Monday, 30 June 2014

Menu Gordon Jones wins Good Food Guide regional restaurant of the year award

Bath restaurant Menu Gordon Jones has won the prestigious title of South West Readers’ Restaurant of the Year by Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015.
To qualify for the awards, aimed at championing neighbourhood eateries, restaurants needed to be independently run and offer regional or local produce where possible.
Menu Gordon Jones fought off stiff competition from others in the South West to scoop the win for the region.
This year, more than 30,000 members of the public submitted nominations for their favourite restaurants in the awards. The Good Food Guide verifies all the nominations before picking ten regional winners who represent some of the best local dining experiences to be had around the country.
Menu Gordon Jones opened in 2012 and quickly gained a strong local reputation for its innovative cooking and use of local, wild and foraged ingredients. With just 20 covers, demand for tables at the restaurant is high.
The no-choice 'surprise' tasting menu changes daily and recent dishes have included tandoori cod tongues, squid coleslaw, avocado yoghurt, smoked paprika taco; and glazed rose veal cheek, truffle sticky rice, candied citrus and dried chervil roots.
On hearing the news, Gordon Jones, chef and proprietor of Menu Gordon Jones, said: ‘We are so happy to have been awarded the Readers' award. This is such an honour to have been recognised for what we do and to know that our customers appreciate it. And we do really want to thank all our customers for embracing our concept and for all the support they have given us. We are absolutely over the moon.’
Elizabeth Carter, Consultant Editor of The Good Food Guide, said: 'My heartfelt congratulations to Menu Gordon Jones on being named as the Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the Year for the South West. Chef Gordon Jones has quickly established his restaurant as a gastronomic destination. Gordon’s highly individualistic cooking is a marvel; each dish on his no-choice tasting menu offers exquisite attention to detail and always delivers on taste and flavour. A meal here is quite simply outstanding.’
The Readers’ Restaurant of the Year Awards celebrate local restaurants, pubs and cafés, as nominated by members of the public.
Each winning restaurant will feature in the 2015 edition of the guide, which will be published in September 2014.
The winner of the overall award will be picked by the editors of the Good Food Guide and will be announced on September 1.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Stellar line-up of chefs announced for Eat Drink Bristol Fashion

A stellar line-up featuring many of the South West's most acclaimed chefs has been announced for the third Eat Drink Bristol Fashion.

Held in a pop-up tipi village in Bristol's Queen Square between May 1-18, the fine dining lunches and dinners feature appearances from a number of Bristol and Bath chefs, alongside several top chefs from Devon and Cornwall.

Two Michelin-starred Cornish chef Nathan Outlaw will make an appearance with TV chef Valentine Warner for a special 'Hook It, Cook It' event on May 2.

Bristol is well represented by Michelin-starred chefs Josh Eggleton (Pony & Trap) and Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias of Casamia, as well as Toby Gritten of The Pumphouse, Matthew and Ian Pennington of The Ethicurean and Indian chef Romy Gill of new Thornbury restaurant Romy's Kitchen.

They are joined by Michelin-starred Bath chef Sam Moody of The Bath Priory, Chris Staines of Bath's Allium Brasserie and Richard Davies of the Michelin-starred Manor House in Castle Combe.

From further afield, there are debut Bristol appearances from Paul Ainsworth of Padstow's Michelin-starred No.6 restaurant, Simon Hulstone of The Elephant in Torquay and Jack Stein, who is head chef at his TV chef father Rick's world-famous Seafood Restaurant in Padstow.

There is also expected to be a lot of interest in the May 9 dinner hosted by Dominic Chapman, head chef at Michelin-starred Berkshire pub The Royal Oak at Paley Street, owned by former TV chat show host Sir Michael Parkinson. Chapman has worked at a number of top restaurants and pubs including Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck.

Tickets for this year's events go on sale tomorrow, March 18.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

REVIEW: Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, Bath

Vegetarian restaurants were never meant to be this much fun. I mean, during the course of my lunch at the Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, I spotted rosy-cheeked front of house staff smiling and, whisper it, diners laughing. And there I was thinking that all vegetarian restaurants were po-faced no-fun zones full of hairshirted Guardian readers nibbling dry, rabbit hutch salads and gagging on leaden nutloaves.

