Reviews

Spuntino

The second phase of containers at Cargo is smashing it since opening last month, and Spuntino certainly doesn’t disappoint. Wapping Wharf is absolutely the place to be right now for food, it’s becoming a full time job to try it all out! After a cracking (or should that be, crackling?) dinner at Pigsty a while back, next on the list was Spuntino.

Don’t let the name fool you (it’s Italian for “snack”), pizza and lasagne are not on the menu here. It’s a burgers, mac & cheese kinda place, apparently influenced by New York Italian foodie sorts.

Visiting on a Saturday after a beautifully sunny day in Bristol, the sun had gone in so we took shelter for some comfort food. We were lucky to get in, as with all of Cargo’s offerings, there’s only space for 30 or so covers, so we squeezed onto the end of the long bench in the middle. There’s something exciting about the bustle in all of these container restaurants, and while the delivery of the food on enamel dishes is getting a little samey, the scran most definitely isn’t.

The menu is varied for a small restaurant, it isn’t JUST burgers and there are a few more interesting items too, including their signature Truffled Egg Toast, Aubergine Fries and Lobster Mac & Cheese. All dishes are the kind of prices you’d expect, burgers are about £7.50 (but don’t come with any sides). The only anomaly price wise I’d say is the PB & J sandwich, which is £7, a little pricey for a dessert.

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We went for:

  • Marla Singer burger (yes, that’s a Fight Club reference)
  • Eagle Rock dog
  • Aubergine fries
  • Lobster Mac & Cheese – which was £11, bargain in my opinion!

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My Lobster Mac & Cheese came in a pan hotter than the sun and I burned both my finger and the roof of my mouth in all the excitement (I WAS warned), but it was absolutely 100% worth it. The levels to this dish were impressive, it had the gooey cheesy goodness you’ve come to expect from restaurant quality mac & cheese, but with the twist of lobster, which I could really taste throughout. My chum Becky (you’ve come across her before, regular readers) was a big fan of her Eagle Rock dog, a classic hot dog with a Russian sauce, onions and pickles piled on top, and Amy’s aubergine fries divided opinion. I was a fan.

Special note to also mention the staff; service was fun & friendly, even though they were clearly super busy. You also get chilli popcorn while you wait, and I love nibbles for the table.

All in all, a good time was had by all. Another notch on the old bedpost for us Cargo fans.

Mary x

https://twitter.com/Spuntino

Reviews

Mesa Bar

A bit of a nostalgic post from us today! Located in Westbury Park, you may well know Mesa Bar as Manna. Manna was the one of the first places that we went for dinner together, many moons ago; so when we heard they’d closed and re-opened as Mesa Bar, we were really keen to check it out (Awwww. Or barf, depending on your preferences).

They’ve been open since February, and the team still own Prego, the Italian restaurant opposite. Apparently the idea with Mesa Bar was to whittle down the dishes on offer at Manna to a streamlined menu of high quality, authentic tapas, which they’ve certainly achieved! The menu definitely seems more upmarket that your standard tapas fare; the usual staples of croquettes and the like are no-where to be seen, and there isn’t a terracotta tapas dish in sight.

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The setting is intimate, only a few tables and a cosy bar. With low lighting hanging from the ceiling and around the bar, the place has a warm , orange-y glow. An excellent setting for a date or a dinner with close friends (we did it, and 4 years later still going strong. Sorry, I’ll stop with the nostalgia now). It was empty when we arrived but soon filled up, creating a good buzz of chatter.

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We ate:

  • Sourdough bread with alioli
  • Boquerones (top notch anchovies) in oil
  • Patatas bravas
  • Pulpo a la Gallega – octopus served over fried potato slices – really good provided you don’t mind tentacles
  • Chorizo bocadillo with piquillo, pickles and alioli – bocadillo is a Spanish sandwich
  • Harissa fried lamb shoulder, roast squash, yoghurt and chilli – this was a massive portion and was SO GOOD
  • Butifarra with Mojo Verde – like a white pudding sausage, with a green pesto like sauce

We also had sort of 3 desserts to share. Mainly as they do excellent Nutella truffles so we had some of those on the side of:

  • Baklava semi fredo with marshmallows and salted caramel – once this had melted a little it was really good, a sort of Baklava ice cream in a big slab with marshmallows in. Mmm.
  • Tarta de Santiago – a nicely warmed tart with soft whipped cream. I loved this and want it again. Soon.

We felt the evening was fairly good value. I mean, it’s not a CHEAP eat out, but for the quality of the food, the setting and the service I didn’t feel like we overpaid. We had all of the above and 2 large glasses of good wine, and spent just over £60.

