Monday, 29 August 2011

The Riding House Café - London

Good service is absolutely key when you’re running a restaurant. A friendly smile here, a kind word there, some extra attention paid. It can all help to smooth over a multitude of problems. Most people, myself included, can be incredibly forgiving if the service is good or a complaint has been handled professionally and with a bit of charm. To put it bluntly, if I’m handing over my hard earned cash to eat at your restaurant, I expect a friendly welcome and some looking after. I mean, if I really wanted sullen cheerless service, I’d eat ‘E’s food at home, (I'm kidding of course)

Unfortunately, it seems that one member of the front of house staff at the recently opened Riding House Café didn’t get the memo. Our very first impressions upon entering the place were tainted somewhat by an unsmiling, glacial, unwelcoming but oh so trendily attired, fashion model proportioned, lanky greeter, who rubbed his designer stubble and sized us up from a vantage point that seemed to be located somewhere between an arched eyebrow and down his nose.

“Table for two?”

We followed as he pranced and sashayed through the restaurant as if on a catwalk, before gesturing silently to an empty table and tossing two menus onto it without even breaking stride as he continued on, to chat to someone at the bar.

What an absolutely abysmal start.
‘E’ and I looked at each other; eyebrows raised quizzically. We then began an urgent hissed and muttered conversation on how to deal with such awful initial service. We decided against walking straight out, because we were there now, we were hungry and we really wanted to give it a try. The reviews for the most part had been fairly positive and we were curious. But don’t think for one minute that the poor attitude hadn’t been noted. We didn’t like the cut of his jib one little bit.

Looking around us there was no doubting that the restaurant fit out has been done fantastically well. What an absolutely beautiful and interesting looking space. There’d obviously been no expense spared and no detail overlooked. Lovely, and I’d imagine a pretty good place to prop up the bar on a Friday night.

Glancing at the menus, it seems that we’d unwittingly timed our arrival in a sort of ‘menu no-mans land’, not quite lunch and not quite dinner. Only a hand full of the mains were available, and a selection of the menu’s small plates, which is The Riding House Café’s ‘thing’.

Not really fancying any of the available larger dishes, we decided to order a few of the small plates to share. All are priced between £3 and £5 and don’t appear to be influenced by any particular country or cooking style.

A bowl of spicy broad beans were a pretty standard nibble, and priced at £1.50

The bread selection with artichoke puree was far more interesting. The bread was pretty decent and the puree bloody gorgeous. Well worth the £1.50

A bowl of veal and pork sausage, lentils, mustard and sage was pretty good, the mustard sauce was perhaps a bit over salty but I’d have happily paid more money and stuffed a bigger portion of this.

Pipérade, anchovy, basil was a disaster in the offing. Onions, peppers and tomatoes precariously perched on a wafer thin piece of toasted bread, just waiting to crumble and deposit the whole oily mess down your no doubt, white shirt. Happily I ate without incident, the anchovies were nice and fresh and it was pretty decent at £3

Beetroot carpaccio, sheep’s ricotta, merlot vinaigrette. So incredibly simple that I bet the kitchen is slinging these out in their sleep. But, it’s a small plate of decent ingredients that work well together. A scattering of pumpkin seeds added a nice bit of crunch. Yours for £3.

Finally, Atlantic Prawns, lemon and mayonnaise. Not a lot to say really, incredibly simple, unmucked about with, lovely fresh big prawns. Anyone who’s seen comedian Stewart Lee will know that massive prawns equal quality of life, so they get a big thumbs up. A bowl of these were £5

Sadly in this strange limbo time between lunch and dinner, the dessert options seemed to be severely limited to what was proffered by a (much more happier and professional) waitress from beneath a glass dome. Declining a lump of rocky road or a raspberry muffin type thing as just a bit too Starbucks for our liking, we, as the more sordid journalists often say, made our excuses and left…. pausing only momentarily to do the grown up thing and flick V’s in the general direction of the appallingly ignorant front of house model.

The Riding House Café is a fantastic looking restaurant and bar, beautifully and tastefully designed. I loved the look of it.

However, I didn’t love the ‘too cool’ service we received on our visit. It was frigging abysmal and goes a long way in undoing any wish I may have to return or recommend it. But, to be fair, it was just the one guy and if by now he hasn’t learnt to slap on a smile, do his job properly with a modicum of charm and the management is in any way competent, then he’ll have probably been given the boot. Harsh perhaps, but as my old Dad would say, tough titties.

