Grilling in Euston

So I was staying overnight on the Euston Road before heading off to France on the Eurostar the following morning.

Having been walking around earlier I had noticed the Cattle and Co and it looked both inviting and interesting.

Cattle and Co

Having looked at the online menu I had quite liked the idea of chargrilled squid, which regular readers of the blog will know I quite like.

However the online menu must be slightly out of date as there was no squid on the menu, however to compensate there was a selection of grills that I hadn’t seen online.

Of the starters I did think about the Buttermilk Wings, but the “Now we talkin’” spice rating of the Buffalo Sauce made me think again.

I was tempted by a couple of items on the main menu. If I was really hungry I probably would have gone for the The Cattle Platter.

The formidable showcase of what we’re about here at Cattle & Co. St Louis Rib, Beef Short Rib, Smoked Chicken Thigh, Honey & Beer onion rings, and in just in case you needed something else; Fries. A wheelbarrow taxi service home also available upon request. No judgement here, we’ve all been there.

As I wasn’t starving (and I was eating alone) then decided that at £35 it was a bit extravagant to go for something that sounded delicious.

I also quite liked the sound of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken as well as the Angus Short Rib.

Now we’re talking. Our imported smoker really showing off its potential with this dish. Hickory smoked on-site for at least 12 hours (Low and Slow), Pickles, Sauce, AND Your choice of Fries.

In the end decided to go down the “specials” route and have a grill. The grills covered a range of prices, but was tempted by either the hangar steak or the lamb rump. In the end I went with the lamb.

It was served with a confit tomato, mushrooms, a green salad and some melted garlic butter. I did order a side order of truffle and parmesan fries.

Grilled Lamb Rump

I had expected the fries to be served with a large helping of freshly grated parmesan and grated truffle. That expectation was based on seeing a similar dish at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. However I didn’t see any real evidence of either parmesan or truffle. The fries were nice and I did enjoy eating them.

So what of the lamb? The lamb was cooked how I asked, the cut was full of flavour and it was really tender. I really enjoyed the chargrill which imparted a great flavour and hadn’t been overdone. I couldn’t believe how tender it was, easy to cut with a regular knife.

I also enjoyed the other accompaniments on the board. The tomato was lovely and tender, yet still full of flavour, so much nicer than just either a chargrilled tomato half or even an uncooked one. The mushrooms were nice as was the salad.

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. I should say it took some time for my food to arrive, but I wasn’t in a hurry and good food does take some time to cook. I think there were quite a few people in the other side of the restaurant by the kitchen, it was much quieter on the side I was in by the bar.

Would I like to go again? Yes I would.

Great Greek Food

I am quite surprised by the turnover of restaurants in Cabot Circus. The branch of Cafe Rouge closed and was replaced by a Five Guys burger place. La Tasca, the Spanish tapas bar was shut down and the location became a Wagamama.

The Chimmi-Changa restaurant which I remembering visiting once, has recently closed and has been replaced with a new Greek place, The Real Greek. I did quite like the Chimmi-Changa concept, but having eaten there once, and rarely if ever having lunchtime specials, it wasn’t a place I ever went to again. If other people were thinking like me, not surprised it closed.

Obviously the whole place has been refurbished and has more of a New England feel to the place then a Greek taverna. There is a lot of blue coloured wood. It’s calm and welcoming.

The Real Greek

The Real Greek has a great lunchtime menu, and if I visit again I will probably choose from that and it looks like great value. Looking over the main menu, they have a range of hot and cold meze dishes. I had two dishes, the grilled kalamari and the lamb cutlets. I had considered going with one of the lunchtime specials, but really wanted to eat squid and lamb, as they are two of my favourite foods and also are considered Greek specialities. They weren’t on the lunch menu, but the meze dishes are still good value for money.