Acorn – I’ll drop the Vegetarian Kitchen bit now to keep the word count down a bit – occupies the tucked away spot where legendary Bath restaurant Demuth’s ruled the South West veggie roost for almost a quarter of a century. Chef Richard Buckley used to work at Demuth’s and when the opportunity came up to take over the building, he jumped at the chance and called in passionate foodie friends Jack Kelly, Helen Wilshire and Robert Eldon.

Acorn opened in 2013 and in less than a year it has firmly established itself as a rare outpost of fine vegetarian cooking, recently gaining a glowing review in a national Sunday newspaper, as well as self-publishing a charming little cookbook, all of which has helped to put a few more yoga-toned bums on seats.

Hidden off the beaten track in the centre of Bath, close to the famous Sally Lunn’s tea shop, Acorn is small but perfectly formed. Set across two floors of a handsome Georgian building, the ground floor has high ceilings, elegant white and grey wood panelling and sash windows offering glimpses of Bath Abbey over the rooftops of the honey-coloured stone buildings at the rear.

A few high shelves of books include such carefully selected tomes as the Momofuku cookbook, Larousse Gastronomique and the Post Office Guide Book of 1947. It all makes for a rather serene and modest setting for the vibrant, innovative food on offer.

As is the way in many restaurants at the moment, there is an emphasis on ‘little plates’ to share and these preprandial nibbles include such arresting snacks as polenta chips and plum ketchup and garlic dhal with greens.
But the first thing that really strikes you about the menus here are the prices. From the set menu, three courses will set you back £16.95 and two courses are £13.95.

If you are ordering from the a la carte, the most expensive item is the Dorset Blue Vinny cheesecake with red wine poached plums, thyme shallots, local leaf salad and pecans, which clocks in at a modest £10.25. At a time when meat prices, particularly beef, continue to spiral off the spreadsheet for many chefs, this is a kitchen that proves you can feed people very well for a fair price and still make a living.

I chose from the main menu and there wasn’t a dud among the three courses. Buckley and his team have that uncanny knack of extracting maximum flavour from the most humble of ingredients and this was perfectly illustrated in a starter charmingly called ‘Mike’s roast beetroots’. I’m not sure who Mike is - presumably one of the local growers supplying the kitchen - but he would be flattered by the respect his beets get in the Acorn’s basement kitchen.

The crescent-shaped wedges of golden beetroot had a real depth of flavour, sweet but seriously earthy at the same time. They were teamed with a deep-hued red beetroot purée and two scoops of silky blackcurrant sorbet perched on a nutty, cumin-scented dukka.

A main course of white onion tart comprised a puff pastry disc topped with thick, soft and sweet rounds of roasted onion flanked by a few knobbly baby carrots, blobs of intense thyme pesto and a bed of Puy lentils and shredded greens. It was a dish big on flavour as well as box-ticking textural contrast.

Desserts are a strength rather than an afterthought – a quivering vanilla pannacotta having the perfect silicone implant wobble and served with candy pink pieces of Yorkshire rhubarb and crisp, buttery shortbread.

Exciting, sensibly priced food served by friendly, smiley staff and not a collarless hemp shirt or pair of Jesus boots in sight – if vegetarian restaurants were always this much fun, I would seriously consider the veggie option more often.

Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, 2 North Parade Passage, Bath, BA1 1NX. Tel: 01225 446059.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The owners of award-winning Bristol tapas bar Bravas have announced details of their second opening in the city. Husband and wife team Kieran and Imogen Waite have taken over the site of the former Bishopston Trading Company on Gloucester Road and plan to open Bakers & Co in early 2014. A San Francisco-inspired brunch restaurant and café, Bakers & Co will encompass a daytime space and have a few hallmarks that have proved successful in Bravas, such us an open central kitchen, counter dining and vibrant food displays. The menu will have five choices, whether it is breakfast, brunch or lunch. The chalkboard lunch menu will change daily and the breakfast and brunch dishes will change regularly. Although the menu is still being devised, sample breakfast dishes will include maple, bacon and walnut sticky bun, and fried duck egg with chorizo migas. Brunch dishes will include smoked salmon, lemon and herb quinoa salad, soft-boiled eggs, and ‘Bakers eggs’ (tomatoes, peppers, chilli and fresh herbs). Lunch specials will include sandwiches, salads, tarts, a daily hot dish and the signature ‘Bakers toast’. Although Kieran and Imogen will be heavily involved in the day-to-day running of Bakers & Co, they will split their time between the new café and Bravas. The head chef at Bakers & Co will be Hayley Hastings, who is currently working a stage at Bar Tartine in San Francisco, an establishment that has inspired the new Bristol café. Sending Hayley to gain experience at the Californian café is part of Kieran and Imogen’s commitment to promoting and rewarding their staff, which they say is an important part of working for their company. “Since opening Bravas last April, we have taken every opportunity to promote staff. We have a young talented team who are passionate about hospitality and all of whom we have managed to retain. “Promoting people is great, it allows them to grow and take on more responsibility. We try to involve our team in everything and take them on annual trips to London and Spain, to visit vineyards and dine in top restaurants. “The same will apply to Bakers & Co. We booked flights for head chef Hayley to visit the city and dine in the type of places that are producing fresh, vibrant and delicious brunch menus and arranged a stage at Bar Tartine, sister restaurant to the famous Tartine bakery. “Other initiatives are providing complementary therapy such as acupuncture for complaints that may be caused by, or effect work, and invest in external and transferable training for professional growth.” Bakers & Co opens in January 2014 and you can follow its progress on Twitter @bakersandco and at

