The future of the Easter Garden

8 04 2013

Today the future of a popular green space in Clifton is being decided by councillors sitting on the little-known Public Rights of Way Committee. The Easter Garden between Wesley Place and High Street near Blackboy Hill has been created by 20 years of effort from the local community, yet is owned by an individual, Sarjit Singh, who wants to build a house for his son on the land.

Easter Garden

An application to an independent inspector for the Easter Garden to be designated a Town and Village Green failed, with the inspector leaning in favour of ownership of the land rather than the “use, recreationally or otherwise” of residents.

It would be a bitter pill to swallow if the Easter Garden, a space well-used by the community but turned down for Town and Village Green status, is built upon.

Contrast this with Ashton Vale, by all accounts not well-used but nonetheless designated a Town and Village Green, therefore scuppering Bristol City’s plans to build their new stadium on the land.

Easter Garden

Easter Garden

Easter Garden


2 03 2013

Only one month after new Japanese restaurant Yume opened on Cotham Hill comes new Japanese restaurant and cocktail bar Nomu on Whiteladies Road, a hundred yards or so away. Nomu looks an altogether more classier establishment, but they do say that there are no longer any original ideas.

Opened by friends and business partners Alex Wills and Ken Wong, Nomu replaces a short-lived Chinese restaurant on the same site which benefits from an entrance area now used as a bar, and the restaurant on the lower level down a few stairs.

Nomu inside

The bar is well-stocked, with the requisite Asahi beer and other less-known Japanese drinks, while the food menu seems fairly priced, with dishes ranging from £3.50 to £7.

Japanese food includes gyoza (£4.50), deep-fried pork dumplings; spicy pepper squid (£5.50) and a selection of sushi. There are also a few Korean options available including kim chi (£3.50), pickled vegetables; and bulgogi beef (£7), fried chicken served with Tonkatsu sauce.


Nomu, 81 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2NT. 0117 973 2198.

Would you buy this garage?

19 02 2013

Single garages that have come up for sale on Clifton’s Royal York Crescent have sold for tens of thousands of pounds. This garage, at auction today with Maggs & Allen, is currently hemmed in by falling masonry. If it sells at all it will be emblematic of the difference in Bristol between the haves and the have nots.

Royal York Crescent garage

The future of Whiteladies Picture House

29 01 2013

Next time you enjoy a gig at the Bristol Academy, shop in the top Co-op on the Gloucester Road in Bishopston or rent a flat from Ocean on North Street opposite the Tobacco Factory, spare a thought that these were once all old cinemas: the ABC, the Premier and the Plaza.

In years to come, beefcakes on the free weights or runners on the running machines in a 24-hour gym on Whiteladies Road might be clueless that once upon a time this was also a cinema, latterly an Odeon, opened in 1921 and closed in 1999.

Discussions about the future of the Whiteladies Picture House reached their end yesterday at a public enquiry in the Mansion House, where there was standing room only as the hearing concluded.

The enquiry heard from the developer who wants to convert the historic cinema into five flats and a gym, and objectors to the scheme who want the building to reopen as a cinema and community venue.

Planning inspector Richard McCoy is expected to make his judgement on the future of the site in the next few weeks.

Whiteladies Picture House

The Dining Rooms

26 01 2013

A Transylvanian restaurant in a quiet street off Whiteladies Road was, unfortunately, doomed to fail. The most bizarre opening in Bristol in recent years barely lasted a few months. In its place on St Paul’s Road in Clifton comes The Dining Rooms.

The Dining Rooms dining room

“Who is the mystery chef?” asks the restaurant’s promotional literature that was thrust into my hand as I left. It’s certainly an unusual tactic for food to be cooked anonymously. Most chefs are not shrinking violets. Some chefs have their name over the door.

If it’s a marketing ploy, then it hasn’t succeeded as my daughter and I were the only diners yesterday lunchtime.

When I arrived and asked if lunch was being served, the man on the desk looked shocked to be confronted with such an unusual enquiry.

When I asked him what the risotto of the day was, he didn’t know. I forgot to ask who the chef was. In all honesty, I didn’t care.

What would have made this meal more memorable would have been if my daughter had caused damage to a £1,100 statue on loan from the View gallery in Hotwells that she managed to crawl underneath when my back was turned.

Like the artwork, the food is ambitiously priced. My risotto, which turned out to be beetroot and rocket, was perfectly adequate, served in a vibrant shade of red and accompanied by grilled focaccia. But it is not a dish worth £10.