The menu describes the lamb as grilled lamb cutlets, served with lentils and minted Greek yoghurt.

grilled lamb cutlets, served with lentils and minted Greek yoghurt

Though advertised as a meze dish this was quite a substantial plate of food. As well as three grilled tender lamb cutlets, they were arranged on a bed of tasty lentils. The flavour was great and really tasty.

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant on how they cook squid. The dish looked interesting and not quite how I imagined. The squid was tender and tasty, the marinade wasn’t overpowering and enhanced the dish.

Overall I really enjoyed the food, it was fresh, tasty and looked great. The service was really good, friendly and welcoming without being overpowering.

Time for teriyaki lamb

I do enjoy my visits to Wagamama, though I haven’t been for a while. The Cribbs Causeway branch of Wagamama doesn’t have the most welcoming environment, it feels like it is perched on a Mezzanine and certainly doesn’t have that warm cosy feeling that a more traditional Wagamama has. Having said that the staff were welcoming and we had excellent service.

I went with the grilled teriyaki lamb with mushrooms, asparagus, kale and mangetout served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea, herb and wasabi dressing.

Time for teriyaki lamb

The teriyaki lamb was one of the specials and was one of the more expensive dishes on the menu. My food arrived last (and later than expected) compared to the rest of the table. The policy of Wagamama is that the food arrives when it is ready and not necessarily all together. I don’t see this as too much of a problem if this was a tapas or mezze, or even a oriental buffet. It feels slightly wrong though when you are a family eating out and the food you’ve ordered arrives at different times you’re not sure if you should wait (and your food goes cold) or start and sit around as you wait for others to finish!

Once my lamb had arrived it looked great, it tasted great too. The lamb was tender and quite spicy. I liked the noodles and the dressing. It was quite salty though.

So what’s close by?

I have really enjoyed my previous visits to Wahaca, visiting central London and looking for somewhere to eat, I did wonder if there was a Wahaca close by, a quick search and 0.2 miles away on Charlotte Street.

This is a very different establishment to the one on the South Bank, more traditional in appearance from the outside. Inside it felt more like the one on the South Bank, the furniture was very similar. The staff were friendly and welcoming. Inside there were the similar tables and chairs, but as the place isn’t made from shipping containers, the walls were brick and the ceilings high.

Looking over the menu, I decided to go with one of the specials as they were different from those at my last visit. There was a choice of two, so I went with the lamb taquito, this was slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla.

slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla

Unlike my previous experience with taquitos, these were very tasty, strong flavours. The fried tortilla was nice and crip and I enjoyed the accompanying slaw.

I also went with the Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

These were smoky chargrilled chicken, avocado, guacamole, chipotle mayo and fresh slaw. This was delicious and refreshing. A wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

I did also order a dish I had before, and went with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa.

three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa

They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole. As before they were delicious. I was asked if I wanted grilled cheese with them, I said no, but they arrived with the grilled cheese. I felt this added very little to the dish and wasn’t really needed, pleased that I wasn’t charged for this extra.

Another enjoyable visit to Wahaca and some great food.

Time for a salad

St Nicholas Market

If you are in Bristol looking for somewhere to lunch, there are lots of chains of restaurants and coffee shops across the city centre; however those looking for something different, tasty, individual and good value, need to look no further than St Nicholas Market. Within the narrow passages you can find all manner of foods and tasty treats. The range of smells, flavours and colours as you walk between the crowded stalls both stimulates and inspires, as well as making your mouth water. The choice is almost overwhelming, you can choose Portuguese, Chinese, Caribbean, Moorish, Italian, Vegetarian, Vegan, Modern, American BBQ, so much choice you often have no idea where to start. The place is usually packed and there are long queues for virtually all the stands, so I am sure they move quite quickly otherwise people wouldn’t join them.

Down in the St Nicholas market there is the Kofta Bar, well I think it’s the Kofta Bar, the aprons of the staff say the Olive Company. Well whatever they are called, if you do know please let me know in the comments, they do offer some lovely food, including freshly made wraps.

