Going back to itsu

I haven’t been to itsu for a while now, since I stopped working in Oxford, I made quite a few visits there for sushi and pots of noodles. I haven’t been to the branch in London (too many other choices) however in December a new branch opened in Bristol.

As on my previous visit, there was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. I found it difficult to decide on what to have.

There is a big choice of salad and sushi in the fridges and then there are the hot options, pots of soup, rice, noodles or dumplings.

In the end I went with the Vietnam beef salad. This was roasted beef, hard boiled egg, spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning.

Vietnam beef (roasted), hard boiled egg (free range), spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning

It looked really nice and was well presented. I found the beef tender and actually quite tasty. The salad and rice was also really nice. The overall combination was delicious and I really enjoyed the salad.

A little more Mexican street food

Those who read this on a regular basis will know that I have a fondness for the Wahaca restaurants after an introduction to their style of food on the South Bank in London.

Since discovering this delight of Mexican street food and realising they had a branch in Clifton in Bristol, I have been itching to try the food there.

Using a gift voucher I went there for a quick lunch. One of the quirks (or is just a nice feature) of the Wahaca chain is that every restaurant has their own unique style. I think what surprised me most about the Bristol branch was the TARDIS style dimension, it is very much bigger on the inside then it appears on the exterior.

It was quiet early and I think I was the only person the restaurant, which surprised me, I was expecting it to be busier. Certainly I have queued for the South Bank restaurant and down in the heart of Bristol the food places are very busy (even from mid day).

As is my usual lunch, I went for three items from the street food menu. These are small dishes and three is more than ample for lunch (in some cases with the larger ones you could get away with just eating two).

The menu had changed since my last visit with new market treats and of course the regularly changing specials menu.

I was tempted by the new hibiscus glazed wings, alas they must have been popular and were off the menu. Still there were two other things from the new market treats menu that sounded rather nice.

My first choice was the Huitlacoche empanadas. Crispy pastry parcels stuffed with mushrooms, truffley Mexican corn & melted cheese.

Huitlacoche empanadas

These were delicious. The filling though was, as might be expected when using mushrooms was a rather unappetising grey mush. Despite that, I did enjoy the parcels and really liked the presentation. One thing that I have started doing myself which was on this dish was adding thinly sliced radish as a garnish, for crunch and flavour.

My second choice were the crispy prawn tacos. Corn tortillas stuffed with chopped prawn, chillies, spring onion & coriander, cooked until crispy, served with guacamole, tomato salsa & chipotle mayo.

crispy prawn tacos

The tacos had been filled and rolled and deep fried giving them a nice crunch. You could taste the prawn filling and it was still fresh and tasty. The accompaniments of salsa and guacamole worked, but I did feel I had slightly too much chipotle mayo.

For my third choice I went with one of the specials, Beef mole taco, this was unctuous, slow cooked beef shin, cooked in a rich Oaxacan mole. It was served in warm corn tortillas with sweet plantain puree and fiery chile de arbor salsa.

Beef mole taco

You got two beautifully presented open tacos, the beef was rich in flavour, tender and tasty.

Overall three delicious dishes and very tasty.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

Illy Coffee

So what food, drink and coffee blog posts were people reading this year? Interestingly none about coffee?

At number ten is an article entitled, Alba Ristorante Part Two. Back in 2008 when attending Handheld Learning, one evening we went to a local Italian next to the Barbican in London. I do remember the meal, it was delicious. This was a really nice upmarket Italian restaurant but with quite reasonable prices, especially for London.

The ninth most popular post was a Classic Heineken Advert from 1976.

Classic Heineken Advert from 1976

The eighth post was about cooking Chorizo, Cooking Chorizo. as was the seventh post Chorizo Frito al Vino.

The post at number six was about Basil & pine nut marguerite and a simple pasta recipe was at number five, Pasta in Tomato Sauce.

The fourth most popoular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions.

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the third most read post on the blog.

The second most popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, this one was about the Chilli Squid from Wagamama.

The most popular post this year was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

Well here’s raising a cup of coffee and wishing you all the best for 2016.


Snow and Burgers

1/4 pound burger  made with Lye Cross Farm beef, with local mature Cheddar cheese and red onion marmalade (from Rose Farm in Wedmore, served in a fresh toasted bun baked by Pullins family bakery in Yatton. Accompanied by a half pint enamel mug of rock salt seasoned fries and slaw, made from vegetables from Chew Valley Farm.