Perhaps if you’re dining on expenses, you will pay £18 for a sirloin steak, as this is now the Regency Hotel restaurant masquerading as a stand-alone establishment. Unfortunately, the signs to the rooms upstairs give the game away.

The views are of the side of St Paul’s Church and a collection of recycling bins out of one window, and Dristi’s beer garden out of the other.

The Dining Rooms is offering 25 per cent off lunch until the end of February if you quote ‘curly fork’. The question is how long this restaurant will be here before it goes the way of its Transylvanian cousin.

The Dining Rooms

The Dining Rooms, Regency Hotel, 40-44 St Paul’s Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1LR

The Boutique Bakehouse

7 01 2013

Opening this week in the Clifton Arcade is The Boutique Bakehouse, promising “pretty cakes and bakes”. On a trial day yesterday, I purchased a delicious vanilla cupcake. Other items for sale will include homemade Oreos, banana bread, and beetroot brownies and chocolate cakes.

The Boutique Bakehouse

The Boutique Bakehouse, 15 Clifton Arcade, Boyce’s Avenue, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4AA

Twitter: @TBBClifton

Pub of the week: The Coach & Horses

2 01 2013

The Coach & Horses is in the middle of what is the most concentrated grouping of pubs in Bristol. Within the space of a 100-yard radius around it, there is the Beaufort Arms, the Red Lion, the Port of Call and the King’s Arms; the latter two virtually sharing a beer garden.

Each of these five pubs has their unique charms: the Beaufort Arms for cider, the Red Lion for wine, the King’s Arms for students.

They are situated in what sometimes feels like a secret part of the city. Much of this area is accessed down very steep streets; a reminder that there used to be a quarry here, hence the name of one of the steep streets: Quarry Steps.

The Coach & Horses is located in Highland Square, which is now used as a car park for cars rather than coaches and their horses at what was once a staging post for coaches on the Bristol to Gloucester service via Henleaze and Filton.

Inside, however, there is a dog the size of a small horse in a very welcoming pub that once sheltered my cousin for a few hours when I accidentally locked her out of the little cottage we shared on nearby Richmond Dale.

Other than the King’s Arms, it’s the largest of this group of BS8 hostelries and an ideal starting part if this month’s Dryathlon is not for you and you want to discover new pubs.

Coach & Horses

The Coach & Horses, 2 Highland Square, Clifton, Bristol BS8, 2YB. 0117 974 5176.

Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina

17 11 2012

From humble beginnings, Las Iguanas is now a national chain with dozens of restaurants across the country. As a nod to its Bristol beginnings, the original Las Iguanas on Whiteladies Road has now been rebranded as Clifton Cocina, where the red and green colours have been replaced by more subtle hues.

With its headquarters just a few hundred yards away on the other side of the road, it makes sense for this restaurant to be their development kitchen, and while sticking with their Latin theme, it is here that new dishes will be trialled before being rolled out to the 27 other members of the chain across the county.

The name of this restaurant (which means kitchen in Spanish) is embossed on the wine menu. Pick certain wines and you will see a member of staff climb up the ladder behind the bar to find it on the uppermost shelves.

As my 21-month-old daughter enjoyed playing with the pots and pans and pretend food provided by the friendly and attentive waiting staff, her mother and I enjoyed the real food on offer, which for me was chorizo in a firey jalapeno sauce followed by a delicious roast lamb that was virtually dripping off the bone.

Washed down by bottles of Cusqueña from Peru, I finished my own meal with a banana and ice cream concoction encased in pastry, a tasty twist on a typical banoffee pie.

The food selection changes regularly, with the mains changing fortnightly and the specials weekly. Sometimes it’s fun to be a guinea pig and the Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina is the perfect place for that; who knows what will appear on the menu next.

Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina, 113 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2PB

Twitter: @iguanascocina

Bristol bloggers bonanza at The Square

14 10 2012

The Square Kitchen must have blown their marketing budget this month on inviting half a dozen bloggers to dine at the restaurant. Not many people are able to turn down the offer of free food, but to paraphrase an old adage, there’s no such thing as a free tasting menu, so it is expected that once the diner has (hopefully) enjoyed their meal, they will write about it in their blog.

What The Square were probably not expecting was venison being compared to a “turd”, service being universally criticised and one table of four all refusing to eat their snails because they are “slimy cabbage munching beasts”.