The small plate idea is good, the prices reasonable and the food pretty good. Not setting the world alight, but not dropping any bollocks either. It performs the function of something to eat while you sip your drink in the rather fabulous surroundings admirably. I’ve heard the burgers are good, and if I’m in the area I might pop back to try one of the main dishes, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again.

The Riding House Café

43-51 Great Titchfield Street

Telephone: 020 7927 0840

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Racine - London

I’ve wanted to eat at chef Henry Harris’s South Kensington restaurant, Racine for a couple of years now. Notwithstanding the fact that every food blogger and critic in town has eaten there, (and for the most part, rated it highly). Henry is a former apprentice and later sous chef of the legendary Simon Hopkinson. This influence has obviously rubbed off, and Henry is considered a bit of a cooking legend in his own right.

Just to torture me further, on my frequent visits back to London, my route into town often passes Racine, (blurrily viewed through fogged up coach windows). I always resolve that I ‘must’ visit. Well, finally, it is done.

But first a question… where does your comfort level for eating offal lie? I’ve tucked into a few choice bits and pieces over the years, and for the most part am always pleasantly surprised by how tasty these seemingly indigestible animal parts are. Trotters, tripe, sweetbreads, pig’s head in the form of brawn. They’re all good. But for me, the old grey matter, a bit of juicy brain… has always been just a step too far. I’m not sure why, it’s just another part of an animal, as valid to munch on as a rare steak. But it just seems so far removed; almost alien… other people eat them, but not me.

I’d heard that famously Racine served up the Gallic classic, fried calf’s brains with capers and black butter. I imagined what it’d be like to eat. No doubt, a tiny cauliflower like brain. Fried and crisp on the outside, white and creamy on the inside, like an overripe cheese. I imagined biting in, a pop and my mouth suddenly flooded with the creamy unctuous brain, finding the hard twig like brain stem in the middle, pulled from the mouth clean with a flourish, like an empty grape stalk.

Excuse me while I retch.

I just couldn’t imagine brain would be pleasant to eat. But I was intrigued. As is now traditional in matters such as this, I decided to throw the question into the rather lively forum that is Twitter. A couple of immediate ‘Eurgh’s’ and about dozen much more positive replies assuring me that calf’s brain is a real treat. It seems most of the food types I follow have had a nibble in the past, and all had apparently survived the experience relatively unscathed.

No one was more surprised than me when I found that I was slowly coming around to the idea of eating brain. I decided that I’d order it, and have a go. Just so I could say I’d been there, I’d done it and feasted on a bit of thinking matter.

Stepping into Racine feels very much like stepping into a high-end Parisian bistro. The banquette-seating running the length of the room, the immaculately laid tables with crisp white tablecloths, the waiter’s dressed in classic black and white uniform. Happily, the often snooty and distinctly aloof Parisian service ethic hasn’t been replicated and the front of house team was extremely welcoming, friendly and professional. I can think of a few restaurants that could take much needed lessons in front of house service from Racine *cough* Riding House Café *cough*

After ordering some wine and nibbling on bread and beautifully packaged French butter (I’m easily impressed by nice packaging)…my moment finally arrived.

Cometh the hour, cometh the brains. A starter of Calf’s brains, black butter and capers looked much more appetising than I expected. I plunged right in, and took an exploratory forkful. Crisp on the outside, giving way to a slightly soft and subtly flavoured interior, it wasn’t actually bad at all. The capers cut through it nicely giving a much-needed sharpness. I ate away happily…I was eating brains…errr…. yeah…I was eating calf’s brain… munching on flabby brain …chewing…. is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

I started to sweat, and I could feel the bile rising. I stopped and looked at the last forkful sadly. I’d been beaten. No more. Bizarrely perhaps, I could eat brain; even enjoy it, up until the point where I started to think about what I was actually eating, and then I felt nauseous. But the main thing is, despite discovering it’s not for me, I’d given it a go and I can see how other people rate it as a dish. I just can’t get over the whole brain thing. Maybe it’ll be easier next time.

Meanwhile, oblivious to this cerebral drama, ‘E’ was happily consuming a more conventional starter of soft-boiled egg with creamed smoked cod’s roe, from the rather bargainous Prix Fixe menu.

