Time for La Lola

It was a Monday and I was in Bristol looking for a place to eat. I had planned to visit The Real Greek, but they were full and had no free tables. I then decided to head over to the St Nicholas Market Glass Arcade, there would be plenty of choice there. I was thinking that Portuguese Tastes would be an option. As it was late I knew that Low and Slow would have virtually sold out (they had).

Alas Portuguese Tastes was closed, though on the other side of the market was the (new) Spanish place, La Lola

La Lola has taken over the stall, Pure Pasta, an Italian pasta place. Despite my many visits to St Nicholas Market Glass Arcade over the years, I never actually ever managed to get lunch from Pure Pasta. I had seen them fitting out the La Lola stall a few weeks back and liked the look of the menu, but had forgotten to check them out when they opened. 

La Lola have quite a limited menu, which I actually think is a good thing. Two variations of paella, eggs with chorizo or ham, and what I liked the sound of, crispy squid.

Waiting to be served was a little slow, as the couple in front of me were having a long chat (in Spanish) with the member of staff. You know me I hate queuing. However it was getting late for lunch, I was hungry and I did like the sound of the menu. Eventually I was served, maybe I was a little inpatient, I asked for the squid and wanted to eat in.

They have a couple of tables and some benches. One of the tables was free so I took that one.

It wasn’t long before my food arrived.

In a cardboard carton.

I kind of expected and hoped that it would come on a plate. Portuguese Tastes, Caribbean Wrap and The Moorish Cafe all serve their “eating in” food on plates. I was a little disappointed, I think my expectations that there would be plates was based on the display at the front of the stall which showed the (actual) dishes available served on plates.

The squid was served with “chipped” potatoes, salad and aioli.

The squid was freshly cooked, nice crisp batter, tender squid and was delicious, served with a slice of lemon. I really enjoyed the squid and it was certainly what I was expecting. The “chips” were also really good, they used fresh potatoes, I saw them peeling and cutting them up. They were more like thick crisps, as they had cut the potatoes into slices (and cut the bigger slices in half). Again cooked to order. The aioli was light with a good taste of garlic. The only part of the dish I was disappointed with was the salad. Shredded iceberg lettuce, slices of tomato, grated carrot and sweetcorn. All nice and refreshing, however no flavour. I did think that this part of the dish let the rest of the plate (sorry carton) down. I think something like a Pipirrana salad would have been nice. Pipirrana is based on four ingredients: tomatoes, peppers, onions and cucumber, dressed with  olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Now that would have been a nice Spanish option. 

Apart from the salad the dish was excellent. Service (well apart from the slow start) was great, warm, friendly. The chef checked I was happy with my meal for example.

Overall I really did enjoy the food and I look forward to returning to try out the paella, or the eggs. Hmmm choices.

Time for Bakers and Baristas

There are a fair few places you can grab a coffee at when visiting the Mall at Cribbs Causeway. I have been to fair few of them (well would you expect anything less). Back in May we were shopping at the Mall and decided to stop for coffee. Bakers and Barista wasn’t busy so we went there and had a flat white and a muffin. 

The muffin was just okay (not enough raspberries in it) and the coffee was nice.

There was a good range of food when we visited. Not a bad place to have a coffee and they have real china cups as well.

Time for Thai at the Thai Canteen

I was staying in London again and popped out to Ealing in the car to get something to eat. I wasn’t sure what I wanted. The tapas place was full (and a good meal would be a little pricey). I did initially think about Bill’s but wasn’t 100% sure. Next door was the Thai Canteen, the menu looked interesting. I walked down to Cote, but didn’t really fancy anything on the menu. So I walked back to the Thai Canteen and decided I must stop walking and go somewhere to eat. So, I looked over the menu. It was a little difficult to read outside, so I went in and was given a nice warm welcome.

The menu was quite extensive, some reminded me of my local Chinese takeaway, so I decided that I would try and have something from the Thai end of the menu.

However for my starter I went with what I have quite a lot eating out which was squid, the starter I chose was the crispy baby squid with wasabi mayonnaise.

This was a good portion of freshly cooked squid. I liked the wasabi mayonnaise, but the squid for me was too much crispy batter and not enough squid. Well it was “crispy squid” what did I expect?

For my main course I had the Yen-ta-Fore, fat rice noodles with seafood, morning glory and crispy wonton.

This was a huge bowl of food. There was a selection of seafood, and I’ll be honest I am not sure what was what. There were prawns, these I did recognise. But there was also some fish balls and some deep fried cubes of something! The broth was nice and spicy. The wontons were crispy, but quickly became soggy as they sank into the broth. It was all very tasty though.

Overall I did struggle to finish the dish, there was a lot of food, and I think if I went back I would not have had a starter.

The service was excellent and I enjoyed the food.

Coffee from another Piaggio

Needing a quick coffee (as in a real coffee) back in May, I was pleased to see close by to our office in Bristol a Coffee Piaggio.

Coffee Piaggio

Great coffee as well.

Was reminded of this Piaggio experience in London a (fair) few years back.

Time for a Christmas Meal

Generally this time of year would be the time for Christmas meals, whether that be friends or family. I have been planning our traditional Christmas meal (for Christmas Eve) but in the past I have been to various Christmas meals for various things. 

My work would do a regular Christmas event with a meal, we didn’t have one last year (2020) due to the lockdown. I also didn’t go to the meal in 2019, as the one before in 2018 had been terrible. Rubbish food and awful service, didn’t want a repeat of that experience. I did  though have an excellent meal with the team I was in, in 2019 at the Mud Dock Cafe. Then I had a tasty homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream followed by a rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

I am not attending an office Christmas meal this year, my (newish) team is rather geographically dispersed, but I did recently attend a festive gathering of our Scout Leadership team (I am a trustee). We went to the Fork ‘n’ Ale Taproom & Kitchen in Weston-super-Mare.