Down in the Mendips (near to Churchill) is the Mendip Snowsport Centre. Here you can ski and snowboard. For the younger ones they can go tobogganing, and as the centre runs tobogganing parties, I sometimes find myself in the Alpine Lounge with an hour to kill. I usually take advantage of their free wifi with a coffee and catch up with stuff. Recently I was there for a late afternoon, so decided to peruse the menu and have something to eat. It’s quite a limited menu, burgers, paninis, and breakfast items. The menu uses a range of local produce, sourced from Mendip farms, Somerset suppliers and local breweries, all of which is clearly signposted on the menu.

I chose the 1/4 pound burger made with Lye Cross Farm beef, with local mature Cheddar cheese and red onion marmalade (from Rose Farm in Wedmore, served in a fresh toasted bun baked by Pullins family bakery in Yatton. Accompanied by a half pint enamel mug of rock salt seasoned fries and slaw, made from vegetables from Chew Valley Farm. I also ordered some extra onion rings.

It arrived on a wooden board, complete with a mug of chips! For those who campaign for real plates with food, they would be very disappointed with the presentation. Personally, though I prefer plates, I don’t mind it that much when they are “missing”.

The burger was nicely cooked, very fresh and full of flavour. The cheese and red onion marmalade added to the easting experience. The chips were nice and hot, crispy on the outside with a soft fluffy middle and tasting of potato. The roll was a slight disappointment, not quite the brioche style posh rolls you often get with your up market burgers, and neither a plastic white roll you would get from a burger van. The slaw was nice and fresh and very crunchy. It was nice to have a bottle of Butcombe Ale with the burger too.

Overall this was a nice burger with some tasty accompaniments. At £7.50 it is not a lot more than you would pay at Burger King on the motorway services (I believe) but this burger was much better value for money and certainly much tastier, as well as having a fair idea of what it was made from. You don’t need to ski or snowboard to go to the Alpine Lounge and with free wifi, it’s quite a nice place to stop for lunch or for a snack.

Sunday Lunch at the Summerhouse

The Summerhouse

The Summerhouse in Weston-super-Mare is probably the place I visit most often, the reasons for this are geographical, historical and habit. It is currently owned by the Marstons chain so uses a corporate menu, though they also usually have a range of specials available too.

Though the quality of the food has fluctuated over the years, however the service has always been really good, friendly and genuine. The food is typical pub grub, nothing awful, but nothing really special, just good food, cooked well, served with a smile. They also, as they are a pub, usually have a nice range of beers on tap.

A last minute decision meant that we decided to go out for Sunday lunch and after a little hesitation and decision making, we chose the Summerhouse. The decor and furniture is quite stereotypically pub like, dark wood, dark carpets, brass fittings. You know that the place is a pub, but the internal layout means that the “actual” pub bit is on the ground floor, whilst there is a nearly separate restaurant area on the first floor (and on a mezzanine).

The menu is full of typical pub menu choices, stuff that is placed on the grill, dropped into a deep fat fryer or bunged into a microwave! Not that I expect much moe than that with this kind of place. My wife went with the pie, my son chose fish and chips, I perused the menu and plumped for the Sunday lunch which was a reasonable £7.15.

As we were quite early, for a Sunday, the food arrived promptly, I had a huge plate, covered in vegetables, a portion of cauliflower cheese in its own little dish, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, a small jug of gravy and a large Yorkshire Pudding. It took me a while to find the roast beef that was on the bottom of the plate. I did initially feel that the portion of beef was a little on the small side, but when you consider the price and the large quantities of vegetables perhaps it wasn’t so small after all.

I was hoping that this was going to be fresh hand carved beef, alas I was to be disappointed, it had been sliced on an electric slicer! The beef itself was tender and had some flavour, but nothing special. Certainly a lot better than a lot of the beef, you usually find in “cheap” roast beef dinners. The vegetables were nice, the cauliflower cheese was a nice touch. According to the menu, you can have “unlimited” roasties and vegetables, however it wasn’t very clear about how you would get more veg and roasties. Having said that, and as pointed out to me by my wife, the portions you get to start with are quite large and generous, so you would need to be really hungry to actually want more veg. When you consider that a roast beef dinner at a supermarket cafe, where y queue up to order is usually in the £4.95 price bracket, I do think that the Summerhouse meal was good value for money.

We did enjoy our meal, my son polished off the fish and chips, and my wife really enjoyed her pie. The service was excellent and friendly.