Time for a Samba Box

I really do enjoy visiting street food markets. It’s something I have missed during the pandemic and lockdown. I have been virtually working from home every day since lockdown in March 2020 and therefore haven’t needed to go out and grab some lunch. I’ve gone out, just not for lunch.

I have visited our offices in Bristol now and then, but have only had a couple of meals from the street food markets, some great paella and a delicious bento box.

With some in-person meetings and really an opportunity for a change in scenery and routine I spent part of the week up in London, the first time I had been working in London since March 2020.

It was a nice if a little grey day, so I headed out for a lunchtime walk and see what there was around.

In the part of London where our office was, it felt quiet and empty, again compared to Bristol which is much busier and more crowded. The streets were deserted and there was very little traffic. I was not surprised to see many of my coffee haunts and places I would go for lunch were either shut or had closed down. However there were still some places operating, but a lot less busy than eighteen months ago.

As I walked around I did wonder if the Leather Lane street food market was up and running and I was pleased to see it was. There wasn’t as many stalls as there has been on previous visits. It also didn’t help that I was having a late lunch, so many of the stalls were either shutting up or had run out of food.

After browsing the stalls I took the decision to have a Brazilian Samba Box. I had to queue, and then it started raining, but I stuck with it and stayed in the queue.

I chose the chargrilled chicken thighs which were served with Rio rice, black beans, coleslaw and lettuce.

It looked great and was very tasty.

The chicken was still tender and moist, I thought it might be a bit dry (as it was a last minute thing) but it wasn’t full of flavour. I liked the salad and the rice was nice as well.

I had mine served with chimichurri which was a nice accompaniment.

I really enjoyed the whole box and it was so nice to have something different, fresh and tasty.

Time for some paella

There are some street food stalls which serve amazing food and I see them on a regular basis, but for whatever reason when I am decided and choosing what to eat, they don’t get picked and I go to another stall. I think to myself I will go there when I come back to this street food market. Riceminster who sell traditional Valencian Paella alas fall into this trap.

Today I was at the Bristol Temple Quay street food market and it was rather busy, busier than it was last week.

Bristol Temple Quay Market

There was a range of stalls, some familiar faces from last week, but plenty of others who were there this week and not last time. I was pleased to see it was busy, as that means there is a good chance that it will keep going and not be disappear. I was also slightly concerned as I was in a bit of a rush and most stalls had long queues.

Having seen the Facebook post about the market I had initially thought that I would hit High Steaks: Delicious Argentine inspired steak sandwiches using the best locally sourced beef, topped off with their signature chimichurri. 

Having seen both the ordering queue and the collection queue, I thought, I might not have time and I would have to rush my food. Looking elsewhere I saw that the queue for Ah Ma’s Dumplings was quite short (but there is still a cooking process for pan frying the dumplings). The queue for Riceminster was short as well, and I thought I did enjoy their paella and have been meaning to try their food again, so joined the queue.

Riceminster stall

It moved quickly and there was a choice of a chicken paella or a vegan paella. The only real difference was that the chicken one had chicken in and cost an extra pound, and the vegan one had mushrooms and vegetables.

I ordered the vegan version, I was given the chance to add garlic aioli for another pound, I said no, then lemon and chilli, I opted for just the lemon juice.

Taking it back to the office and eating at my desk I really enjoyed the paella. It was excellent, authentic and very tasty. Maybe a little salty for my tastes, but still really nice.

I thought I had been to Riceminster relatively recently, however back home, checking back through the blog (they weren’t on here) though there is a solitary Instagram photo of some delicious paella  from April 2017.

Had it really been four years since I had ordered food from them? It must have been as I do usually photograph my food. I can’t recall if I had had their paella between then and now, I may have done.

I did enjoy my paella today, so next time when I am looking for something to eat and try to remember get the paella, it’s tasty!

We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.

Time to go back and visit Wagamama

The last place we went out to eat before the lockdown in March 2020 was Wagamama at Cribbs Causeway.

We had thought that places might close or be restricted, so took a final opportunity to go out and eat.

Though we have eaten out since that visit, wanting to go out and eat for Father’s Day my children decided that we would go to Wagamama. The fact that we couldn’t book a table didn’t seem to deter them…

We drove up to the Mall, and like on our recent visit a few days earlier the M5 was rather busy.