The salad boxes are my favourite. You get to make four choices from a wide variety of salads and what they call tapas choices.

They include cous-cous, mixed pulses, butterbeans in harissa dressing, Greek style salad, dolmas, sun dried tomatoes, pesto pasta salad, pecorino salad, falafel and a wide choice of olives.

On top of this you can choose between hummus, focaccia or flat bread as an extra.

There is also a choice of dressings, including pesto, yoghurt and harrisa. What this means is that it makes very easy never to have the same salad twice.

You can have extras added to the salad, a choice of lamb kofta, grilled chicken or halloumi.

The cost of a salad box is £4.50 and with the addition of 50p you can choose from a choice of cans of San Pellegrino or a bottle of water. Lamb and chicken salad boxes are a reasonable £5.50.

Though I’ve not tried them, the wraps look equally tasty.

So if you are looking for a nice salad for lunch then I would recommend the salad bar in St Nick’s market.

A Wonderful Staff BBQ

Spit Roasted Lamb

The catering students and staff at Gloucestershire College did an outstanding event last week. Every year the college staff get together in an annual barbecue. Now for a lot of people a big event like this means well done burgers, cheap sausages and if you’re lucky a chicken drumstick, still raw in the middle…

Well this staff event was totally different. There were three food stands. The first wasn’t really a barbecue, but was paella. This was a really well cooked paella with huge kings prawns. This was really nice and very tasty, even if it was a but messy shelling the prawns. There was a vegetarian alternative for those that didn’t want to eat fish. I should say (for regular readers of the blog) that it appeared they had stirred their paella…

The barbecue stand had a nice choice of vegetarian kebabs, satay chicken and barbecued pork ribs. The ribs were perfect, the meat fell off the bone and was beautifully tender. So good you could use a knife and fork, so need to get sticky fingers. I didn’t try the chicken as when I arrived at the stand they had run out and were cooking a new batch. The vegetarian kebab was perfectly cooked and the halloumi cheese that was on there alongside the vegetables was delicious.

My favourite stand though was the Moroccan lamb wrap. They had spit roasted a whole lamb and this was served in a wrap with houmous, yoghurt, sliced courgette and chilli. Absolutely delicious. For those that didn’t eat lamb there was a really nice looking butternut squash alternative.

This was outstanding high quality food for a superb event. It was an extra special event this year as our Principal is retiring.

Winter Fuel

The Dining Room at the Gloucester Campus at Gloucestershire College is in many ways one of the best places I have ever eaten at in an educational institution. They use fresh ingredients and cook the food everyday. There is no pre-processed food here, well not too much. There are usually at least three options on the menu. A recent meal was homemade Lancashire Hotpot served with mashed swede and carrot and cabbage.

Lancashire Hotpot served with mashed swede and carrot and cabbage

Perfect food for a cold winter’s day. The lamb was very tender and full of flavour, the potatoes on the top were cooked through with crispy edges. Overall a delicious meal and excellent value at £3.10.

It’s not the best educational place I have eaten at though (and remember I haven’t eaten everywhere). I use to work at City of Bristol College in the 1990s (or as it was back then Brunel College) and they, like a lot of colleges had a training restaurant. I never use to eat there for lunch, as they did full silver service, you had to have three courses and as a result needed a couple of hours for lunch, and even back then no one had that sort of time for lunch. Then one year a decision was made to move the restaurant from a silver service restaurant to a bistro approach. As a result you could have just a main course and service speeds were much faster, so you could order, eat and pay the bill in about 30 minutes, perfect for a lunchtime in a busy college day. It was also so much nicer than eating a sandwich at your desk. The food was excellent, I remember it been cooked to perfection and seasoned correctly and delicious. There was something rather nice about having a restaurant quality meal for lunch during a busy day, had a really positive impact on morale.

Alas it was a short term venture and before we really grasped what a good idea it was, the concept was reversed. The result, we stopped going there for lunch.

