Friday, 21 December 2018

The Steak Barn and Ice Skating at Old Down Country Park

Last weekend I was kindly invited down to Old Down Country Park, in Tockington, Bristol, for a session on their ice rink. 
Now, if, like me, you have a fear of falling over, then I’m not sure ice skating is the best idea. I KNEW I hated the thought of slipping so I have no idea why I thought ice skating would be any kind of fun for me. But we have to try these things for ourselves so we know for the future. Silly Sam! 
Sure enough, it took me around 20 minutes to even consider setting foot on the rink, even though I was kitted out in skates and watching my 16 year old daughter, skating effortlessly around the ice albeit laughing at her petrified mother. 
With only 10 minutes left of the session, that’s right, I had spent the entire time contemplating doing it that I wasted an entire session! So after 5 minutes of manoeuvring and dithering, I was finally on the ice. Resembling a scene from Bambi, I was wobbly legged and gripping on to the sides as I aimlessly tried to ‘skate’ around the edge. It’s safe to say that ice skating is definitely not for me!

Picture purely to certify that I got on to the ice! 

The rink itself was large and well covered, perfect for this wet December. With the addition of a Christmas tree and festive fairy lights that gave it some added warmth. Having come during the evening, once the park itself had closed, I noticed there were traditional style wooden stalls that sold a range of hot snacks, similar to those you’d find at a Christmas market. 

After our session, we then headed over to the on-site Steak Barn for our dinner. 
Having not been given a time slot for our visit, we did arrive around 30 minutes before the kitchen had opened but nevertheless, we were welcomed with the offer of drinks at our table and the waiting staff couldn’t have been more attentive. 
This rustic Steak Barn, with stone walks and timber beams was wonderfully cosy in such a horrid wet and windy Saturday night. With more fairy lights, Christmas decorations and a big log burner, we felt warmed and at home. The Barn also had a family nook, with activities to keep children entertained and big comfortable sofas for the parents. Dogs on leads were also welcomed, much to the delight of my daughter who got to smooch with a furry guest on the next table. 

Ordering our food, we enjoyed a plate of complimentary toast whilst we waited. Thick slabs of hot, smoky bread with a generous knob of smoked salted butter. 

I’m so easily pleased. Bread and butter is a sure fire way to keeping me happy!

For my main course, I ordered the rib eye steak (£19) which came with chunky chips and a sauce of my choice. I went for the Stilton butter of course! 

The steak was perfectly cooked to my liking- medium rare, with a more than generous knob of the Stilton butter. So much so, that my daughter took some for meal. She opted for one of the few vegetarian options, the caramelised onion and Brie pie (£9.95) but was sadly disappointed. With only the slightest hint of either elements, her pie was more pepper, tomato and spinach and struggled with a strange aftertaste. There was a very limited choice for both vegan and vegetarian customers which let the meal down slightly.

Overall, our visit to Old Down Country Park was a positive one. The staff were fantastic and a real credit to this place. A huge thank you and mention to the lovely girl that looked after us at the rink. She was patient, warm and very friendly. 
The rink will be open throughout December at the hours listed below, and through to the 23rd of January, although I would suggest checking the website for the listed days and times of these. Prices for the skating are £7.50 for adults and £5.50 for children. You can buy tickets online or at the Barn Cafe during opening hours.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Bosnian and Herzegovinian Supper Club at The Bristol Cookhouse

At the beginning of the month I was kindly invited along to my first ever supper club, held at The Bristol Cookhouse. Being only a short stroll away from my home on Gloucester Road, I had been wanting an opportunity to visit and this was the perfect event. 
Having absolutely no idea on what to expect and not having tried Bosnian cuisine before, I was really quite excited. 

I arrived just as the first course was being served up, generous servings of homemade pickled vegetables, grown in the garden of host Dino Zelanika and a glass of Sok of višanja- sour cherry codial. 

Pictured here we have, pickled carrots with garlic, olive oil and parsley. Turšija- salty vegetable pickle. Shredded mixed rainbow pickle. The aubergine being my favourite, perfectly pickled but with a beautiful spicy kick and the carrots were something I never gave much thought tomin regards to pickling but worked so well! 