However we did mange to get their okay. We had decided to eat at 2pm, so we could miss the lunchtime rush. Despite that when we got into the Mall there was quite a long queue for Wagamama. Though I prefer not to queue, this time I knew there were very few alternatives around and my children had their heart set on going there, so we decided to wait. The queue actually moved quite fast and we took the time while we were waiting to peruse the menu.

I was really torn about what I was going to have. I did think about having the cod mokutan soba which I had back in 2019 and despite the initial dish being burnt the returned dish was much better. Interestingly back then I said

It was the kind of dish I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t have it again on another visit.

I did quite like the idea of having it again this time, shows what do I know about what I like!

Another dish which caught my eye was the grilled duck donburi. 

tender, shredded duck in a spicy teriyaki sauce. mixed with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice and topped with a crispy fried egg, cucumber and spring onions. served with a side of kimchee

Or the teriyaki sirloin steak soba.

grilled sirloin steak with soba noodles cooked in curry oil with mangetout, bok choi, red and spring onions, chilli and beansprouts in a teriyaki sauce. garnished with coriander and sesame seeds

In the end after much consideration and flip flopping I went with the  shirodashi ramen

slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

The rest of the family went with their choices, yaki soba, chicken raisukaree, gluten free chicken ramen and chicken and rice noodles.

As is typical at Wagamama for me, everyone else’s dish arrived well before mine, and I was waiting for while for my food. The others trying to be polite wanted to wait, but I didn’t want their food to go cold. Anyhow I can eat quite fast, so was okay with them eating.

This serving as food as soon as it is ready, does mean that you get your food fresh, reality is that unless you don’t mind eating your dish whilst others have none, it strikes me more as lazy planning than “serving food as soon as it’s ready”.

Finally my food arrived and though not quite as good as the pictures on the website it did look nice.

shirodashi ramen  slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

I had anticipated the slow cooked pork belly to be tender and soft, but actually was crispy, which I wasn’t expecting.

I did enjoy the ramen and it was very tasty and delicious.

I did think about having a beer with my ramen, but in the end went with a  jasmine flowering tea – flowering lily and jasmine green tea.

asmine flowering tea - flowering lily and jasmine green tea

It looked great and tasted nice, it reminded me of the flowering tea I had at Tea Monkey in Bath back in 2012.

I wasn’t going to have desert, but was persuaded to by everyone at the table, and it was Father’s Day. Though I did think about cheesecake, I went with the smoked chocolate caramel cake.

For some reason I wasn’t expecting to get a slice of cake! But I did, the cake was layers of smoked chocolate mousse, salted caramel crushed biscuits, chocolate fudge brownie and chocolate ganache, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

smoked chocolate caramel cake

Not as rich as it sounds and the ice cream added freshness and balance.

Overall we all enjoyed the meal, and the service was excellent.

Nice to be back.

Time for that delicious bento box

On Thursday this week I went to the office in Bristol, which was quiet, but the change of scenery and routine was very welcome. It was a nice warm day, but rather overcast. At lunchtime I thought I would venture over to the Temple Quay market and see what was there. I was thinking I might be in the mood for some chicken wings from Gurt Wings, but decided I would have a look around first. I got there quite early and was slightly saddened to see that fewer stalls than there was pre-covid, but pleased however to see the street food market still running. There was quite a range.

Niang’s Thai Snacks:  Authentic Thai street food using organic, free range and locally sourced ingredients.  Dishes include vegan yellow curry, penang pork, crispy marinated chicken and fried spicy noodles.

Alp Mac: Mac & cheese with an array of exciting ingredients such as truffled mushrooms, red wine and blue cheese salami, slow roasted tomatoes and confit chicken. Served with their signature 4 cheese blend sauce and trimmings.

She Sells Sushi: Serving up a new menu that has been going down a treat – outstanding Japanese dishes including chicken Katsu curry, beef Donburi, pumpkin Korokke and smoked tofu curry. Plus kimchi fries, Teriyaki and sushi.

Gurt Wings:  Buttermilk soaked chicken wings and strips, coated in herbs and spices and served with potter tots on the side and dips and sauces including Oh Gurty Carolina, garlic & lime mayo, sweet BBQ and fruit burst habanero.

Gopal’s Curry Shack: Vibrant and creative Indian street food, with contemporary twists on classic dishes made with seasonal local produce.  

Los Hermanos Combinados:  Inventive street food with big Spanish flavours including sugar cured pork belly, slow cooked chicken and chargrilled aubergine.