Agnello Tagliatelle

Celebrating a birthday we went to Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway for lunch. We did look at the menu at Frankie and Benny’s, but after our last experience there, we decided that actually it might be better to go somewhere else.

Entering the restaurant we were guided to our table, the place seemed very empty. However due to the design and layout of the restaurant, though noticeable there weren’t too many people in there, it didn’t feel empty and lonely, as some places can.

Looking over the menu, I did consider going with the cheaper fixed price lunchtime offering, but in the end I went with a pasta dish from the main menu. I chose the Agnello Tagliatelle, slow cooked lamb and red wine ragu with fresh egg tagliatelle and Parmesan shavings, from the Abruzzo region of Italy.

Agnello Tagliatelle

It looked great and was very tasty. The lamb and ragu had strong flavours that weren’t overpowering. The pasta was not overcooked and had texture. Certainly not the best fresh pasta I’ve had, but very good. My only real criticism was that the Parmesan shavings were a little too thick for my liking.

Service was initially very fast, but slowed down to a crawl by the time we asked for the bill! Overall a really nice dish and at £9.95 was very reasonable.

Lamb Kebab Baguette

The last time I went to Caffe Gusto at the Mall I was impressed with the quality of the food and friendly staff. Back then I ordered I ordered the Shish Kebab in Pitta Bread with an Americano.

The lamb was reasonably tender, nicely cooked and well flavoured. The fries were really nice and the salad was fresh. Overall I had an excellent meal and was pleased with what I had. I would go again.

So when I was at the Mall recently and looking to get some lunch I decided once more to go to Caffe Gusto. This time I ordered the Shish Kebab in a Baguette with an Americano.

The lamb again was cooked nicely and was tender. As before the fries were nice and the salad fresh. However I don’t think the dish really worked for me, but that wasn’t the fault of Caffe Gusto, more mine for ordering what I did. I think the problem was that the baguette was quite crusty and as a result the lamb fell out as I ate it. Might have been okay with the bread on the side, but as a sandwich type meal it didn’t work. So if you are going to order this dish, go for pitta bread and don’t go for the baguette!

Conference Dining

I don’t go to as many conferences as people often think, but I do probably photograph my food at most of them…

Recently I was attending a review meeting at Aston University and we had dinner the night before at the Aston Business School. Unlike a lot of conference dinners we had a choice, which is always nice. Also not only a choice, but we could choose on the night. Normally choice is either completely limited to a single choice, or if there is a choice you have to make that choice weeks in advance. I’m not a fan of that as often what tickles my fancy weeks ago, is not what I want to eat on the night! So having the choice on the evening I am eating is a real treat.

For my starter I went with the warm tartlet of chorizo, mushrooms and roasted shallots.

In other words a quiche! It was quite tasty and very nice. It was well presented too.

For the main dish, I went with the slow cooked blade of beef with a bourguignon sauce, served with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans.

The beef was very tender and was full of flavour. I would have liked more sauce, as in places the beef was a little dry. The potatoes were great and the beans were beans.

I was tempted by the other dishes on the menu, the slow braised shoulder of Moroccan lamb with North African cous cous when it arrived on the table looked really nice.

The cassoulet of beans with Gorgonzola polenta and roasted aubergine also looked great.

What was nice was that there were two vegetarian options, most times you have the single choice of a mushroom risotto.

So what about to finish with, well I am a sucker for cheese and biscuits and went with that.

Very nice, even with the large amount of celery, which I never eat. I did feel that if you provide four biscuits it would be nice to have at least four pieces of cheese. I felt short-changed with the cheese, it needed more cheese, or more different cheeses.

Must mention the excellent service, any place which has a table of twenty as we did and know who ordered what is a real bonus. The food came out and was served to the correct people. So much nicer than someone holding out a dish and calling out “who ordered the fish?”

Overall it was a really nice meal, nice to have a choice, cooked well, great service and nice surroundings.