After my self-inflicted brain trauma, I’m happy to say that the rump of lamb was without a doubt the best piece of lamb I’ve ever eaten…. anywhere. It was ridiculously good. Beautifully cooked pink, soft, tender meat. With the accompanying pea puree, runner beans and mint, I could have eaten it all day…and I almost did, the portion size was surprisingly huge. Not that I’m complaining.

‘E’s fillet of mullet, fennel, radish and watercress salad was also a fantastic dish. A superb fennel puree cut through the oiliness of the fish beautifully and combined well with the freshness of the aniseed, peppery kick of the salad. It was so good in fact; we’re planning on having a go replicating it at home.

I’m afraid to say the classic French dessert, Mont Blanc, (chocolate sauce, meringue, cream all topped with chestnut puree), wasn’t a great choice. Incredibly sickly sweet from the off, the meringue was ridiculously tough and chewy; I had trouble breaking it up with a knife and fork, let alone a spoon. Despite it being the first time I've eaten it in a restaurant, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not supposed to be quite like that. Eventually I gave up for fear of my efforts sending a chocolate covered piece of rock hard meringue skittering off and spattering the white shirt I was wearing.

But, rising triumphant like a phoenix from the ashes of the Mont Blanc, the best crème caramel I’ve ever tasted. Absolute manna from heaven. Squat and firm but with a melting creamy spoonful filling the mouth, subtly coated with bitter sweet caramel. Absolutely beautiful. A classic simple dish, done incredibly well. Tres impressive as we say in Essex.

Racine is a great restaurant. There’s a legend cooking in the kitchen. The set menu is a complete bargain at £17.75 for 3 courses (although I have to point out, I ordered off the standard menu, and my portion of the bill came to £50) And despite not being to my taste, they’re serving up interesting dishes like calf’s brains. Admittedly the Mont Blanc was a bit of a disaster, but this can be easily forgiven when the mullet, lamb and the crème caramel were nothing short of bloody amazing. It obviously deserves its great reputation. I’d happily recommend Racine to anyone.


239 Brompton Road

Monday, 22 August 2011

Pontack - An Elderberry sauce

Pontack is a venerable old English sauce that has been knocking around for at least 300 years. A slightly sharp but sweet reduction made from elderberries and spices. It’s the perfect accompaniment to rich gamey meat

It appears to have been first served in London’s Lombard Street in the 17th century. Named after its originator, Monsieur Pontack, proprietor of the eponymous Pontack’s Head Tavern, which according to André Simon was ‘London’s first fashionable eating house’. Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) "found the wine dear at seven shillings a flagon". Proving perhaps that some things in London remain eternal.

We came across Pontack whilst researching what to serve with pigeon breasts at last weekend’s ‘Montpelier Basement’ (Our Bristol supper club). Elderberries are everywhere around our area right now, and it seemed like the perfect choice.

Famously Pontack is supposed to keep incredibly well, up to seven years in fact, maturing and mellowing with age. This fact is what actually put us off following any of the published recipes…we wanted to use it the next day and we weren’t entirely sure how it would taste after such a comparatively short time.

So, after much umming and ahhhing we ended up making a semi-bastardised recipe of our own, a sort of Pontack’esque elderberry reduction. Success! It was absolutely bloody gorgeous.

Montpelier Basement Pontack

Makes (after being reduced by half to serve) …350ml

You’ll need: -
450ml Water
650g of de-stalked and washed Elderberries
180ml Red Wine Vinegar
200g Golden Caster Sugar
5 Shallots – finely chopped
4 Cloves
4 Allspice berries
¾ Whole Nutmeg – grated
2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
Pinch of salt

First strip and wash your elderberries from the stalks (The stalks are actually slightly toxic, small bits are fine, but don’t leave any large bits in). Dan’s first rule of cooking is ‘don’t poison yourself’…. perhaps you should mutter this gently to yourself as you carry on making the rest of the sauce. By the way, the easiest way to strip the berries is to use a fork. Easy.

Next, put the sugar and red wine vinegar in a pan, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat slightly, and boil until it slightly thickens and becomes ‘syrupy’.

Add the water, elderberries, shallots and all the spices. Stir and simmer for 5 mins and strain through a fine sieve.

If using straight away, reduce by half.

