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.

Cocktail fun at Be At One, Bristol

Before Christmas, hubby and I were lucky to attend a Cocktail Masterclass at Be At One here in Bristol.

We arrived at 4pm and were greeted, seated, and offered a Bellini of our choice. I chose the classic peach and hubby had a mango. Both were delicious, of course. We settled in at the bar while we took in our surroundings – classic decor and comfortable places to sit, a perfect spot for a Sunday sesh or a big night out.

As there were only four of us in this session, we each got to make two cocktails from their extensive menu. And when I say extensive, I really mean it. The only downside is making a decision because you want to try everything. However, the crew at Be At One are all really experienced and could offer a recommendation – I just told our bartender, Matt, what drinks I like (including Singapore Slings and French Martinis) and he told me what he thought I’d enjoy – I had the Monte Casino (gin, apricot brandy, lemon juice, orange bitters and apricot jam) and the Island Fox (gin, Lanique, orange marmalade, grapefuit juice, lime juice and sugar). I really enjoyed both and loved that they included some ingredients I hadn’t come across in cocktails, like jam and Lanique (a rose liqueur). It was also really nice to try some different cocktails, that I may not have otherwise ordered if I’d been out and about in a loud or crowded venue.

Matt showed us a few tips and tricks and stepped us through each of the cocktails we made. It was a hands-on experience that allowed us to try something different. We also walked away with some new skills, which is always a winner for me.

The Masterclass is £25 per person for a 90 minute class. In that time you’ll get to make a cocktail of your choice (and if you’re in a small class, you’ll get to make two!). The masterclasses are great for birthday shindigs, hens or bucks, Christmas parties and something just for fun!

Details:
Be At One, Bristol
55 Queen’s Road, Bristol BS8 1QQ
Opening hours: Mon-Sat – 4:30pm-2:00am, Sun – 4:30pm-11:00pm
Website: www.beatone.co.uk
To book:

Traditional meals in Prague

Much like Estonia, food in the Czech Republic was quite heavy. Basically, meat with carbs and sauce. Also, plenty of beer.

The list of food I wanted to try was extensive, but it wasn’t just sweets. Here are a few of the traditional savoury dishes we tried while travelling around Prague.

Dumplings

On our first day in the city, we walked around what felt like half the city before deciding on a random place we found. We both ended up taking a lunch special – smoked bacon dumplings (pictured above).

Svíčková na smetaně

Beef sirloin in a cream sauce, topped with cranberry and whipped cream. It’s a typical dish that we saw on most menus. I was surprised to find that the sauce was sweet and was made sweeter again with the addition of cranberry. The beef is marinated and slow-cooked, so it’s flavoursome and tender. It’s a heavy dish that will fill you up.

Prague
Svíčková na smetaně + roasted Prague ham with horseradish sauce and potato purée

 

Prague
Roast pork with dumplings and greens + one of the stunning old buildings in the Old Town Square
Pickled sausages

One dish I wasn’t too keen to try was pickled sausage. We got the sausage below at Restaurant U Karla – served with pickled onion and some chilli for a kick. Based on my research, they are considered a ‘pub snack’ of sorts and that would make sense because the acidity works really well with beer.

Prague pickled sausages
Pickled sausages + beer (of course)
Guláš

As you can imagine, goulash is common in this part of the world. It’s another heavy dish, designed to fill you up. I can’t give you any specific recommendations, but we tried it at both Cafe Savoy and Restaurant U Karla and enjoyed both.

Prague goulash
Guláš (goulash) + beer (of course)
Smažený sýr

When fried cheese is an option, you’d be mad not to try it. Plus, it’s everything you imagine it is – crunchy, stretchy, cheesey. A thick slice of cheese (often Edam) is breaded and then fried. In the two cases we tried it, it was served with amazing hand cut chips, and some tartare sauce. I can definitely recommend trying this dish – it’s probably best as a main or shared for a starter.

Prague Smažený sýr
Smažený sýr (fried cheese) + the main entrance at Prague Castle

Prague is a beautiful city and I look forward to going back one day. I can definitely recommend at least a 3-day trip so you can see and eat as much as you can.

Prague Charles Bridge
View of Charles Bridge from the river + view of Prague on the way back down the hill from Strahov Monastery

Thanks for sharing in our Prague adventure, here’s to the next one!

White Christmas: an Aussie tradition

It’s been a while since I’ve made White Christmas. To be honest, I really don’t like raisins and sultanas or fruit peel, so I’ve never made it traditionally anyway. However, this year, I’m doing Christmas in a new country with new people and I wanted to take something to work that was uniquely Australian. The only thing I could think of was White Christmas.

I had to search for a Copha equivalent and then scoured Tesco for milk powder. Eventually, I got everything I needed and made a batch.

Recipe:

  • 250gms vegetable shortening such as Copha or Trex
  • 2 cups rice puffs
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup milk powder
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup dried fruit
  • Glace cherries for the top (though I like to chop some up and put them in the mixture too)

Method:

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl
  2. Melt the vegetable shortening
  3. Add the shortening to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix it well (carefully)
  4. Transfer the mixture to a lined tin/tray
  5. Top with glace cherries
  6. Let it sit in the fridge until set
  7. Cut up and enjoy

When I’ve made this in the past I’ve used dried apricots and cherries instead of raisins/sultanas and glace cherries. I figure this is far more Australian anyway given they are summer fruits. I think you could put dried mango in there too, just to make it even more ‘summery’.

I think my colleagues enjoyed this uniquely Australian sweet and I might make my version for them next year!

What do you put in your White Christmas?

Karis Sign Off-01-01