We would absolutely recommend a visit to Mesa. The food was top-notch, service was friendly and knowledgeable (I always like when staff recommend their favourites), and our evening wasn’t even spoiled by the couple sat behind us who had a slightly louder than necessary drunk argument. Who am I kidding? We even enjoyed that!

Mary x

mesabar.co.uk

Reviews

The Botanist

What’s the difference between a pub and a bar? I’m not sure, but The Botanist, just off Berkley Square, describes itself as a pub. I reckon it has a much more gastro-pub / bar feel to it (this isn’t a criticism, it’s a nice venue with high ceilings in the bar and stylish bar stools surrounding it). Pubs to me are boozers, places with gardens and benches, perhaps a dog and maybe they serve pies. Mmm. Pies.

Anyway, on to the write-up! We went for a Saturday night dinner as a group, which is where my only criticism comes in (we’re nice here at Cooks & Eats, and don’t like to write mean things). We’d booked for 5 of us but we wedged on to a table for 4, so we were a little cramped, we mentioned this to the waiter but he just sort of laughed it off which was strange. That’s the only little gripe out the way!

It’s got a very Whiteladies Road / Clifton / Park Street feel to it, people were dressed fairly smartly but it’s still informal. For us south Bristol types, it’s probably a little bit stylish, but nice to feel a little fancy!

Their drinks menu is extensive, with a wide range of interesting wines, spirits and cocktails. The wines are divided into themes (as in, “fruity”, “sophisticated” etc.) which makes it really easy to find something that’s right up your winey street. I had a really refreshing, light rosé, I recommend the Paradis. I’m not usually a rosé drinker, but this was excellent (and nothing like what you might think, Blossom Hill this is not).

The food menu is extensive too; they also do Sunday lunches, a lunch menu and a mid-week deal (I’m going back for that). Amongst our starters, highlights included the deep-fried Somerset brie in panko breadcrumbs with an apricot & cumin chutney (a starter, I had massive food envy about this) and the salt & Szechuan pepper squid with aioli.

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Mains were as follows:

  • Slow-cooked pork belly with seared scallops – a huge portion served with lots of mash and green beans
  • Pan-fried sea bass – this was served with some lovely fresh veggies and salad, sauteed potatoes and pesto – I’d just had a boozy few days and this perked me right up
  • Wagyu burger
  • Buttermilk southern fried chicken, served with ‘ndjua sausage and sweet potato fries

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We had desserts too; they do a “coffee and a mini dessert” which my Mum had and loved – lemon tart, a cappuccino and she added a side of sambuca. *shudder*. It was a nice end to the evening and good value too, with a coffee and a little desert for £4.95. Overall the prices are what you’d expect from a central city bar & restaurant, mains are anything between £11 – £18.

All the food was really good, and presented to a very high standard. I’ll be honest though and said I think having “The Botanist” on every plate is a bit weird, but good for their Instagram presence I guess.  I’d go back to try the mid-week deal, on the rare occasion that we venture north of the river!

Mary x

On Tour · Reviews

Cooks & Eats on tour in Brussels

Cooks and Eats went on tour last weekend, to the unofficial capital of Europe, Brussels! We wanted to sample some of the culinary delights on offer, as Belgium is famed for waffles, chocolate, mussels, beer and fries. That sounded pretty good to us!

This was supposed to be a short post, but it turns out we ate too many tasty things and I want to talk about them all..

Here are some of our faves:

Manneken Frites / Fritland
– these are two of the on-every-street options for the famed fries with a variety of sauces. It’s hard to choose sauces to go on the humble chip when there are so many on offer. Most places have around 10 sauces, including usual suspects plus more interesting ones like traditional Belgian Andalouse. I went for the old classic chips and mayo and it was GOOD.

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Peck 47 – a top choice for brunch, gets really busy and serves super-duper poached eggs in a variety of dishes plus juices in hipster jars. That hollandaise sauce though. Delish.

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De Noordzee – stumbled across this heaving fish-market-esque place on a corner. People were bustling everywhere shouting out orders for really fresh seafood and of course glasses of wine, then standing around and eating their treats. Slightly manic and a lot of fun. We had kibbeling (deep-fried fish we first came across at food markets in Holland), seafood soup, crusty bread and white wine. The guys that run this place are good for a laugh too.

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Delirium Café – one of the most famous bars in Brussels, and a pretty big deal. They hold the World Record for the most beers available, with over 3000 to be sampled. They have something for everyone. I don’t like beer particularly, but tried a couple of the fruity, wheat beers as I asked for what would be best for a cider drinker. What can I say, I’m a West Country girl.