If not, pour into a prepared sterilised jar, it should keep for a good while (maybe even seven years…. but seeing as we’ve messed with the recipe, don’t hold us to that!). But, and this is the main thing…. It’s absolutely cracking to use right away, just reduce it a bit before serving… to get it nice, thick and glossy. You’ll only need about a tablespoon per person, so this amount makes about enough for 30 odd portions. Its a perfect accompaniment to game birds and also supposedly very good with liver or kidneys.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Magdalen Arms - Oxford

Oxford. The dreaming spires, the Bridge of Sighs, the rarefied heady air of academic excellence. The collective, almost palpable legacy that’s conjured up by some of the finest minds this country has ever produced being educated here. And me, striding purposefully through the grey mist of torrential rain pounding the Oxford pavements, a striking figure absorbing, pondering, head bulgingly intelligent, handsome, yet sensitive. But something is up, my face contorted in agony; tortured by the newly discovered linguistic contortion that Magdalen (to my mind, always literally verbalised as ‘Mag-Da-Len’) is actually pronounced as ‘Mawd-Lin’.
Errr what?

This is of course extremely important. I’m headed to The Magdalen Arms, an Oxford gastro pub with something of an interesting pedigree. The owners having worked at what many consider to be one of the best gastropubs in London, The Anchor & Hope.

Taking over, by all accounts, what used to be a seriously rough old boozer and completely transforming it into a gastropub, The Magdalen Arms opened last year to rave reviews from bloggers and critics alike. Matthew Norman of The Guardian declaring it ‘among the very best of its kind in Britain’. Having read all this at the time, I’d stored it away for when I happened to be visiting Oxford again, and behold, here I was.

The pub itself is only a little way out from the centre, but it seemed a much longer trek when damp and trudging along in the pissing rain with ‘E’ loping along beside me, cursing the distance walked and moaning about the weather in a constant stream of misery. Nevertheless I was excited.

The trouble with reading mounds of positive reviews beforehand is that your expectation level soars ridiculously, so unless you have an almost religious eating experience you’re often left feeling a bit cheated. I am of course aware of this, and try and rein it in a bit, but it’s true to say I was expecting great things.

The pub itself is a pleasant large period corner building, with a surprisingly massive interior; a bar runs the full length of the room with a dining area towards the back. The connection with the Anchor & Hope and Great Queen St obviously extends to the décor style, with walls painted in a striking colour (Plum in this instance) and the battered mismatched furniture, if you’ve ever been to the connected London gastropubs, it all feels very familiar.

The menu could be best described as British with Spanish touches, (Spanglish?) Padron peppers, and tapas plates mingle comfortably with steak pies and bread and butter pudding. Again the A&H influence is evident in the sharing dishes. Sadly, ‘E’s accursed pescatarianism once again wedged firmly into the spokes of my rampant carnivorousness and I could only sadly mouth ‘I want you’ whilst pawing softly at the entry for Hereford Steak & Ale Pie for three-ish to share on the menu.

I’ve tried brawn a few times, and despite being always being slightly repelled at the actual idea of eating a pigs head, when served up, pressed and thinly sliced it doesn’t actually resemble anything remotely head’ish and is actually quite pleasant in a surprisingly subtle way. If you’ve never tried it, do. If only to say you’ve eaten it once. (Which is often my raison d’être when tucking into something a bit strange). The brawn as served at The Magdalen Arms is the best I’ve had. Streaked with a punchy mustard sauce and scattered with capers, sliced shallots and parsley, it was really very good and I happily stuffed the lot in no time.

‘E’ ordered a whole globe artichoke, which came with a bowl of the same mustard sauce for dipping. I’ve never eaten artichoke like this before, plucking off petals and sucking and scraping the leaves to get at the understated vegetal goodness. So simple, but really quite lovely. With ‘E’ going at it industriously, it wasn’t long before the artichoke had become a scrapheap pile of green on the plate.

Considering the bloody awful weather outside, a somewhat autumnal sounding dish of Wild Rabbit, Chorizo Fennel and Puy lentils drizzled with aioli struck a chord, and the real testament to how good this rustic dish tasted, was the plate going back a steaming carcass, utterly devoid of any meat at all, picked so bare and dry it looked like it’d been sitting in the Arizona dessert for years. I absolutely love a nice bit of Thumper, Cottontail or Flopsy. (Word of advice, if you own a rabbit, and I ever come round…hide it).

Crab ravioli and salsa cruda arrived swimming in a bowl of tomato and fish broth and despite eliciting fairly content noises from ‘E’ didn’t really seem to hit the spot like the other dishes had for me. This sudden discordant note in proceedings wasn’t helped by an accompanying side salad that had to be sent back as it was overdressed, smothered in a pungent mustard dressing that overwhelmed everything else.