Having arrived to the Supper club alone, I was worried I wouldn’t fit in, possible eat alone and generally feel out of place but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was warmly greeted by Dino and sat with a table of personal friends and former mentors of the host and it was lovely to meet such a diverse range of people. Bosnian food is very Mediterranean in the way that it’s small plates, meant for sharing. The mezze like dishes meant we sat and discussed each dish, each favouring our own elements. My favourite of the night being the incredible Maslena Pogač- Tear and share butter bread. This loaf was impeccably laminated, spiralled in to bite size rolls and oozed deliciously warm butter. Our table didn’t leave a crumb! 

With breads must come cheeses! Or more importantly, meats and cheeses! An absolute winner of a course, a plate bursting with cured meats and specialty cheeses from Livno, Balkan prosciutto and dry beef salami. A top this selection was an incredible pine bud syrup which I could of licked clean off the plate. Almost like a balsamic glaze in flavour but much sweeter. 

The relish in the middle was the stunning Ajvar, made from peppers and aubergine.

After our mezze plates we then moved on to a clear soup. Made from homemade beef and chicken stock, this felt almost medicinal. That century old broth you’d drink to combat colds and ills and warmed you from within. Accompanied by a little semolina dumpling that sat like a little duck in a pond. It was the perfect way to cleanse the pallete before the main course.

Starting to feel full, we moved on to the mains. 
Burek- A Bosnian meat pie with beef and lamb was simple and rustic in flavour. Encased in light filo pastry and cooked into an individual spiral, it’s the dish that almost broke me! 
Zeljanica- Bosnian cheese and greens pie. This was stunning. Light in both flavour and texture, I loved it. Not too unlike the Greek Spanakopita, the cheese was mild and creamy and sat between light flaky filo. 
Grasak sa Piletinom- Chicken and pea stew. This beautiful stew reminded me of the food my nan would make. It was perfect winter food. Simple in ingredients yet full of flavour and texture. 

I enjoyed the Zeljanica so much that Dinos wonderful mother and cook of the evening, Stella, let me take some leftovers home. I have no shame when it comes to asking for more!
Not quite finished for the evening, I was struggling! Could I even fit in dessert? The answer is of course yes. Always yes! 

We had the Baklava sa orasima- Baklava with walnuts and sour cherries. 

This was deliciously soft and unlike any kind of baklava I’ve tried before. The cherry/walnut combination almost gave it a Bakewell likeness and the juice of the fruit gave the pastry its softness. Served with a side of poached quince, gave it that contrasting lightness. Quince was a first for me and something I would like to eat more of. It wasn’t too dissimilar to a pear in its texture and flavour, being very delicate, almost aromatic. 

I had the most lovely night at The Bristol Cookhouse and of course being a guest of the most delightful host was a bonus. The next Bosnian supperclub will be held on the 2nd of February with tickets purchased here

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Cauldron - Sunday Roast

Now, I’m no stranger when it comes to St Werburgs in Bristol. Within a short stones throw away from my house, this quaint and quirky little corner of Bristol really looks out and supports one another other. But when it comes to eating here, that’s where I’m a stranger. 
I had heard nothing but great things about this husband a wife run little restaurant through the food scene and knew I had to come to Mina Road to see for myself just what the fuss was about. 

Arriving on a wet Sunday lunchtime, I was ready to relax, get cosy and eat a cracking roast dinner. With summer we’ll and truly out the window, it was time to start getting my winter body ready (Let’s face it, this body is a 365 kinda thing but we’ll humour it!).  
Entering this little eatery, it was clear I had missed the memo and everyone and his neighbour was visiting. Having booked our table, we were one of the fortunate ones to get seated. With so many covers, people were being turned away. We sat at a little table for two but with big, homely style dining tables, you could have the option of dining communally which is always nice. I could chat to anyone about food all day long, given half the chance! 
The Cauldron prides itself on using no gas, just big open fires, using their cauldrons. No surprise there given the name. But what is surprising is just how well the food is cooked in this way. 
We quickly poured over the simple roast menu, ordering a Wiper and True beer- neighbours of course- and debated over sides. We opted for a slice of each meat, so we could sample each on offer and I’m glad I did. 