I drove down to the seafront, parked my car and walked to the taproom, it was blowing a gale and it was bitterly cold. I was reminded of Bill Bryson, who in Notes from a Small Island said of Weston-super-Mare.

First, you were born. This in itself is a remarkable achievement. Being born was easily the most remarkable achievement of your whole life. And think: you could just as easily have been a flatworm.

Second, you are alive. For the tiniest moment in the span of eternity you have the miraculous privilege to exist. For endless eons you were not. Soon you will cease to be once more. That you are able to sit here right now in this one never-to-be-repeated moment, reading this book, eating bon-bons, speculatively sniffing your armpits, doing whatever you are doing – just existing – is really wondrous beyond belief.

Third, you have plenty to eat, you live in a time of peace and ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ will never be number one again.

If you bear these things in mind, you will never be truly unhappy – though in fairness I must point out that if you find yourself alone in Weston-super-Mare on a rainy Tuesday evening you may come close.

It wasn’t Tuesday! Well at least it wasn’t raining, though I wish I had worn a hat. I opened the door to the Fork ‘n’ Ale and the wash of heat was welcome and needed.

First things first after finding everyone, was to buy some drinks. They had a really interesting selection of beers. As it was festive I went with the Christmas Nectar, a light beer which was delicious.

The service was excellent, friendly, warm and efficient.

For my starter I had the pulled chicken and maple bacon terrine. It was supposed to come with toasted chunky bread, but we had chunky bread (untoasted).

It was certainly an interesting concept and though I enjoyed the dish, I think it was something I wouldn’t have again. The bread was excellent though.

The turkey choice on the menu was a breaded turkey escalope with ham, and though it was turkey, the dish didn’t sound very festive, so I went with the lamb.

This was a lamb shank with a red currant and port gravy. It came with roasted potatoes carrot and parsnips. I don’t think it came with the butternut squash mentioned on the menu! Served alongside were the Forks collard greens, which was peas, beans, courgette and cabbage. 

The lamb was kind of what I was expecting, slow cooked lamb in a delicious gravy. The lamb was very tender and I enjoyed it. I expected it was brought into the pub and then heated as required and served, nothing special, but still tasty.

I did think though that the accompaniments were excellent, the roasted parsnip and carrots were delicious and I really enjoyed the collard greens. I could have done with a few more potatoes, but they were nice and crisp.

I would have preferred cheese and biscuits to finish, but that wasn’t on the menu, so I went with the brownie and ice cream. They had run out of coffee ice cream, so we were given a choice of a range of flavours. I went with vanilla.

The brownie was moist and had a rich chocolate flavour. That was a great end to the meal.

I have in the past had some terrible festive meals, this one was rather good. Some interesting choices made about the menu, but I did think there was some really tasty food on offer.

I had never been to the Fork ‘n’ Ale pub before to eat, actually not been there to drink either. They have a great choice of beers and the food was interesting, I think I would visit again.

Nice flat white

flat white

Killing some time before my train I went to Caffè Nero at Central St Giles. Nice warm welcome from the staff and I ordered my usual favourite, a flat white. I didn’t order anything to eat (as I wasn’t very hungry). I found a place to sit and drink the coffee. It was a really nice coffee, and a nice place as well.

Now this looks interesting

Saw this at my local Sainsburys supermarket.

It is a gluten free Katsu curry cooking kit.

I have been looking for such a kit or a while, so will be trying it out at some point.

It is nice to see such a greater range of gluten free foods in supermarkets these days. Though I do find that I still need to go to different supermarkets quite often as the ranges differ so much in each supermarket. For example I have to go to Waitrose for the Davina Steel pizza and focaccia bread mixes we like. The focaccia is great for making dough balls. I find the pasta range at Sainsbury’s really good. Asda sell some gluten free flour for 45p which is significantly cheaper than other brands which are around the £1.70 range. They don’t do the Schär Curvies (Pringle style crisps) which I get from Morrisons or Tesco.

Time for (an old) paella

Back in December 2016 I made a paella. I cooked the dish with rice,  chorizo, langoustine, squid and prawns. The langoustine added an element of luxury to the dish, but it was all very tasty.

Rice Salad

We have rice salad quite a lot, usually more often in the summer, but if I have cooked more rice than we need, then I might use the surplus to make a simple rice salad.

I have found I prefer basmati rice over long grain rice for a rice salad, but either will do.

My usual additions are sweetcorn, diced peppers, diced onions, peas, mushrooms, spring onions and courgette.

I use to dress my rice salads with mayonnaise, now I use a little olive oil, white wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Slow Roasted Pork Salad

Back in the summer for an evening meal, we had slow roasted pork belly with potatoes and salad.

The pork belly was from M&S and comes already seasoned. It has no rind, so you don’t get crackling, but slow roasting usually (for me results) in rubbery crackling anyhow. It is a tasty joint and a favourite in our house.

I did small roast potatoes, using Maris Piper potatoes which are par boiled and then roasted in hot oil in the oven. I generally add a little butter towards the end of cooking to add colour and a final crispness.

The salad included a personal favourite of thinly sliced raw cauliflower in a spicy mayonnaise. We first had this eating out at a  cafe in Wapping Wharf in Bristol. We stole the idea and now have it on a regular basis.

Overall a delicious meal and very tasty.