Tuesday 23 April 2013

Simon’s stag do (Bristol)

My mate Simon is the ultimate non-foodie, as anybody who knows him will understand. When we worked together he would have the same lunch EVERY single day with NO variation whatsoever: ham sandwich, Penguin chocolate bar, an apple and water biscuits. He likes Penguin biscuits so much; he would often dress as one…

So, naturally, his stag do in Bristol last weekend included no 'official' food of any kind, the plan being to grab what we could between activities. This article details my attempts to try and beat the system he had devised and introduce some food that was, if not great, then at least interesting.

The Willow Walk
We didn't start well. Breakfast at a Wetherspoons pub in Victoria on Friday before getting on the bus. Ordinarily, I would avoid a Wetherspoons for anything other than cheap beer. However, the breakfast wasn't too shabby, and worth the £5.95 we paid for it. The hash browns were a little soggy and the beans were developing a skin, but other than that all was passable; even the ‘tell’, the sausage. A sachet of HP Sauce helped too; a cheap foodservice brown sauce just wouldn't have worked. A good condiment lifts many a bad meal!

Los Amigos
Fast-forward to Bristol and we are walking to our hotel. A very unlikely sign encourages us towards 'burritos in car park' a few minutes away from the hotel. Check-in, dump stuff and look for burritos. Really, in a car park? Yes! This place was a great random find, and the lovely lady who runs it says she does brisk business with the workers from the many nearby building projects. We arrived just as she was thinking about packing up; she had run out of everything except chicken so she gave us a cheeky discount (£4 instead of the usual £5). Lovely burrito. The chicken was good, the beans were good, the salsa was good, the chilli sauce was good, the rice was... hard! Not sure whether this was under-cooked or suffering from being at the bottom of the tray all day, I suspect the latter. Only a minor irritation that didn't detract at all from a lovely little lunch. Really worth seeking out, the kind of little eatery I wish I had near my own work place.

My Burrito
Another day, another burrito! This time from a place in the city centre, right off the quayside. Interesting selection on offer here, many different salad options with choices offered on the type of beans and the strength of the salsa. I chose black beans and the medium, smoky salsa to accompany my excellent beef. So, best burrito in Bristol? On taste My Burrito had it for me on taste, but it was twice as expensive as Los Amigos, and My Burrito was just too busy to be the convenient offer it should be. Another great lunch though, sitting on the breakfast bar in the window watching the world go by.

Bristol Cider House
Saturday afternoon was spent visiting the epic SS Great Britain, an absolutely fantastic experience. Quickly back to the hotel to change shirts and then straight out for some cider tasting, accompanied by 'nibbles'. Pork pie, beef pasty and scotch eggs were all very average, but the cheeky little cheese selection (cheddar, brie, stilton, Neapolitan-style-oddity) complemented the cider in an acceptable fashion!

Quick Crepes
Eight pints of cider, Jaeger bombs and champagne doesn't do anything for your taste buds but I was sober enough to decide that a 1am crepe is better than a kebab. The guy had only been making crepes for a day and this showed in the slightly under-cooked product of his labour, but a great opportunity to further cement my belief that Nutella improves the taste of everything! Probably my favourite thing I ate all weekend.

Back in London with five minutes before my train home, exactly enough time to get a smelly snack to offend other passengers! I went through a stage when Wasabi was my favourite little take-away when working in London, but I haven't been for a while. I had the spicy chicken with rice. It was pretty tasty, and pretty spicy, but nothing above average; the rice was well cooked however. An anti-climatic end to the weekends food, but it filled a hole nicely.

Conclusion? Not the gastronomic car crash I was expecting, so I can feel like I have managed to beat Simon! Both burritos were great, as was the crepe, all very enjoyable eating experiences. However, one wasted opportunity: the cider tasting could have been a great chance to indulge in some honest West Country fare, good enough to match the excellent cider on offer. Possibly a high quality ploughman’s, like you would get on a cider farm serving lunch? Or just a great pasty? Or better quality, more locally-representative cheese? The food let this place down a little I felt, however I'm guessing that a pub that seems to serve exclusively stag parties on a Saturday night will know exactly how discerning their clientele are!

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