Breads and Cheeses

Sometimes you find really nice places in the most unobivous of locations.

I don’t go to Cabot Circus in Bristol that often, but when I do I am somewhat surprised by how busy the restaurant places are. There are loads of people queuing to eat at Nandos, Bella Italia always looks packed, as does Yo Sushi.

Though I have to say I was somewhat surprised to find out the other day that La Tasca at Cabot Circus had closed (and will be replaced by a Wagamama). I went to La Tasca last July and said back then:

It wasn’t awful, it was just okay, nothing special and I do think that the restaurant could have done a lot better.

I finished off by saying:

I think it might be a while before I go to La Tasca again…

I wonder if my experience was similar, as a result there was a lack of repeat custom and if you are losing sales, it makes sense to close.

It might be more that people have fallen out of favour with tapas and have moved onto other things… Nandos judging by the queues if you were to ask me.

We went to La Tasca back then, as we didn’t want to eat at the restaurant in Harvey Nichols, as my wife put it “she didn’t want to have a celebrationary dinner in an upmarket BHS or Primark!” So it was somewhat strange that on our most recent visit to Cabot Circus we did end up in the bar at Harvey Nichols.

This was a really peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of the shopping quarter and it was nice to just sit down, relax and be waited upon.

We weren’t there for a meal, just a glass of wine and a snack. The wine list was comprehensive and interesting, and I thought very reasonable, a lot cheaper than I was expecting and anticipated. It was also very nice wine.

In terms of snacks we ordered the rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a nice bar snack at just £3.50.

 rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar

We also splashed out and went with the cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread, which was a little more pricey at £8.00.

 cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread

The breads were really nice and interesting. There were ciabatta style breadsticks, focaccia, and some very unusual gingerbread style bread (not quite gingerbread, but similar). The cheeses were really nice, there was a farmhouse cheddar, a type of brie and a hard Spanish cheese. The chutney was nice, not too strong, but still full of flavours. Alongside came some celery and apple. Both snacks were really tasty and complemented the wines we had chosen.

Now they do that thing, which I don’t really like “a discretionary 10% service charge will be added to all bills” and to be honest I don’t understand. Either include the “service” in the prices or let the customer make the choice about rewarding good service. Using a term like “discretionary” implies that it is a choice, but unless you had really terrible service, you wouldn’t likely say that you were going to not pay it. I also think it stops people tipping more!

Just as an aside really, what I did notice was that (even with the discretionary 10% service charge) many of the prices were quite reasonable. The different coffees available were cheaper than those you would find in a high street chain nearby, and unlike those where you would have to wait at the counter for your coffee, here you would have a waiter deliver the coffee to your table. Much more civilised, wouldn’t you say?

Overall this was a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle that is Cabot Circus and recommended for a quiet drink, whether that be wine or coffee.

Grilled chicken on green lentils

 Grilled chicken on green lentils

For the grilled chicken, take a chicken breast, I used a free range corn fed chicken breast which I flattened with my hand (though you could take a rolling pin to it). I seasoned the chicken with seasoning and olive oil before placing under a hot grill for 15-20 minutes.

For the lentils eat a frying pan and add some chopped pancetta. There is no need to add any extra oil as there is usually sufficient fat in the pancetta.

Pancetta

Finely chop an onion. Add the onion to the frying pan with the pancetta.

I softened in a frying pan, the finely chopped onion with the pancetta. When the onion was nicely soft I then added some red wine and beef stock before simmering it down.

I use beef stock over chicken stock just because of the colour rather than flavour. I then reduced and reduced this.

Then add some sliced mushrooms.

I then added the green lentils, I used a tin, for convenience and speed. Once the lentils had heated through I then plated up.

On go the lentils and then slice the grilled chicken and place on top.

Serve with steamed vegetables.

Pork with white wine and pancetta

Last night I cooked a very nice meal and it only took 15 minutes from scratch.

Ingredients

Pork medallions (or you could use loin steaks, pork chops or tenderloin)

Olive oil

Black pepper

Rice

Green beans

For the sauce

Pancetta

Onion

Parsley

Flour

White wine

Creme frache

So first boil the kettle with fresh water to cook the rice and the green beans.

Whilst the kettle is boiling put two pans on for the pork and the sauce. Add a dash of olive oil to both pans. When the oil is hot, add the pork (ensure it is dry) to one and the pancetta to the other.

Ensure the rice is washed, I now use basmati rice all the time, in the main as it cooks easily without sticking and only takes ten minutes. Put separate pans on for the rice and the beans. Time the rice for ten minute, the beans should be cooked after ten minutes as well.

Once the pancetta is cooked, add the onion, finely chopped.

Check the pork, turning if needed.

Once the onion is softened add a spoonful of flour to the pancetta and onion and stir well, then add a good dash of white wine. When it starts to thicken take off the heat.

When the pork is cooked, remove to a warm plate and allow to rest, this will make it tender.

Deglaze the pork pan, by adding a good dash of white wine. Add the pancetta and onion sauce and a couple of large spoonfuls of creme frache, add the parsely and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir.

Put the rice on the plate, you can just spoon it on, if you have more than fifteen minutes then I use a ramekin, spoon the rice into the ramekin and then upturn onto the plate, looks neater than a spoonfuls of rice.

You can either leave the pork whole, or slice depending on what you prefer.

Cover the pork with the sauce.

Serve with the green beans.

Fifteen minutes from entering the kitchen to on the table.

Sorted.