Woodchop Pizza:  Traditional Neapolitan style pizza made with quality Italian and local ingredients and a sourdough base, cooked in a wood fired oven. 

The Kitchen Chef:  Delicious handmade patisserie and cakes, with chocolate brownies, seasonal fruit tarts, legendary key lime pie, macarons… and so much more!

Such a choice and many of my favourites. I did like the Alp Mac van and their menu looked interesting.

I did think about Gurt Wings but after looking around I realised that the last time I had eaten She Sells Sushi was probably November 2019. I had been missing their bento boxes, so in many ways it was a no brainer, so I went with my favourite bento box with Beef Donburi and an Hirata Bao Bun. The menu had changed, and the choice for the Bao were Pumpkin Korokke or Chicken Katsu.

The Beef Donburi is succulent short rib slow cooked in a teriyaki style marinade of soy, fresh ginger and garlic. It was served on a bed of rice  with beni shoga, mayu and spring onion.

It was as I remembered, delicious and full of flavour. The beef was meltingly tender and the garnishes added to the dish. I’ve always loved the care and attention that Lisa pays to each and every dish. This isn’t just thrown together to order, this is food artistry made with love and passion. The result is amazing cooking and excellent food. I really enjoyed eating the dish and did think about going back for seconds.

I’ve always enjoyed the Hirata Bao Buns from She Sells Sushi, and was interested to see what the Chicken Katsu version was going to be like compared to the Finzel Flapper and pork belly versions I have had in the past. I did wonder if the chicken was going to be covered in panko breadcrumbs, but it was done in a tempura batter. The steamed bun is made with activated charcoal. It was served with some shredded cabbage.

Though very tasty and really enjoyable I did think the batter on the chicken was slightly soft and lacked the crispness of the Finzel Flappers I have had in the past. I did like it though.

The bento box from She Sells Sushi is one of my favourite street food dishes and I have really missed not just street food in general  over lockdown but this dish in particular.

Time for some Portuguese Tastes

Over the last year I have missed going to street food markets, so have been reflecting on nice meals I have had in the past. Whilst going through photographs of my food I realised I had never mentioned Portuguese Taste in all my blog posts on food from St Nicholas Market.

This was quite interesting as I realised that I had eaten there many times over the years I have been working in Bristol. It is one of my favourite stalls in the market. They have a real mix of dishes and every day there are different choices.

I had a delicious Portuguese Chicken meal back in December 2017 which consisted of chicken in a cream sauce served with rice, potatoes and salad.

It is a weird thing I find to have rice and potatoes, but that’s how they serve a fair few of their dishes. The menu has some quite inspiring choices and fish makes a regular appearance as does lamb and pork.

One dish I have had a few times is Portuguese Pork Steaks with Egg.

This was the plate I had in April 2016.

Whilst here is the same dish from a visit in July 2017.

The pork can be a little chewy, but the slow cooked onions and egg really add to the dish.

In May 2016 I had this dish.

I think this was also pork and egg dish, but came with a spicy tomato sauce and no salad!

Though the stall is somewhat small, they do have tables and chairs and I would usually eat my lunch inside the stall. Mainly as it was hot, and it came on a proper plate, but was a nice change from eating in the office out of a cardboard box!

That time I had a Smoke Catering BBQ Box

Over the last year I have missed going to street food markets, so have been reflecting on nice meals I have had in the past.

Back in June 2017 I was working in Bristol and looking for a place to eat to have some lunch. I went to the Temple Quay Market which had a wide range of stalls from which to choose from.

In the end I chose the BBQ Box from Smoke Catering. I had really enjoyed the BBQ Box I had in March of that year. It was an easy choice to make as I liked the food.

The box contained homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. On top of the box was some smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and a smoked pork and chilli sausage. 

Smoke Catering BBQ Box - smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and a smoked pork and chilli sausage

It was delicious. The mash was smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The slaw was fresh and crunchy. The beans spicy and full of flavour.  

The smoked beef brisket was tender and delicious, it was melt in the mouth. I like the tender beef and the crunch of the barbecued outside. I remember when I went to a barbecue restaurant in Glasgow and ordering smoked beef brisket and getting a little disappointed as that beef was dry and nothing like the beautifully flavoured and tender beef brisket from Smoke Catering.

The sausage was very meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower.