Despite it being July, the unseasonably dismal weather prompted me to go for something traditional and stodgy (I don’t need much excuse). Warm Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding encircled by a moat of cream ticked all criteria. A donkey-choking sized portion, so massive it barely fitted into the bowl, I couldn’t help but rise to the challenge and eat it all…. making myself feel absolutely bloated and sick in the process. Disregarding my excesses, it was very good – just a subtle hint of marmalade, not too overpowering.

A warm chocolate pot, topped with cold cream was admirably simple and well made. ‘E’ loves chocolate-based desserts and seemed immensely pleased with this one. So, big thumbs up from her.

Ignoring the fact that I blundered out into the daylight in an almost complete food coma (curse that marmalade pudding), The Magdalen Arms provided a pretty damn good lunch. Expectations met. The overdressed salad and the so-so crab ravioli aside, some of the magic of its London based parent gastropubs has certainly rubbed off here. I think Matthew Normans ‘among the very best of its kind in Britain’ statement is maybe a tad exuberant, but there’s certainly no doubt that it’s very good. The next time I’m in Oxford, I’ll be heading back.

The Magdalen Arms

243 Iffley Road
Telephone: 01865 243159

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Celery Ice Cream

If one day, you hooked me up to some brain monitoring equipment. You could be forgiven at first for thinking the equipment was broken. Surveying the absence of any activity on the screen, you’d unplug and re-check every connection again and again, mystified as to what could possibly be wrong. You may eventually, patience stretched to snapping point; exasperated; punch the equipment violently. Meanwhile, I’d look on with a docile expression, serene, with not an actual thought in my head to register a blip, for herein lies the problem. Suddenly, without warning, the screen explodes into a frenzy of activity, you’d glance around at me excitedly to see my countenance, fraught and positively terrified as neurons and synapses frantically engage. I may even howl in distress as a crescendo of activity is reached. And then, as suddenly as it began, a silence that seems to draw out…forever….

I speak.
You’re stunned.

“Celery Ice-Cream”

Every now and again, dull mediocrity is punctuated by genius. That genius is celery ice cream and hot Stilton fritters.
*Needle skids across record*
Ok, not Stilton fritters. I tried making them, I thought they’d partner the ice cream perfectly, they didn’t. At all... So lets just forget I even mentioned that idea.

But celery ice cream standing alone, strong and proud, worked. It was beautiful, creamy, vegetal, and slightly peppery. And, the only recipe I could find for it online was an incredibly cheffy type one, for which you’d need a centrifuge, a team of bespectacled scientists and a chemistry set. Staring at these instructions uncomprehending, I gradually went boss eyed and gave up. Deciding instead to make up my own recipe.

Celery Ice Cream
(Makes about 1 litre)

You’ll Need: -

1 Bunch Celery, washed, trimmed and cut roughly into chunks
250ml Whole Milk
500ml Double Cream
3 Egg Yolks
100g Sugar

In a saucepan, add the celery to the milk and double cream. Bring to the boil. Turn off the heat, and allow to infuse for 1 hour.

Strain into a bowl, discarding the celery but giving it a good squeeze to get all the flavour out.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.
Add the celery milk and mix. Return to the pan and over a low heat; stir constantly until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Don’t allow it to boil, or you’ll end up with scrambled celery eggs.

Remove from the heat, and cool (I use the sink full of cold water and some ice cubes). Continue stirring until its cooled right down.

Put the cool custard into the fridge, with Clingfilm directly covering the surface to stop a skin forming. Leave to rest overnight (I left it for a good day and a half before churning).

Churn in an ice cream maker, until firm, smooth and creamy. Transfer to a plastic tub and freeze until needed. Voila – Celery Ice Cream.

Now, to my mind, the only question is, what goes well with it? Believe me, Stilton fritters definitely don’t. I’ve canvassed opinion amongst friends and colleagues, and suggestions have included a Bloody Mary sorbet, chocolate, more celery in the form of a granita, and a Stilton ice cream.

What do you think?

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Runcible Spoon - Bristol

Naming a restaurant after an obscure but entirely relevant line in a poem is an extremely clever thing to do. ‘The Runcible Spoon’…it’s just so perfect. (It’s from Edward Lear’s ‘The owl and the pussycat’, but then, you probably knew that already. I didn’t). Anyway, thank God I’ve never been asked to come up with anything along the same lines. After staring at the wall blankly for ten minutes, the only thing that popped into my luxuriously minimalist brain was ‘Hey diddle, diddle, my cat did a piddle’, which probably doesn’t project quite the image any dining establishment would be seeking. (In case I’m wrong, and you successfully open a restaurant called ‘Diddle My Cat’ or ‘Cat’s Piddle’ or any combination of the above, royalty cheques in the post please).

