Bristol’s Backwell House

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!

Backwell House

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.

Backwell House
Pressed Backwell pork, new season peas, pancetta & tarragon emulsion + potato gnocchi, wild garlic, calcot onion, hazelnuts

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.

Dessert
Strawberry cannelloni, meringue, Cheddar Valley strawberries + raspberry and beetroot marshmallows, apple jellies and orange shortbread

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.

The details:
Menus start at £29 for 2 courses and rooms from £95 to £245 per night B&B
Email: enquiries@backwellhouse.co.uk
Phone: 0117 325 110
Web: backwellhouse.co.uk
Backwell House, Farleigh Road, Bristol BS48 3QA

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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

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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.

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The first Bristol pizza festival

Yesterday, we went to the first event Bristol pizza festival, organised by Foozie. Five of the region’s pizza vendors plus craft beers, and Prosecco. Honestly, with that combination it’s hard to go wrong!

It’s exciting to be part of something that is happening for the first time. Especially if it involves food!

Tickets were only £14 and included four pizza tokens (which could get you a whole pizza or four quarters). Thankfully, there were only 500 tickets available. Gosh, in Australia you’d pay $20 and you’d get nothing, plus you’d spend the day lining up and go home cranky because you only managed to get once slice.

On top of a good range of pizza options, each pizza vendor developed a Bristol themed pizza for the event and attendees could get a quarter as part of their ticket. I thought this was a stroke of brilliance because I’m a big fan of having a bit of everything so you don’t have to decide on just one thing!

I really liked the venue too – The Station on Silver Street! The beauty of being new in town means so many of these places are new to me and we often have nothing like them in Brisbane.

As a fussy pizza eater, I decided before I went in that I would judge each of the themed pizzas, so here goes:

Pizzarova
Bristol Temple Meats – Fior Di Latte mozzarella, pancetta, ‘nduja sausage and salami Milano topped with chilli or garlic oil
I really enjoyed the flavour and texture of the dough and as far as ‘meatlovers’ pizzas go, it was pretty good! I’m a big fan of ‘nduja, so I enjoyed its firey punch.

Bristol Pizza Festival - Pizzarova

Mission Pizza
Massive Cheese Attack – cream, fire-roasted pear, Cornish Blue cheese, Fior di Latte mozzarella, Fontina, cracked black pepper, a drizzle of honey
This pizza was my number 2. The base was well-cooked and I loved the combination of flavours – the stand outs, of course, being the sweet pear and sharp blue cheese – strong but surprisingly smooth (and I’m not usually a lover of blue cheese!).

Bristol Pizza Festival - Mission Pizzas

Woodchop Pizza
PeSSto Great Britain – pesto, salami from Somerset Charcuterie and sun-dried tomatoes
Unfortunately, I think they were too busy at the time we got our PeSSto Great Britain because the base just wasn’t cooked enough. Toppings-wise, I felt the sundried tomatoes didn’t add to the overall flavour and we couldn’t taste any pesto. The Somerset Charcuterie salami was really nice though.

Bristol Pizza Festival - Woodchop Pizza

Pizza Bike
Drizzle in Brizzle – sourdough base, tomato sauce, Cheddar cheese, fresh herbs, pesto, oils
Pizza Bike had my favourite tomato base – tangy and flavourful. Unfortunately, the pizza was really difficult to eat because the base was quite soggy or undercooked, I couldn’t tell which. I really like flavour of the base though. As a sourdough lover, I’m keen to buy some of their bases to make pizza at home without the mess!

Bristol Pizza Festival - Pizza Bike

Winner – Baz & Fred
The Young Mucker – tomato, mozzarella, fennel sausage and tenderstem broccoli
For me this pizza was the winner. The based was cooked perfectly, making it easy to eat (I could eat it one-handed without the topping going everywhere). I also loved the combination and taste of the toppings – aromatic fennel always goes well with pork, and the broccoli was perfectly cooked.

Bristol Pizza Festival - Baz and Fred

Thanks for putting together Bristol’s first pizza festival, Foozie; I’m looking forward to the next one!

Karis Sign Off-01-01

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