Friday, 31 May 2013

Tweet Tweet

Twitter is a very weird thing.

Last week I was followed by an American evangelist keen on combining his love for God with preaching about weight loss - a rather bizarre combination. Lemme tell you, I couldn't press the block button fast enough. 

Yesterday I got followed by Shemar Moore from Criminal Minds. You know, the HOT one! Which was very nice. But still, very weird. 

That said, I'm not complaining, just sayin'!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

At the moment...

I'm working in a lovely, LOVELY company called Humble Bee Films. I can't remember when I enjoyed working for a company more. I shan't wax lyrical about what makes it so good, just that they are all bloody nice people and I feel arse numbingly lucky to be here. (Especially as Auntie is just over the road and is, for me, the opposite end of the happy staff scale).

I'm currently on a documentary about parrots, and while it's far away from my last programme with my lady crush, Nigella, it is one of the sweetest things I've ever worked on.

Cue smug face and passing of the sick bucket...

Cherry Duck Bistro

Upon hearing the whispered excitement of the Cherry Duck Bistro - a fairly new restaurant that had opened up on Welsh Back - we decided to treat ourselves and see what the fuss was all about.

Despite being shoehorned in between a gym and a couple of fairly ugly buildings, the Cherry Duck has a lovely ambiance inside with modern furniture and a twinkle of fairy lights combined with a very friendly welcome. We were seated close to the open kitchen and presented with a very neat menu (four options for each course) with two courses for £19.95 and three for £24.50, it all looked so delicious that I was rendered quite wriggly with excitement. I plumped for the sour cherry and duck starter with rabbit cooked three ways for my main course and my OH went for carrot and coriander soup and lamb served with Moroccan vegetables and giant couscous. 

While we waited we were served with delicious granary sourdough and fruit olive oil which our waiter explained came from hand picked and pressed olives from Spain. 

The duck was delicious and came with celeriac and a sour cherry puree whilst the carrot and coriander soup was tasty and the right side of sweet and fragrant.

My main course of rabbit (ballotine, sous vide loin and rabbit leg hash) was beautifully presented and came with a most delicious raisin jus dribbed over soft, sweet, celeriac puree that made the whole dish sing. The ballotine was the winner here, with the salty proscuitto serving as a nice contrast against the sweet rabbit and nutty pistachios. My OH's loin of lamb was soft and cooked to pink perfection and the balance of the lamb with the cumin heavy Moroccan veg puree was perfect. The giant couscous and flaked almonds added a wonderful combination of textures and we polished both mains off in appreciative silence with the occasional satisfied 'Mmmm'.

When it came to dessert, one of them in particular called out to us - a chocolate fondant, stout ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Neither of us are particularly fussed about fondants, however I was intrigued by the stout ice cream and my OH has a definite love for salted caramel (with thanks to the Pony and Trap's salted caramel ice cream they serve with their Sticky Toffee Pudding). The fondant was sticky, rich and glorious and came floating on a pool of salted caramel sauce that was truly exquisite. The stout ice cream had an almost flowery, fragrant flavour but was creamy, soft and smooth. It came but with one regret. That we ordered one to share instead of one each!

After our meal, one of the chefs came out from behind the kitchen to ask if we enjoyed the meal and to answer any questions we may have had. I fired off questions about the olive oil, and the meat and he graciously supplied me the names and locations of the various butchers they use and seemed to genuinely believe and be excited about the ethos of the restaurant - locally sourced and seasonal food. 

One of my only irks is that they serve you very small glasses of water but then proceed to come by every five minutes or so to top them up. It's all very nice to not be without an empty glass but it's rather disruptive to have to acknowledge and thank someone every few minutes when they could just leave the bottle...

That said, with the promise that the menu changes every week, I will definitely be back and have already named it one of my favourite restaurants in Bristol, a rather heady title, I'm sure you'll agree but one very much deserved.

Cafe Retreat - Whiteladies Road

Cafe Retreat could have so much potential. First impressions promise so much - the eye catching aqua exterior, the sun trapped (when it appears) deck - ideal for people watching, the close proximity to some truly fabulous suppliers like Ruby & White and one of the only places within a few hundred metres to offer freshly made sandwiches for those on a hurried lunch. And most of all the promise that their food is locally sourced and is of the best quality. 

Unfortunately it rapidly descends into the realm of disappointment. 

With the loss of the Friary Cafe on Cotham Hill, the latter end of Whiteladies Road needs somewhere that offers a decent bacon / sausage / fried egg sandwich. We ordered sandwiches from Cafe Retreat one Friday morning. One of us ordered a bacon, sausage and egg bap. The other ordered, simply, a bacon sandwich. 

We were expecting the bap to be a pillowy, floury base to slurp up bacon grease and runny egg yolk but it was rather small, stale and crumbling. The poached egg (they told me they couldn't do a fried egg despite all food being cooked to order) had a hard yolk. The sausages were clearly not of 'the best quality' and appeared to be one of those pale imposters served up to school children who don't know any better. The bacon sandwich had two tiny rashes of bacon in it. They wanted to charge extra for ketchup but not before they had slung a very tired side salad into the takeaway box. Salad? Really? On a hungover Friday morning? Despite the fact that both breakfast items each contained the same two limp slices of bacon but the 'bap' also had two sausages and an egg, both of these things cost £4. EACH. 

To add insult to injury, the bread we spied in the kitchen to make the bacon sandwich wasn't homemade and didn't come from the bakery on Cotham Hill. Or Chandos Deli. Or in fact the bakery counter at Sainsburys. It came from a Hovis bag. I don't think the words 'rip' and 'off' could be used too frequently here. 

I gave it another go one lunchtime thinking they were probably just having an off day. I perused their menu online and rang up to place my order. A BBQ chicken and mozzarella panini. I was asked to wait while they checked that they still had BBQ chicken which pleased me as I thought it might have been freshly cooked. I was told to pop by in 10 minutes time. Fabulous. 

When I got to Cafe Retreat, they charge me £1 more than the website prices because those were 'out of date' which meant I paid £5 for a panini.  I was then told that I can't have been looking at their current menu because they 'don't do BBQ chicken anymore' but (BUT!) 'we still had some of the ingredients for it, so it's ok.' As I sadly received my box (is this why things are so frigging expensive because they insist on giving you food in a box unlike any other sandwich shop anywhere who gives you food wrapped in paper?) and trudged over the road, I secretly hoped that this panini would be the best panini Bristol would have to offer. Alas, on opening the box it revealed a rather tiny panini (shop bought ciabatta bread), bland plain chicken doused in HP BBQ sauce and one of their very limp side salads which sadly and curiously smelt of parmesan cheese rendering it inedible. 

I don't doubt that their food is locally sourced - most probably from the value range at one of the local supermarkets, but I DO doubt their food is of the best quality that they boast about on their menus. 

When you have Ruby and White down the road offering ready to go sandwich baguettes the length of your arm, crammed with free range egg mayonnaise and their own short date bacon that they need to use for £3, Schnafel offering delicious wraps stuffed with a huge variety of salads and falafel for £4 and the Town House offering a steak lunch for £4.95, you do wonder what Cafe Retreat have going for them. My guess is that they rely on frequent visits from staff at the BBC looking to escape their own abysmal canteen or that they take advantage of weary passers by who have walked the length of Whiteladies from Blackboy Hill and view it as a last chance saloon. 

So when you see Cafe Retreat, do as it asks. Retreat elsewhere if you want food that doesn't leave you unsatisfied and out of pocket.