I’m going off on a tangent here. The Runcible Spoon is a modern British bistro situated in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, which you may recognise from recent news as the charmingly bohemian neighbourhood where they don’t like a Tesco much. (Despite this, Stokes Croft normally feels very relaxed and safe, the riots were definitely not the norm, so don’t be put off).

Interestingly, The Runcible Spoon is a co-operative (Which all sounds a bit “Wolfie” Smith, Tooting Popular Front, but as I’ve found out, is very Bristol, so bear with me and I’ll explain). The five owners (4 chefs and 1 gardener), own the restaurant jointly. It’s not run for profit in the way a normal restaurant is, but just to cover overheads and pay the owners a salary. Additionally their focus is on locally sourced, seasonal, foraged and homegrown produce. In fact, they own an allotment nearby and their goal is to eventually make the restaurant self-sufficient.
So less Wolfie Smith perhaps, and more ‘The Good Life’ then. Either way, it’s extremely admirable.

The restaurant opened earlier this year, and despite living a five-minute walk away in Montpelier, ‘E’ and myself have just been so manically busy, it wasn’t until the other week that we managed a visit.

From outside at night, the exterior looks warm and welcoming with a real neighbourhood bistro feel to the place. The interior is styled in a similar fashion, with a small dining room and bar upstairs, and a larger dining room downstairs.

Grabbing the upstairs corner table, the evening’s menu was handed to us, hand written on a piece of paper. A short selection is nearly always a good sign, it’s indicative of spankingly fresh ingredients and dishes made with care. With a choice of two starters, two mains and two desserts, I took it as a decent indicator. In fact, it was actually quite refreshing to relax and not agonise too much over the menu choices.

‘E’ ordered the gazpacho and basil sorbet. Chilled soup has to be a perfect choice for a warm summer evening. The gazpacho was nicely seasoned and was portioned correctly for greedy bastardos like us.. The accompanying basil sorbet was a superbly fresh addition and as you’d probably expect from a herb with such an affinity with tomato, it worked beautifully.

Pork rillettes & cornichon on toast were as good as I’ve had anywhere. Happily the portion was suitably massive. I liked the way it was presented, with the shredded pork heaped on the toasted bread rather than having to scrape through a fat covered pot myself.

Squid and chorizo stew main, piled up with a chunk of bread on the side looked suitably rustic and was pretty good. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of squid – call me a fishy philistine but I think it doesn’t actually taste of much and in addition it’s an horrendously ugly bugger…. I’m not sure anyone should be putting anything that looks like that in their mouth. That’s not to say this dish wasn’t good. It was. I stuffed the whole lot. I’m just having a general squiddy rant. I’ve never eaten a squid dish that’s truly impressed and would have probably been just as happy if the squid was left out altogether.

Meanwhile ‘E’ was admiring the beautiful presentation of her courgette and ricotta cheesecake, tomato & oregano salad, new potatoes and burnt butter. (Bit of a mouthful) It looked frigging awesome. I had a sneaky nibble, and yep – it was great. ‘E’ was absolutely chuffed with it.

A dessert of elderflower poached gooseberry crumble with clotted cream, was good, the flowery summer scent of the elderflower adding a nice sweet note to the tartness of the gooseberry.

The chocolate and raspberry truffle pot with soft caramels had ‘E’ cooing and ‘oh my God’ing’ appreciatively, so chalk that one up as a winner too, although to be honest the accompanying caramels were a bit on the hard side of ‘soft’. Happily our dentures were upto the task.

So, 3 courses, £16. That’s right, sixteen quid. In anyone’s book, that has to be a bargain.
The Runcible Spoon has a rough rustic charm all of it’s own. The food is good with touches of real flair, generously portioned and interesting with its admirable emphasis on seasonality and Britishness. That it’s all so fantastically cheap caps it off nicely.
Anyone who likes eating out would love to have this bistro in their neighbourhood, and I count myself lucky that it’s in my mine.

The Runcible Spoon

3 Nine Tree Hill
Stokes Croft

Telephone: 0117 329 7645