)
  • 275 grams firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150 grams plain flour
  • 35 grams self-raising flour
  • .5 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 35 grams cocoa
  • 150 grams ‘mixins’ of your choice – three types is a good number

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees
  2. Line two trays with baking paper
  3. Beat the butter
  4. Add the sugar, beat until mixed
  5. Add extract and egg and beat until smooth
  6. Add sifted flours, cocoa and bicarb soda
  7. Add ‘mixins’
  8. Mix until combined by hand
  9. You can use a level tablespoon to measure the dough, but I tend to do this by hand and roll them all into balls
  10. Put the balls of dough on the trays, but make sure you leave plenty of space as they will spread during the cooking process
  11. Bake for approximately 10 minutes – they will come out soft, but will set. If you like a crispy cookie, you can leave for longer.
  12. Leave on the tray until they have set and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

By the way, you can make this dough in advance, roll into balls and then freeze them. You can either cook them all up when you need them or just a couple at a time when you’re in desperate need of chocolate and there isn’t anything in the cupboard.

You can easily use whatever mixins you like, here are some ideas:

  • M&Ms – crispy, peanut, plain
  • Chocolate chips – dark, white, milk
  • Caramel/toffee/fudge chunks – you can pick these up in the baking section at the supermarket
  • Nuts – peanuts, roasted almonds, macadamias
  • Reese’s pieces – chopped up
  • Terry’s Chocolate Orange – chopped up
  • Pretzels – broken up
  • After dinner mints – chopped up
  • Crysalised ginger – not for me, but whatever floats your boat

I can definitely recommend scouring the lolly aisle to come up with some fun combinations. I’ve done it many a time and not too many people question why a strange lady is talking to herself while picking up and putting back various packets of chocolate or lollies.

Bristol’s Wapping Wharf, have you been yet?

As a foodie who arrived in Bristol in October last year, one of the first things I heard about was the Wapping Wharf development with all the amazing independent traders, located behind the M Shed in the heart of the city. I went ahead and added a few places to my already growing list of must-try establishments, but didn’t get around to trying anything until recently. Luckily, I got to try five places in one amazing food and drink session with Bristol Bloggers.

Wild Beer Co

Wapping Wharf, Wild Beer Co

We started at Wild Beer Co‘s second establishment, a collaboration with Hook Restaurants – Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf. They have an insane 22 beers available – and they change fairly regularly so you don’t have to drink the same thing more than once, even if you go back twice a month! Obviously, their partnership with Hook means their food focus is on fish and chips.

Wapping Wharf, Wild Beer Co

We were delighted with a range of goodies from their menu, including their classic panko crumbed fish and chips (with one of my most favourite things – hand cut chips!), chicken tacos, vegetable tempura, and a massive fish sharing board, with a load of fresh seafood and fresh foraged goodies. Everything was light and easy to eat, and would match perfectly with so many beers (which is the point, right?).

Wapping Wharf, Wild Beer Co

Speaking of beers, there were so many to choose from I went with ‘Fresh’, a tangy pale ale as recommended by fellow blogger Dan. I only had the one drink, but I could easily go back for more. I asked the assistant manager what she would recommend if you could only have one beer at Wild Beer Co and she waxed lyrical about Sleeping Lemons. When I return I know what I’ll be choosing.

On a related note, Wild Beer have some cool fermaculture events and beer dinners. Check out their Twitter feed to stay up-to-date.

Details
Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf
Units 6-8 Gaol Ferry Steps, Bristol, BS1 5WE
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12pm to 11pm; Sun 10am to 11pm
Web: wbwappingwharf.com
Phone: 0117 239 5693

Pigsty

Wapping Wharf, Pigsty UK

I had been hearing so many amazing things about Pigsty, particularly about their epic scotch eggs, so I was really stoked to be trying some porky goodies.

It’s located in the cargo part of Wapping Wharf, so it’s very small…or one could say it’s…concentrated. What I’m saying is, make a reservation so you don’t miss out.

Pigsty is the brainchild of The Jolly Hogg team, makers of tasty pork sausages which you can pick up in quite a few supermarkets. Given the feedback they have received about their products, launching a restaurant for the food-loving people of Bristol was the obvious next step. Pigsty serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a focus on local, RSPCA approved produce, and a menu that will open your eyes to the delights of all things pork (not that I needed any help, I love pork!).

Wapping Wharf, The Jolly Hogg, Pigsty UK

We were offered drinks from their range of local producers, including Wiper and True (I’m a fan of their pale ale!). Then the meaty offerings began – starting with their Pig Board, which can only described as a carnivore’s dream – perfectly roasted pork with stunning crackling, hoguettes (croquettes to everyone else) with baconnaise made with real bacon, a divine mound of pulled pork, one of their famous scotch eggs and salad (but you don’t make friends with salad). Eyes around the table got too big for their bellies on sighting this intense platter and it disappeared pretty quickly. Next up, we had more hoguettes, the Pig Mac burger and a Whole Hog burger (including that very fine roast pork and crackling). Unfortunately, by this point I was really full – as we all were – and I could only manage small bites of the burgers. I could have gone back for more if I knew I wasn’t continuing the food adventure.

Details
Pigsty UK
Units 1&2 Goal Ferry Steps, Bristol, BS1 6WE
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 7:30am to 10pm, Sat 8:30am to 10pm, Sun 9:30am to 8pm
Web: pigstyuk.com
Phone: 0117 929 7700

Bristol Cider Shop

Wapping Wharf, Bristol Cider Shop

Even though I’ve only been here a few months, I have the impression that the Bristol Cider Shop is a Bristolian institution. I was really impressed with their range and with the fact that they only stock ciders that are produced within 50 miles of Bristol – now that’s drinking local.

