Over Easter this year, I popped over to France to see dad who was also there for his bi-annual visit. Even though the primary purpose of the visit was to visit my Grandmother, I requested that we make a trip to Carnac in Brittany and Mont St Michel in Normandy. So, over two very full days, we drove the five hours to Brittany, looked at some very large rocks and then drove another couple of hours to see a very famous rock – Mont St Michel.
I really enjoyed the trip to Brittany, which included a stop in a little town called Elven where we had baguettes with ham and cheese; then in Carnac we had a delicious multi-course birthday meal for my husband at a tiny auberge; more than one kougin amann (because I needed to compare!); a trip around a farmers market with some of the most amazing produce I’ve seen in a while; and Far Breton.
Far Breton is similar in texture to a clafoutis – one of my favourite desserts. It’s essentially a baked custard-style dish full of prunes, which I think have always had a bad wrap. You’ll also note in my photos above that some people like it blonde and others much darker and it can be served on its own or served with creme patisserie.
I’ve been wanting to give the Far Breton a go since I got back, so I finally found some time and did a search for a trustworthy recipe. I went with this recipe from Richard Bertinet and got baking.
The recipe worked a treat! It wasn’t quite the same (because things always taste better when you don’t make them yourself), but it was a winner of pudding and the feedback from my colleagues and in-laws was great.
I can recommend, as Richard Bertinet does, having this with a nice up of tea and a book. Or a cider.
I was recently invited to review one of the newest editions to the Bath food scene, Tapas Revolution – brainchild of Spanish TV chef, Omar Allibhoy. He’s been dubbed the ‘Antonio Banderas of cooking’, so it was hard for me to say no to the offer.
I’m always a bit dubious when it comes to chain restaurants because it often seems that decor and marketing are top notch at the expense of the food, which is often flavourless and boring. Thankfully, Tapas Revolution is not one of those and I was very pleasantly surprised with the whole package.
Located in Southgate opposite the Bath Spa train station, it has a really great position to greet passers-by and draw them in for a drink and a few bites. The decor is light and welcoming, with a few Spanish touches here and there. You’re eating in a modern restaurant with cultural roots that go back a very long time.
We were seated in a quiet corner booth so we had time to mull over our food choices. It was also a good spot to view the rest of the restaurant from (who doesn’t like to people watch!).
We were offered water and then the waitress let us know that it was happy hour so quite a few drinks were two for one. I thought the drinks list was quite good, without being overwhelming. A good range of wines, cocktails and non-alocholic options options are available, including some Spanish gins, which we decided to try. The Galician Nordes came out in a large glass with plenty of ice and a Mediterranean tonic – I learnt something new because I didn’t know there was more than one kind of tonic!
After asking the waitress for her recommendation, we picked options from almost every part of the tapas menu. I tried to pick a few I’d had before as benchmark and some I’d never had to really see what was on offer. We tried:
Pan de la casa – toasted bread, tomato topped with garlic sauce and serrano ham
Croquetas de jamon – deep-friend Iberico ham and bechamel croquettes
Altas de pollo a la miel y limon – marinated crispy chicken wings with lemon and honey dressing
Albondigas en salsa de tomate – beef meatballs in a vegetable, tomato and white wine sauce
Chorizo a la parrilla – bread with grilled smoked sausage, piquillo pepper and cider reduction
Torreznos con mojo dulce – crispy pork belly with sweet and spicy sauce
Calamares fritos a la andaluza – squid strips tossed in flour, deep fried and served with alioli and lemon
Berenjenas fritas con miel – crispy fried aubergine with a spiced honey and thyme dressing
Patatas bravas – roasted potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and alioli
I’m pretty terrible with numbers and didn’t intentionally order so many dishes, but everything that came to the table was so different and really gave us a good idea of how good the rest of the menu is.