Firstly, I could smell this cooking before I got to eat it. The large open kitchen meant that you constantly had this waft of deliciousness gracing your nostrils, and with every passing of a server, you secretly hoped the plates they were holding were yours. 
The pink meat was soft and juicy with the sweet smokiness creeping through. The first meat, garlic and rosemary marinated lamb with stuffing, the second was crackling griskin pork which cut like butter but sadly no cracking to be seen on my particular plate and the last, the apple wood smoke roasted sirloin of Angus beef. With beef dripping roast potatoes, cumin roast carrots, roasted beetroot, onion and tomato, smoked butter peas and beans and of course a whopper of a Yorkshire Pudding that sat like crown atop a pile of smokey riches. We had to go for a bowl of cauliflower cheese to share because every roast needs it’s creamy sidekick!
The gravy was in a world of its own. Taking a whopping 4 days to make, its flavour derived from beef, lamb and chicken bones and some trotters which adds its glossy shine, cooked in Bertha, a 60l cauldron. 

An extra shot of this simply stunning roast dinner because 1 is not enough!

Wanting to sample just about everything that was on the menu we went for desserts. We wasn’t wrong!

              Wood fired peaches with spiced creme fraiche and a salted caramel sauce and crumble. The scorched skins had caramelised and added a smokey depth to the sweet, juicy peach flesh. The salt in the caramel sauce was a stunning savoury element which cut through the sweetness and lifted the dish. My absolute favourite kind of pudding. 

 Trio of truffles. Fruit and nut, smoked sea salt and milk chocolate. These were incredibly moorish and my poor husband had to shield his share away from this greedy woman. 

I’m very keen to return to The Cauldron to try their main menu. Not solely for the purpose of the food but for their ethos. Supporting local businesses is something that The Cauldron strive upon and is also something very close to my own values. Not only keeping their fuel sources as natural and bare as possible, it goes the same for their produce. With ingredients sourced extremely closely, they also ensure they stock local drinks too. You couldn’t get more supportive and eco friendly than that. 

Friday, 28 September 2018

Autumn Florals ft Matalan

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Matalan headquarters on a press event and met the team behind the brand. Discussing all things fashion, focussing especially on the new Autumn/Winter collection and Christmas party must haves, I got to preview their new key pieces for the new season.
For attending, I was lucky enough to be gifted a beautiful dress. 
This stunning Papaya Curve dress features a split sleeve and collar detail, in a brightly coloured, bold botanical print. 
I couldn’t resist creating a cute fall look with my favourite jacket and boots and teaming my dress to my lipstick. 
The dress is a pull on style, in a non stretch polyester. I stuck to my usual size 22 which fit comfortably but if you prefer a little room, I would recommend sizing up. I loved how it skimmed my shaped yet still showed off my figure. 

You can find this dress here, in sizes 18-28

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

How I Dealt With Anxiety At a Festival - and what I wore!

So this weekend I attended the first festival for me, in over 10 years. 
Approaching the date, I was full of excitement. What I’d wear, what artists I’d see play there, the brands and the people behind them, who I’d meet and of course, exploring a city I’m not used to. But as it got closer, that excitement was quickly replaced by fear. That gripping tightness in my chest, the fear of being lost, the paranoid feelings of people not liking me or people making hurtful remarks. Would I stand out in all the wrong ways? Would I be judged? All these things that I hide deep inside yet tell other people to ignore or embrace. That contradicting feeling only adds to my anxiety and I struggle to keep focus on the simplest of tasks. 
Now this was a relatively small festival. Think a single stage, some food vendors and some fairground rides with no camping. But with all day performances over the course of two days. 

So here are a few of the things that I do or did, in order to help my worried brain out a little;

Know my route. 
Ok so this one seems a given, right? Know the stations or roads that you’d need to take to get to the venue so you know you are heading in the right direction. I suffer massively with the fear of being lost by myself and find if my travel route or thoroughfare are listed in some way, I’m less likely to panic. 

Take your time.
If I’m rushed, I have less time for my rational side of thinking things through properly. I try to leave earlier to create a more relaxed journey or pace myself and allow the fact that I may just well be late. 

Take time out
We all know that self care is more than just bath bombs and cleansing, right? It’s knowing how much you can physically cope with within the amount of time to do them in. Taking time to relax your mind and body will help with the bigger challenges. This weekend I made sure I got to sit in the bath the morning before the second day at the festival so that I could hear my thoughts in a tranquil setting. The same goes for when you are at the festival too. Finding a spot on the grass to sit down and take a break for a few minutes is always good. 

Know your exits
So sitting in a somewhat quiet area of a festival is often going to be met with noise, people, sometimes litter and when it all becomes too much, be sure to know where the nearest exit is so you can remove yourself for a short while to gain some space and peace. We were by the coast this weekend and it really helped to look out at the calming water and feel the breeze on my face when I got too flustered. 