To use another well-worn phrase, those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and I was also invited to sample the new menu. I went as the guest of another blogger, Jo, writer of Ephemeral Digest, although we barely exchanged a word as we both took turns to follow our 19-month-old daughter around the restaurant.

Most of the bloggers documented their meals in immaculate course-by-course detail.

Bristol Bites proclaimed the pea and ham soup to be the best she has ever tasted, but was confused by the spicy mini meringues, and further confused by the wine flight:

“We were a little confused that the first of the wines was brought out with the first course rather than the second – which it had been matched with – and that we had no explanation as to what the wine was and why it had been chosen.”

It was Wuthering Bites who compared venison to poo:

“I really want to say good things about this dish, but it really did just look like a section of my back garden – the vension kinda like a turd in the corner. Although a bit mean, that is what i thought it looked like on instant, and i can’t lie about that!”

Bristol Eating Adventures and her table of four all refused to eat the snails. Not particularly adventurous then.

“Snails are not something that most people would want to eat so, anyone who says otherwise has to be lying, so putting them on a menu is a massive risk… As I picked (a shell) up the snail fell out, I shuddered inwardly, and squeaked outwardly.”

It’s Just Nice were thrilled just to be invited (“it meant that people are actually reading It’s Just Nice, and not just our mums! And that…is very exciting!”) and wrote a gushing review of the scallops:

“Scallops, oh how I love you so- you’re so yummy and juicy… And lady Apple, you’re my number one! Me and you are BFFs! Seriously though, who’d have thought that Mrs Granny Smith would work so well with a scallop.”

Ephemeral Digest was not the only blogger to comment on the savoury Battenburg, made with ham hock, duck confit and foie gras.

“The Battenberg was fantastic although the piccalilli was rather pointless. Even as a mostly meat-averse diner I enjoyed this dish more than all the rest and we were even discussing it with the staff at the end of the night. A definite highlight.”

If all publicity is good publicity, then The Square must be thrilled. But I can’t help but think that inviting Bristol’s bloggers to review their food is an experiment that they will not be repeating.

Creole Brasserie

9 09 2012

If awards were given for global cuisine and the guts needed to bring new and exotic flavours to England, then Bristol’s new Creole Brasserie would be a shoe-in for a medal, perhaps just behind Taste of Transylvania, which unfortunately closed earlier this year having not convinced enough diners to try Romanian dishes mostly consisting of grilled meat served with more grilled meat.

For the uninitiated, and I counted myself among that number until my visit to this new restaurant above Clifton Down on Whiteladies Road, Creole is the word for a mixture. Exhibit number one: Creola, a mixture of colours.

The Creole now in Bristol is a cuisine with a mixture of influences that came together in the Caribbean and which can trace its roots back to European countries: France, Spain, Italy and Portugal.

Like what came in this unusual location for a restaurant before, Creole Brasserie is accessed up stairs that look like they belong in a down-at-heel council leisure centre.

There is now neither the long tables here when it was Budokan, nor the chef’s table when it was the Three Coqs. But once again the most sought after seats are by the window.

What is a welcome addition to the space is a bar area on the side nearest the entrance, with a smart and comfy leather sofa and tables for a drink without the starched linen in the dining area; the two sections divided by wooden display cabinets holding large shells and bottles of Champagne.

Visiting on Tuesday evening, I sampled the Bene-crusted shrimp balls (£6.95), sesame-coated golf ball-sized parcels of shrimp – the flavour of which didn’t quite come through – served with a side salad, and a tomato, coriander and onion salsa.

Rather refreshingly, the menu had a choice of three starters and five mains, the pick of which was the line-caught fish of the day with soused samphire (£9.95); and West Indian-style roast belly of pork (£8.95), marinated overnight, jerked, steamed and roasted.

The two puddings on Tuesday’s menu were grilled pineapple with Caribbean rum glaze (£4.95); and my own choice of rum and raisin ice cream (£3.95), disappointingly not made in house, but instead bought in from Marshfield, and jolly good too, the raisins plump and juicy as they should be.

Any opening niggles were mostly forgotten thanks to the cheery demeanour and contagious laugh of owner Abie-Gail Pixley, with just the hint of a Jamaican accent, adding a touch of authenticity to a room that during the day doesn’t overlook a beach but a Costa Coffee and traffic-calming infrastructure.

Creole Brasserie, Clifton Down, Whiteladies Road, Bristol, BS8 2NN. 0117 973 9885.
Twitter: @CreoleBrasserie