The standout dishes for me were the Chorizo a la parrilla and Berenjenas fritas con miel. The flavourful, only slightly spicy Chorizo was served on fresh bread that was fluffy in the middle and crispy on the outside and a lovely sweet cider reduction, which worked so well with the spice of the dish. The aubergine, was, as promised, crispy, sweet and a little spicy – having never tried crumbed aubergine, it was a really nice mix of textures and I couldn’t get enough of the honey. The only thing I wasn’t a big fan of was the crispy pork belly because there was so much cinnamon in the sauce and even though I like cinnamon it was a bit much for me – in saying that, this is me looking for problems!
My dining companion, despite not being a huge seafood fan, really loved the calamari and was singing its praises on the way home later.
The best comparison I have for Spanish restaurants are the ones I’ve been to in Australia and they tend to be expensive and the portion sizes small. So, it was with great surprise that we received huge amounts of food and couldn’t finish it all. I also thought the prices were very reasonable, even more so when you get delicious, good quality food.
Overall, I really enjoyed my evening at Tapas Revolution and I’m looking for excuses to go back to Bath so I can have dinner there again.
One of the reasons I love living in Bristol is the number of stunning food options and importantly, so many restaurants and chefs using fresh, local produce. I love that people are so passionate about what is produced in the region – from cider to pork.
This is most definitely the case at Backwell House, a gorgeous, recently established boutique hotel in the North Somerset countryside near Bristol. They have just launched a 40-cover restaurant where Chef Ross Hunter has developed a menu that focuses on local produce. So local, in fact, you’ll find that quite a few of his ingredients come from the Backwell Estate itself!
When I asked Chef Ross (who has worked closely with everyone’s favourite chef, Josh Eggleton) what he was aiming to achieve with his menu, he shared that it was about showcasing the produce. For him, choosing three to four stunning local ingredients and really making them shine is the most important thing to him. That’s my kind of philosophy. It’s all well and good spending hours creating foams and gels, but if you lose the fresh ingredients then you’re really just missing out.
The menu is very well priced at two courses for £29 and three courses for £35. It also changes regularly depending on what ingredients are available and in season. Not only will you get to eat gorgeous food, you’re doing so in the beautiful countryside in a Georgian house (that’s the history lover in me talking!).
Pressed Backwell pork, new season peas, pancetta & tarragon emulsion was first off the ranks. Well-seasoned pork, gorgeous free peas and perfect crackling made for a brilliant starter. My esteemed dining neighbor, Alex (aka Gingey Bites) chose the Brixham crab, beetroot, apple, Nori seaweed, which not only looked stunning but was very tasty too.
For mains, I didn’t want double portions of meat, so I chose the potato gnocchi, wild garlic, calcot onion, hazelnuts for something a bit lighter. Sadly it was underseasoned and the texture was not as light as I’d hoped. The onion was also too crunchy and undercooked for my taste. However, everyone else at the table sang the praises of the Cornish cod, Brixham crab bonbon, crab bisque, kohlrabi, pak choi and the 60 day Hereford sirloin, ox cheek, alliums, king oyster mushroom, beef jus. Alex said the sirloin was as soft as butter and very moreish.
Next, I had the strawberry cannelloni, meringue, Cheddar Valley strawberries – a little play on eton mess. I loved the mix of textures and the use of strawberries. Definitely something I’d eat again.
To finish off, we were offered some housemade petite fours, including raspberry and beetroot marshmallows, apple jellies and orange shortbread. I adored the marshmallows and was pleasantly surprised at how well the flavours worked.
I enjoyed my meal and the setting in which I got to eat it. Chef Ross has put together an excellent menu and knows how to make the most of the ingredients he has sourced. I can highly recommend a lovely drive into the Somerset countryside to Backwell House for lunch or dinner.
About the hotel
I couldn’t not put something in about the hotel itself because I really enjoyed spending time there. On the outside, Backwell House is everything you’d expect of a Georgian House – well-manicured grounds and stunning views. But inside is a different story. The General Manager and his family have given the house a revamp with their own quirky (often handmade) touches. Like a suitcase sink and handmade bedhead – it’s kind of fun to look for the little things that make Backwell House so beautiful.
The common areas are comfortable and there’s plenty of space to relax with a drink from the handmade bar. The rooms are luxurious and I’m jealous of anyone lucky enough to stay there.