These are just a few examples of what helped me this time in an unknown crowded place. Obviously anxiety affects people in a multitude of ways but knowing what triggers you can also be a massive help to ease a bad situation. I made sure to eat and drink well, steer clear of overly crowded spots, keep alcohol consumption to a limit and took taxis to and from the festival to avoid more people when I needed space. I did attend this festival with my husband which helped massively. I know that I wouldn’t have done so well without him, given that our hotel was so far away from the festival and out of town. It took 3 trains from Bristol to Liverpool and I found it mentally exhausting. It’s was such a comfort having someone I knew, with me.

Massive thank you to that not only invited me along to Fusion Festival but for being such wonderful hosts to myself and my husband. 

Irregular Choice - Deckchair Diva

Now, I’m certainly no stranger when it comes to colourful clothes. The brighter my hair, the louder the clothes, the more confidence I feel. 
So when Irregular Choice got in touch and asked if I’d like a pair of shoes to try, I couldn’t wait! Known for their crazy patterns, quirky styles and WILD heel designs, I just knew that they’d send me something simply amazing. 

They certainly didn’t disappoint!! 

Aren’t they incredible?!! With bold, contrasting colours to the toes, heart print to the sides and ICE CREAM SUNDAES for heels, I was simply blown away! Quite literally! I just knew I had to take these out straight away and where else but by the seaside. The sundaes made me think of 50s style diners, full of candy shades of pink and blue and although I don’t live near a diner, I do have some cute beach huts. Wind, rain, all the typical British weather that could blow my way did as soon as I reached the coast. Donning my favourite rain jacket, nothing was going to deter me from releasing my inner ‘Deckchair Diva’.

The Ashville Steak House- Review

Nestled away in a little back street off Coronation Road in Bedminster, you’d find a little pub that from the outside, looks no different to any other ‘local’. But The Ashville delivers so much more than a regulars watering hole, serving up some of the best quality meat South of Bristol. . 

When Socialight first invited me down to try out The Ashville, I had already known what I was in for as I had previously visited for a steak tasting social event. The sheer joy I felt, knowing I was to return to try yet more courses AND enjoy them with my husband was very exciting. 
If you’re no stranger to this blog, you’d be well aware that I’m very much a lover of meat in all forms. The rarer the better in my eyes! 

Arriving on a Thursday evening, I was surprised at just how busy The Ashville was. Not in an overcrowded way, there was a happy atmosphere with a large family party enjoying a feast at their table and several couples enjoying their date nights, possibly relishing a child free moment to chat and eat at their own pace. Something I’ve learned I need at least once a week to keep my sanity!
With its white washed walls, chunky wooden furniture and fairy light covered ceilings, I felt like I had stepped in to a little countryside Inn. I also loved the hand tied table flowers that gave the setting such a personal, homely feel.

We were greeted with a warm welcome from the owner, Sandor, who was friendly and attentive to all guests who were both dining and arriving. 
Seated at our table we were quickly salivating over the quite simple menu. Deciding which cuts of beef to have, which sides and sauces and wether we wanted starters or dessert more. With me, if you put cheese as a starter or dessert, I’m going to want one. So we decided to share a baked Camembert. This was off their Specials board, not the main menu. 

We could hear this little beauty before we even saw it! A hot, bubbling bowl of deliciousness that was the perfect size for one, but maybe on the smaller size for sharing. But for greedy folk like me, it was just perfect to whet my appetite before the main event. I did feel that the salad garnish was not needed but loved the thick cuts of toast for dunking.

Opting for our favourite cut, both my husband and I ordered the 10oz rib eye. I adore this tender cut, with its rich marbling of fat, I’m always guaranteed a juicy steak and this one made no exception. Perfectly cooked at medium rare, this steak was well seasoned and beautifully chargrilled. With each steak comes a generous portion of triple cooked chips, grilled tomato, onion and a salad. For me personally, I found the chips to be quite an effort to eat. Roughly chopped  in shape, these are pretty hard to the outside and not so fluffy on the inside and didn’t soak up the meat juice like I’d expect a good chip to. I’m not a great fan of salad with my steak and did leave it this time but my husband seemed to enjoy his.

Feeling pretty stuffed and suffering from a case of meat sweats, we ploughed in regardless and ordered a dessert to share. A generous slice of ginger cheesecake from the Specials board was the perfect ending to our meal. 

Our meal, although complimentary, was offered in return of a review. All opinions are my own.