The Bristol Cider Shop recently moved to Wapping Wharf so they could expand their offering. They stock more than 100 varieties of cider and perry (draught and bottle), plus other apple products like cider brandy, chutneys and vinegars, hampers, gifts and books. They also host cider tasting sessions at the shop, and tours so you can see the farms and meet the producers.

Wapping Wharf, Bristol Cider Shop

Our quick session at the Bristol Cider Shop started with some delicious mulled cider and a taste of some stunning cider brandy. You could probably spend an entire day at the shop trying the different brands and varieties – you’d go home really drunk and still not try half of their offering.

However, if trying a few ciders and learning a few things about cider in the process is your thing, their tasting sessions are for you. They do a range of sessions including:

  • Introduction to Cider
  • Specific cider types, such as their upcoming Welsh cider session
  • Cheese and cider sessions

In the short time I was at the Bristol Cider Shop, I didn’t need much convincing to attend a tasting session in the near future. Support local by drinking local, take a look at the sessions you can attend here.

Details
The Bristol Cider Shop
Unit 4 Cargo, Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf, Bristol BS1 6WE
Opening hours: Tues-Sat 11am to 7pm, Sun 11am to 4pm
Web: bristolcidershop.co.uk
Phone: 0117 929 3203

Little Victories

Wapping Wharf, Little Victories, Small Street Espresso

As someone who isn’t into coffee, Little Victories didn’t pop up on to my radar before we did our tour. However, I’ve bookmarked it to take hubby in the very near future because I know he would love it.

Little Victories is the sister cafe to Small Street Espresso, which owners Chris and John set up in 2012 in the Old City area of Bristol. They had one main goal in mind – bringing great coffee to Bristol, based on the experiences they had in Melbourne (hooray, Australia!), London, Bath and beyond. As a first run, Small Street Espresso was set up on a tight budget with the coffee as the focus. This time around, after seeing signs for the Wapping Wharf development wanting independent traders, Chris and John wanted to create something a bit different and a little more decadent. From this thought, Little Victories was born – a laid back cafe/cocktail joint with clean lines, serving top notch sandwiches and cakes, a huge range of coffee and some super sexy cocktails. I won’t lie, it was a bit like being back at home in Aus.

Wapping Wharf, Little Victories, Small Street Espresso

We were lucky to try their espresso martini and their cold press negroni. As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I couldn’t do the espresso martini, but I gave the cold press negroni a go – and it was gooooood. Their range of sandwiches and cakes are so good too! I can definitely recommend their lemon cake – supplied by Harts – so moist and tangy. They also have other tidbits from local producers, like salted smoked almonds which I could have eaten all day, and the biggest (and tastiest) olives I’ve ever eaten.

Wapping Wharf, Little Victories, Small Street Espresso

Details
Little Victories, Wapping Wharf
7 Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf, Bristol BS1 6WE
Opening hours: Mon-Tues 7:30am to 4:30pm, Weds-Fri 7:30am to 9pm, Sat 9:30am to 9pm, Sun 9:30am to 4:30pm
Twitter: twitter.com/LittleVicsBris
Email:  hi@littlevics.co.uk

Chicken Shed

Wapping Wharf, Chicken Shed, EatDrinkBristolFashion

Our last stop on our Wapping Wharf adventure was the Chicken Shed, one of Bristol Chef, Josh Eggleton’s projects.

At the top of Cargo 1, Chicken Shed has a nice view of the whole development and is quite large in comparison to some of the other eateries downstairs.

Wapping Wharf, Chicken Shed, EatDrinkBristolFashion

They serve free-range, slow grown, GM-free meat from local suppliers, with the philosophy of ‘Happy chickens + happy planet = happy dinners!’. They aren’t your run of the mill chicken restaurant, because not only will you find filthy fried chicken options on the menu, you’ll find things like grilled chicken hearts and deviled livers. I think it’s great that they are aiming for a beak to foot approach.

We began our chicken feast with a seriously spicy Bloody Mary cocktail, made with horseradish vodka. This Aussie girl hasn’t had much in the way of horseradish so it was an interesting experience. Then the food came – deviled chicken livers, grilled chicken hearts on a bed of tzatziki and chermoula, southern fried chicken, spicy chicken wings, coleslaw, spicy fries, a green salad, and a range of dips from house-made aioli to fire-breathing hot sauce.
 Wapping Wharf, Chicken Shed, EatDrinkBristolFashion
I don’t know how we did it. But, we got through most of it. Even though we were very full, the food was excellent and it’s hard to stop when the food is good. Surprisingly, the pick of the night from was the grilled chicken hearts – really well-seasoned and stunning tzatziki and chermoula to finish it off. It was their special for that day, so I hope when you go, you’ll get to try it too.

Details
Chicken Shed
Cargo, Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf, Bristol, BS1 6WP
Opening hours: Tues-Thurs 12pm to 10:30pm, Fri-Sat 9am to 10:30pm, Sun 9am to 6pm
Web: eatdrinkbristolfashion.co.uk/chickenshed
Phone: 0117 930 0260

I had a great time checking out what Wapping Wharf has to offer and it was great to meet some fellow food lovers and bloggers in the process.

Honestly, Bristol is a pretty lucky city to have such amazing independent traders offering such amazing food. I have this cool idea for a progressive dinner, doing a different course at each establishment. We’d have to roll home, but I know it would be so worth it.

I can highly recommend visiting each of the places above – each of them offer something different and each offer something amazing.