I also enjoyed the smoked and pulled pork, which was tender and tasty, though I preferred the sausage and the beef.

Hopefully some time in the future I can get some more excellent food from Smoke Catering.

Time for tea and a scone

So there we were visiting the Cadbury Garden Centre, in Congresbury in North Somerset. We have been going there for years for garden stuff, other stuff and usually we stop for coffee and cake, or tea and a scone.

Of course with the restrictions in place, they have been forced to close their eating places. So it was nice this weekend with the easing of restrictions that we could go for tea and a scone in their cafe.

They had taken the time during lockdown to refurbish their cafe areas They have gone for a retro Victorian tearoom look to their eating area, Costa has gone and they now resemble posh tearooms. They are very white and bright.

It might be a Blue Diamond thing, as on a recent visit to Sanders Garden Centre they were also refurbishing their eating areas, in a similar but not quite the same style.

They had also lost their Costa franchise as well.

So back to Cadbury, with some restrictions still in place they have moved to table service. So you choose your own table and when you are ready to order you show a green card!

We got promptly served, we chose a tea and coffee, well a flat white, and shared a cream scone. We paid there and then which was convenient.

The service was quite fast, but they did in fact forget our scone as they hadn’t read their ticket properly. The fact that it was the manager who had forgotten was quite amusing, as she told us, she is always telling the staff to read their tickets properly!

The flat white was really good, nice and strong. The tea was served in a lovely china pot and a matching cup and saucer.

The scone was nice and fresh, fluffy and light and came with jam and cream, but no butter. It was rather nice and tasty. We weren’t rushed and after we had finished we went to do some plant shopping.

Chargrilled Lamb Shish Kebab

Now as we leave the third lockdown I have been reflecting on some street food I had over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I just plain forget to write up the meal. 

So this is quite a long wait for this review which was four years ago in May 2017 It was a beautiful sunny day in Bristol and during my lunch break I popped out for a walk and went down to the Temple Quay street food market.

There were lots of choices and lots of people queuing. One of the challenges of the Temple Quay street food market is deciding what to choose. In the end the smell of the charcoal grill and the menu on MurrayMays van was very tempting.

The Lamb Shish kebab was £6.50 which is a more than I usually spend for lunch (well it was back then in 2017). However it sounded so good. It was charcoal grilled marinated salt marsh lamb leg, smokey babaganoush, wild garlic, pesto and preserved lemon. The kebab was served with a house salad, flatbread and dukkah pomegranate.

It looked great, despite the big preserved chilli on top, which in the end I didn’t eat.

The lamb was tender and had so much flavour. I really liked the flavour that the charcoal grilled process added. The accompaniments were excellent and a nice mix of taste and textures.

Despite really enjoying the dish, and having a similar dish in October 2017 as well, I don’t think I have made a return visit to the MurrayMays van. Sometimes I think this is because I fancy something else, or the queue for the van looks too long. However I also noticed on return visits that the  Lamb Shish kebab wasn’t on the menu, and the other menu items didn’t appeal. However now as we ease lockdown and I expect to be in Bristol quite a lot more now, I think I will search out the MurrayMays van and have another kebab for my lunch.

We waited a day…

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, restaurants from the 12th April were allowed to open for outside eating only. To be honest I wasn’t that excited about this, however with my birthday on the 13th we made the decision to go out to eat to celebrate. Last year on my birthday we were in the full lockdown and there was very little we could go and do, so had a lovely celebration at home and we had a fish supper with stir fry. So this year we were thinking could we do something different and could we go out to eat. 

We booked a table at Zizzi at Cabot Circus in Bristol. This is “outside” but is in many ways under some kind of cover as well. So if it did rain, it shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on the experience. We did wrap up warm though.

We had a warm if slightly confused welcome from the manager and we were shown to our table.

The paper disposable menus provided a wide choice, but I did quite fancy pizza so I went with the Rustica Primavera which has goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes & super green pesto.

It looked great when it arrived.

Rustica Primavera

I really liked the freshness of the spinach, rocket and fresh pesto on the pizza. Though I like goat’s cheese, I actually think that I might prefer this pizza without it. The dough base was nice, and as it was stretched some areas were thin and cripsy, whilst other parts of the pizza were thick and doughy. I liked the olives and artichokes along with the tomatoes and peppers.

I have had this pizza before, and enjoyed it back then too.

Overall a very tasty pizza.