A nautical theme

Before the pandemic I would travel a fair bit for work and stay overnight in cities across the UK. In August last year I had a meeting in Liverpool and was staying at The Liner Hotel. 

This hotel has a real nautical theme to it, complete with portholes in reception as well as extensive use of blue and white in the rooms.

Having arrived quite late into Liverpool I decided I really should get something to eat. I initially thought about eating at the hotel, then thought I would find somewhere cheaper in the heart of the city. As I looked around the place I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted and walked round for a bit. I didn’t really know what I wanted so never actually could decide what I wanted. In the end, as it was getting late I went back to the hotel and decided to have a late dinner there.

The welcome was warm and friendly. The place wasn’t very busy (well it was quite late) and I looked over the menu. I started off with some halloumi and felafel kebabs.

These were very nice and well presented.

For my main course I went with a favourite of mine lamb rump.

This was served with cabbage and some very nice, but brightly coloured, beetroot gnocchi. It was a little salty for my taste, but was cooked well and an interesting dish to look at and taste.

I ran out of time for pudding, but I was quite full as well. I did in fact really quite enjoy my meal.

Candy Stripe and Golden revisited

A few years ago Morrisons sold some prepared vegetables, “The Best” Root Vegetable Roasting Selection. This contained baby parsnips, Chantenay carrots and interestingly candy stripe and golden beetroot. This we had on a regular basis, however they’ve stopped doing it, and they still don’t sell the candy stripe and golden beetroots loose. However the farmers market at St Nicks in Bristol on do sell them loose. When I am in Bristol on market’s day I try and get one of each for Sunday lunch. Unlike supermarket veg, these are varied in shape and size and are quite muddy as well.

I usually just cut them into chunks and roast them in the oven. I usually add some chantenay carrots, onions and parsnips to the roasting tray. Maybe also thrown in some garlic and herbs, rosemary works well.

candy strip and golden beetroot, chantenay carrots, onions and parsnips

It’s a pity that this method causes the candy stripe beetroot to lose its distinctive look. After watching the chefs on The Great British Menu I have been thinking about pickling them instead, to retain their stripes. The flavour is very much like purple beetroot, but not as strong. These also avoid the staining of the purple ones.

If you can get hold of them they are worth giving them a go.

Candy Stripe and Golden

I do enjoy roasted vegetables and my usual recipe consists of parsnips, carrots and onions. Occasionally I will add courgettes and mushrooms.

Glancing at the prepared vegetable section in Morrisons is not something I do very often, I much prefer to prepare my own vegetables. This is because not only is it usually cheaper, but I do a better job than the pre-prepared stuff

I was however intrigued by their “The Best” Root Vegetable Roasting Selection. This contained baby parsnips, Chantenay carrots and interestingly candy stripe and golden beetroot.

Now I couldn’t find unprepared candy stripe and golden beetroot in the store, so I thought, well why not? Even though it is sold as “prepared” I still did some additional preparation. I topped and tailed the baby parsnips, I cut in half the bigger pieces of beetroot and for the bigger parsnips I split them in half.

The pack comes with a roundel of butter, which you remove before you start cooking and add ten to twenty minutes towards the end.

“The Best” Root Vegetable Roasting Selection

I really enjoyed the vegetables, they were tasty and the beetroot was very different and added something special to the dish.

A little piece of France in Bristol

La Buvette in Bristol

Down on Baldwin Street in the heart of Bristol is a little piece of France. La Buvette is a characterful little wine bar which also serves some really nice food.

La Buvette is owned and run by the Riverstation’s Peter Taylor. Peter runs a hotel in rural France called Auberge de Chassignolles and when it closed for the winter months, Peter came back to Bristol in December and he opened Bar Buvette a pop-up Parisian-style natural wine bar. It seems to have been a success and has become more of a permanent feature.

I found out about La Buvette from an article in the Evening Post weekend supplement. So the following Tuesday thinking that this would be a nice place for a quick lunch I popped down to find it closed. Alas they only open for lunch on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so I had to find somewhere else…

Last week I was in Bristol on a Friday, so I thought, hmm, this could be a good time to try out La Buvette. I arrived at quarter past twelve, it was open and only one other table was taken, well it was quite early for lunch. The staff were welcoming and friendly and as they were still writing the menu out on the blackboard.

La Buvette in Bristol

Listening carefully I decided to go with the boudin with duck egg. When it arrived I was a little surprised to find that it was black pudding, or boudin noir! Maybe I should have listened a little more carefully. The waiting staff did say that this was a small dish, so I ordered a beetroot salad alongside the boudin noir.