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Waffles – as with the fries, there are waffles EVERYWHERE. Belgian waffles are different from your usual waffle, which are generally Leige waffles. Belgian waffles are made with a different batter which makes them lighter, so make sure to order a proper Belgian one! They’re tastier, fluffier, and don’t have that slightly stale texture that waffles often do. Loads of toppings available, for me it always has to be Nutella and banana. Brad went for the more traditional light dusting of icing sugar.

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Balls & Glory – Specialises in meatballs, done their way. There are three of these in Belgium and have a casual restaurant vibe, similar to a GBK type place. You choose your meatball, sauce and side and soon arrives a thing that looks like a big scotch egg. Except there’s no egg, and it’s filled with meat and sauce, like a Kiev. Served with mashed potato with vegetables in (called “stoemp” and is traditional in Brussels) and two gorgey sauces. Proper comfort food.

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L’Huîtrière – higher-end seafood restaurant, with outside tables (and very efficient heaters!). They do a 25euro set menu, which seemed pretty usual in central Brussels. Their mussels and oysters were delicious, and they also did a very good steak.

Food markets – there are a lot of food markets around, especially on Sundays. We visited Midi di Marche, which had the hugest selection of fruit & vegetables I’ve ever seen, plus stalls serving olives, cannoli, Turkish treats, and amazing Moroccan pancakes (cue more Nutella). Marché de Boitsfort also came highly recommended by Belgian Friend Lucy, but we didn’t manage make it to that one. Sorry Lucy, next time!

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Food wasn’t cheap (beer is pretty reasonable though) but was definitely worth a visit. I miss waffles.

Mary x

http://www.fritlandbrussels.be/acceuil

http://vishandelnoordzee.be/

http://www.deliriumcafe.be/

http://ballsnglory.be/?lang=en

http://www.lhuitriere.be/

Reviews

Barrika Tapas

Unassumingly positioned on the main road in Old Market there’s now a warm glow of the windows of Barrika, a new Spanish bar & restaurant. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but as soon as we walked through the door, all the staff  were jolly, friendly and very Spanish. You can tell straight away that they’re loving what they’re doing, and that’s fun to be a part of!

Upstairs is a small bar and barrel tables with stools around, but we were led downstairs to the basement. It’s a pretty small room, maybe room for 20 or so covers, and there was a big group there for a birthday. This added to the atmosphere, made it pretty noisy and gave a good vibe to what otherwise might be a fairly empty feeling room (they could do with decoration on the walls perhaps). We were there with our good friends Lara & Dave, and we took ages to even look at the menu; our waiter was very patient with us despite having to come back to us a few times –  he gave us a nudge that the big table was about to order, so we might like to get in first.

We went for a couple of rounds of tapas, including the following*:

Marinera Cartagenera – potato salad with tuna, vegetables and anchovies on a bread stick

Tortilla – chunky spanish Omelette

Croquetas Varias – ham and mushroom croquettes

Tortas de bacalao – deep-fried battered cod with garlic sauce

Boquerones en vinagre – silverskin anchovies in vinegar with parsley and garlic

Albondigas – homemade meatballs in tomato sauce

Patatas Alioli and Patatas Bravas – if you go out for tapas and don’t order these, did you even go out for tapas?

Huevos Rotos – fried potatoes, serrano ham, chorizo and peppers topped with a fried egg

*we doubled up on a few of these, and I may have missed some out. There was a lot of Rioja floating around.

There is a good range to choose from on the menu, and although the dishes are fairly small, they’re really reasonably priced (all under a fiver). They came out quickly, but in no way rushed and everything we ate we really enjoyed. A particular nod to the garlic sauce. We reckoned this had to be homemade, and I want to live in a bowl of it please.

We really hope they stick around and would love to go again. I’m worried that their location means they might get overlooked, so spread the word!  The food is simple and feels authentic, the staff are wonderful, and the Rioja we had was superb (and the Spanish dessert wine / moscat / sherry at the end was a fun touch, sorry I can’t be more specific, like I said. Rioja.). It’s a really casual, informal venue for a fun dinner with friends. Oh, and Brad would like it known that the waiter we had looked like a Spanish Vince Vaughan.

All in all a fab night, 10/10.

www.barrikatapas.co.uk

 

 

Reviews

Atomic Diner

These guys have a mission. To take us back to when “burgers were as big as your head, summer lasted forever, and simple things made you smile”. Here at Cooks & Eats we’re on board with all of that, so we paid them a visit.

