Christmas time at the Mud Dock Cafe

December is often the time for office Christmas meals. With the number of staff in our office, the main Christmas meal we have is often dictated by the availability of the venue and to be perfectly honest I have not been too impressed with the food at the last few I have been to. The fact you also need to order your choices weeks in advance is also a little annoying. What I fancy eating in November, may not be what I actually want on the day. Then again do you really go to an office Christmas meal for the food?

Having missed the main office Christmas dinner (intentionally) last December, I was looking forward to our team Christmas meal which was taking place the week after. There was only going to be a few of us so it wasn’t going to be that massive crazy kind of event. The plan was to have a meal at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol.

We had a meeting before heading off to the venue. What I did like about this meal was that we could choose from the menu. As I looked over the menu we were impressed with the salad that a neighbouring table was eating. However we couldn’t work out what it was and didn’t appear to be on the menu. I then cheekily asked the neighbouring table what they had ordered, they were very happy about the query and told us it was the Caesar Salad from the specials board up on the wall!

One of my colleagues was impressed enough that he ordered the salad for his meal.

It looked really impressvive and delicious. Though I was tempted by the salad, in the end I went with the Festive menu. For my starter I had the ballotine confit of turkey leg, cranberry compote and dressed leaves.

This was rather tasty, though as with these kinds of dishes, I could have done with more bread.

I wasn’t sure what kind of main course I wanted, but when I read truffled mushroom I went with the homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream.

This, though rather hot (as in temperature) was a rich comforting plate of food. It was tasty and I really enjoyed it.

I was persuaded to have a desert, so I went with the selection of West Country cheeses.

A rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

Overall it was one of the better Christmas meals I have had. It was nice to have a choice and choose on the day, rather than days or weeks in advance.

This year I don’t think we will be having any kind of festive office meal but if and when we can do that kind of thing, I hope to return to the Mud Dock Cafe.

Time for a Caesar Salad

I did quite fancy a Caesar salad for lunch, but I don’t buy the kits, partly as I prefer making my own, partly, as I like more than croutons and parmesan, and mainly as I need to have gluten free croutons.

For my Caesar salad I took some Romaine Lettuce and cut in half and set them across the plate. To this I added some white anchovies, quartered small tomatoes and peelings of parmesan.

For the croutons, I took the crusts of a Schär white loaf and sliced it into cubes. In a hot pan I added some olive oil and some butter, to which I added the cubes of bread and some dried Italian herbs. Once the croutons are browned I took them out of the pan and drained them on some kitchen paper.

These were then added to the salad, followed with some freshly ground black pepper.

I have variations, sometimes I prefer sun-dried tomatoes, but then I do like fresh, it’s a preference. 

I do sometimes add Caesar salad dressing, but usually have it on the side.

Coffee at Caffé Veneto

Having had some good coffee at the Portivo Lounge in Gloucester I have for a while been meaning to try out the Pinto Lounge in Banbury. Having some time for lunch, I took a walk down to the centre of Banbury to have a look at the Pinto Lounge and see if it was a good place to have something to eat. Having had a look over the menu, I wasn’t that inspired, not that there was an issue with the menu, just that there didn’t seem to be anything that really took me. Maybe another time…

Having a quick wander around the area, I found the Caffé Veneto, this is an independent coffee shop with an continental feel to it, that only opened in April 2014.

Caffé Veneto

Entering the place you immediately feel that this is a comfortable environment for drinking coffee. There is the bar, but unless you are taking away, then sit at a table and your order will be taken and presented at your table. This is quite an Italian thing, whenever I was in Italy I would often order coffee whilst sitting in a café and was waited upon. The concept of ordering from a barista and then waiting for your coffee, is much more an American way of ordering coffee. The decor is not very traditional Italian, but has wooden floors, round tables and chairs and a range of coffee sacks attached to the walls. It’s a calming environment, and sitting down you feel relaxed and comfortable. Service was friendly and efficient and you were made to feel very welcome.

Sat at the table I looked over the menu, there isn’t a huge amount of choice, a range of sandwiches, panini, lasagne and salad.

I quite liked the idea of a salad, so I went with the chicken caesar salad, along with an espresso.

Espresso

I enjoyed the espresso, but I am not really a fan of drinking out of, what is basically, a shot glass. Glass conducts heat really well, so it’s not easy to lift and drink a hot coffee. Despite that it was a really good coffee, and the little biscotti was a nice touch.

The salad was good, nice plate of cos lettuce, chicken and olives. The dressing was tasty, just the right amount, not too much and not too little either.

Chicken Caesar Salad

Overall I was pleased with the food, the service and the ambience. I think they should reflect on their menu and possibly add more options for lunch, but I may be missing the point, it is first and foremost a place for coffee, rather than a place for lunch.

Don’t overcook the squid!

A recent birthday treat was to go to the new Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare. As it was lunchtime, I went for the lunchtime menu special, which seemed reasonable value. For my starter I went with the Bruschetta, a homemade mix of fresh tomato, red onion, basil, olive oil and cracked black pepper served over toasted garlic ciabatta bread, finished with a balsamic glaze. I was not that impressed with this, I found the red onion very harsh and astringent. Normally red onion can be very sweet when raw, however I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would.

The Calamari Caesar Salad came next, which consisted of (according to the menu) lightly fried and seasoned calamari, crispy Cos lettuce leaves, white anchovy, tomato and fresh garlic ciabatta croutons drizzled with our Caesar dressing, topped with Grana Padano and served with a wedge of lemon.

Calamari Caesar Salad

I would probably take exception to the phrase “lightly fried” as the squid had been overcooked to the point where the calamari was crunchy on the outside and quite rubbery on the inside. It wasn’t unpleasant, but I do think that Frankie and Benny’s could do a much better job of cooking the squid. It’s not difficult to cook squid well, however I think that the squid at Frankie and Benny’s is double cooked, it is cooked already and then cooked again when it is ordered. I of course don’t know that for sure. The chef has used the larger outside leaves of the Cos lettuce for the dish, which meant they were more limp than crispy. Overall I did enjoy the salad and it was a good sized portion and value for money.