The environment was really atmospheric, it felt very French, the wooden furniture, the bottles on the wall and the pictures on the wall.

La Buvette in Bristol

The boudin noir was cooked to perfection, it was soft and full of lovely flavours, and the richness of the duck egg complemented it well.

Boudin noir and duck egg

The beetroot salad was made from different dressed roasted beetroot complemented with goat’s cheese curds. This was sharp and tasty.

Beetroot Salad

Upon reflection I think I might have ordered just one dish along with some bread. This would have been better value for lunch, but I did really enjoy both dishes. The total cost was £12.50 as I basically had two dishes, with bread the cost would have been around £7.50 which is better, but still quite expensive for lunch. However the food was great, the staff friendly and excellent service, it will be a place I would like to visit again.

You need more staff…

I like great service, actually I almost expect great service. Generally most people do not go out to a restaurant to eat, they go for the whole experience. The welcome, the opening drink, the perusal of the menu, the choosing, the ordering, the anticipation, the actual eating, the reflection and leaving the table, knowing you don’t need to do the washing up. It’s the atmosphere, the furniture, the music, or no music, the ambience. A good restaurant will try and ensure that the whole experience is just right, and good customer service, is critical for a positive dining experience.

Down in London for a short break, we went to Pizza Express in Kingston, in the Rotunda. Though they said the air-conditioning was broken, it wasn’t that hot, so it didn’t appear that was going to be an issue.

Looking over the menu I decided upon the Toscana Romana Pizza, which is described as having a bigger, thinner, crispier pizza, topped with crumbled chilli & fennel sausage, mozzarella and tomato finished with baby mozzarella, Gran Moravia cheese, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Toscana Pizza

Though on my pizza I got slices of sausage rather than crumbled sausage and I think the pizza works better for it. The Toscana Pizza was delicious and I really enjoyed it.

My wife went with the Leggera Superfood Salad, this is made with baby spinach and seasonal mixed leaves, roasted butternut squash, beetroot, light baby mozzarella, avocado, pine kernels, cucumber, lentils and fresh basil, finished with balsamic syrup.

Superfoods Salad

She really enjoyed it, she though was disappointed that it had no seafood in it! Always read the menu carefully.

Unfortunately, a lack of staff meant for me that the dining experience, specifically the service, was not as good as the pizza. We had to wait long amounts of time between getting the menu, placing our food order, ordering additional drinks and getting the bill. One of the results of the lengthy service delays was in the end we decided not to have pudding.

I don’t mind slow service sometimes, it’s nice to take your time and not be rushed, however, I do find there is a difference between slow and indifferent, which appeared to be the issue here. Too often we were ignored even though we had indicated or even said we wanted some attention. I got the feeling that this was down to a lack of staff, who were probably too rushed and forgot about the key elements of good customer service.

The food was great, just a pity about the service.

ALT-C Gala Buffet Dinner

When I realised that the ALT-C Gala Dinner was going to be a buffet, I have to admit my heart dropped. I had visions of coleslaw, slices of pork pie, pineapple and cheese cubes on sticks, cold indian snacks…

Well my assumptions were dashed and in the end the gala dinner was excellent, if just a little too long!

Produced by students from Leeds City College I was impressed with the quality of catering and presentation of the food. Most of the food was from local producers across Yorkshire which was nice.

For starters we were served with a dish of locally smoked salmon (we were miles from the sea and from Scotland) alongside was a beetroot and potato salad. I had trouble finding the potato and didn’t think too much of the beetroot jelly, but really enjoyed the smoked salmon, which was full of flavour.

#altc2011 Starter

The main course was the “buffet” part and we had to get up from the table. There was a choice of four main courses, roast beef, roast turkey, salmon and a vegetarian “pie” option. To be honest I meant to keep a copy of the menu, but forgot to. I chose the beef with Yorkshire Pudding.

#altc2011 main course

It came with roast potatoes, a selection of steamed green vegetables and some roasted root vegetables (parsnips and carrots).

For desert, I think the best way to describe it was as a posh rhubarb custard.

#altc2011 Pudding

I personally didn’t like it, one part of the rhubarb was rock hard, and the rhubarb jelly cube was not nice. In the end I left most of mine.

The meal was finished off with coffee and homemade chocolates.

Overall I did enjoy the meal, the quality of the ingredients and the cooking was excellent. For me the only downside was the time it took to go through the meal, sitting down at 8.00pm we didn’t get the coffee until after 11.00pm not sure why this happened, but think the buffet aspect may have slowed things down. In the end the length of the meal was a minor annoyance, and the eating experience was excellent.