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If you’re a regular on the Bristol burger scene (that’s a thing right?) then you’ve probably been to Atomic Burger on Gloucester Road. Perhaps you’ve heard of Atomic Pizza as well, they’re in Oxford. Atomic Diner in Broadmead is a deep-fried, memorabilia-filled culmination of the two. The decor reminded us of the cafe of an indoor kids play area. But a cool one. It’s jam-packed with stickers on the walls, nostalgia ridden VHS tapes and action figures galore, and you kind of just want to wander around looking at this stuff, it’s a bit like a fun retro museum, with a few more modern touches like the bigger than life-sized Simpsons sofa (ideal for those Instagram pics). In case you hadn’t worked out by now, this isn’t your standard restaurant, and it’s a lot of fun!

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Burgers are all amusingly titled – Forrest Gump (aptly named as it’s the plain, simple one), the Dead Elvis, and the Chuck Norris to name a few, as well as the opportunity to create your own or take on one of the big guys – I couldn’t help but notice the B.A Barracus – triple stacked burger, with USA Cheese, BBQ pulled pork & crispy bacon on each stack. Heart attack on a plate. I’m not judging, I was tempted. The menu is also home to dogs, pizzas, milkshakes and very loaded fries.

 

I chose the Daisy Duke (£10.50) – crispy bacon, USA cheese and BBQ sauce – and added fried onions (75p). All burgers come with a side, which for me was an extremely generous portion of sweet potato fries plus coleslaw and pickles. Let me tell you, I was impressed. The bun was super light, and I think a little bit toasted, the meat was juicy and the bacon really was crispy. My pal Becky had the Bandit (£10.50), Cajun rubbed beef with BBQ sauce, an onion ring and cheddar cheese which she was a big fan of, although if forced to critique she felt whilst it added a gentle heat, the Cajun flavour was missing something. She chose the Sci Fries (sprinkled with chilli and garlic) which were fab but too hot for wusses like me. We finished these off with two very impressive sundaes. Mine was the Wookie Cookie (£5.95) – oreos, ice cream, whipped cream, butterscotch sauce and marshmallow fluff. Phwooooar. We wanted milkshakes too, but managed to resist. Even though they do one with bacon in it.

This is not a grown up venue for a civilised night out. It’s a bunch of fun, extremely child friendly and somewhere to go with your mates for a big feed. It might be a good date venue; there will be plenty to talk about with Power Rangers hanging from the ceiling and a dalek lurking in the corner. Plus, if someone’s happy with getting burger sauce all over their face they could be a keeper.

We’re spoiled for choice for burger places in Bristol, and this is certainly one to tick off.

Mary x

http://www.atomicburger.co.uk/

Reviews

Mezzaluna

Situated next to Tesco Express on West Street, Bedminster, on a stretch of road mostly consisting of takeaways or flats, you’d be forgiven for wandering past Mezzaluna and not paying much attention to it. I say this from personal experience; we’ve lived almost opposite for some time and never been in for food, but I am so glad we paid a visit!

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It’s a family-run Mediterranean cafe/bar/restaurant, with a large menu offering traditional Turkish food, loads of pizzas and a good selection of meat & fish dishes. There are some great Turkish treats on the menu including burek and stuffed vine leaves, as well as your more standard fare of garlic breads and chicken wings. They’re also open for brunch and lunch, again with a mix of English and Mediterranean choices.

We shared a starter; Sebzeli Peynir (£4.95), which was a hot pan of roasted vegetables topped with goat’s cheese & caramelised onions. It came out piping hot and tasted great.  For mains I went for the Frutti di Mare pizza (£11.95) which was HUGE. Thin base, yummy seafood and I asked for added anchovies (the waiter said this was no problem at all, because “anything is possible!”, I liked that). Brad chose the Kiymali Pide (£8.50), which is a Turkish cross between a pizza and a calzone with cheese, slow cooked minced beef and tomatoes.

 

We had a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc which was about £13. There isn’t a single bottle of wine on the menu over £15 (bar sparkling ones of course) which makes for a very good value evening out!

The service is excellent – really friendly, flexible and welcoming, and there’s a relaxed ambience in the restaurant which adds to the Mediterranean feel. It was nice to sit in the window and see the sights of West Street (people watching anyway!) over a good bottle of wine and some yummy pizza.

Worth noting that they also do takeaway pizzas – a 14″ with 3 toppings for only £7.50 (collection only). Amaze!

You probably wouldn’t venture to Mezzaluna if you live further afield, but if you’re in Bedminster or live locally it’s a great option for a casual dinner. To be honest, we went with fairly low expectations. These were certainly exceeded, and we’ll definitely be back to this little gem.

http://www.mezzalunarestaurant.co.uk

Mary x