Sunday, 1 April 2012

British charcuterie that's a breed apart

For somebody who has been partly responsible for the renaissance of British charcuterie, Graham Waddington wears his achievements lightly.
As the co-founder of Monmouthshire-based Trealy Farm, Graham helped to put his locally made salamis and air-dried hams on the menus of several Michelin-rated restaurants across the UK and London.
Eight years on and this award-winning curer and charcutier has now moved on from Trealy Farm to set up his own Native Breeds brand with his wife, Ruth.
From their modest premises on the Lydney Park Estate in Gloucestershire, Graham and his skilled team have launched a range of top quality cured, smoked, air-dried and cooked charcuterie using native and rare-breed animals.
This is small-scale, top-end artisan food production of the very highest order and since launching the business earlier this year, Graham has gained huge interest from a number of notable chefs and restaurants, all of whom want to put his unique products on their menus.
Native Breeds is unique in that it only uses meat and game from a small group of selected farmers and estates and all of the additional ingredients are local, whether it’s the Bramley & Gage Dittisham plum liqueur used in the Severnside paté, the Gloucestershire Jersey milk added to the black puddings or the Wye Valley perry used to cure the confit of goose.
Graham uses traditional methods to extract the maximum flavour from the meat and signature products include Hereford beef pastrami, Forest of Dean wild boar salami and Orchard ham (Gloucester Old Spot pork cured in award-winning Orchards cider then smoked over applewood).
But it’s not just salamis and hams that sets Native Breeds apart from its contemporaries. Graham makes a number of specialist products rarely made in Britain, including goose magret, poitrine (a French style of bacon) and Bratwurst sausages.
It is this range of delicacies that has helped Graham to get his products on the shelves of Selfridges in London, as well as sought after by top chefs, including Stephen Terry at The Hardwick in Abergavenny.
“One of the things people like is the fact we are making fringe products that aren’t really being made in the UK,” says Graham. “It’s not just salamis and air-dried hams but products like boudin blanc and confit of goose using local ingredients.
“That was what the buyers at Selfridges were particularly interested in because their customers are looking for something British that’s a little bit more unusual.
“The idea for Native Breeds was to have a small business making unique things that reflected what was in the region, which covers Gloucestershire, Wales and the Borders, the Marches and Herefordshire.
“We felt we were perfectly located in the middle of some very good produce to achieve that.”
Over the past five years there has been a wave of new British charcutiers and curers, something that Graham puts down to the increased customer awareness of provenance and traceability.
“People want to know where something comes from and they want something different so we have stuck to these principles.
“We make all our products with local meat and game and we use ingredients like apple juice, milk and the cures, all of which are signatured by something from Gloucestershire.”
Despite the huge interest in his products, Graham says he has no plans to expand the business in terms of mass-production. In a world of fierce commercialism, it’s refreshing to meet an artisan food producer who actually wants to stay ‘small’ and who is more interested in preserving our regional culinary heritage.
“We want to stay really small because it means we can maintain this level of relationship with our suppliers and the producers.
“We don’t really want to get into supermarkets simply because one of the things our customers like most is the fact we can supply them with things they can’t get from supermarkets.
“That’s really important to them and some customers actually ask us to make specific products for them if they are having a special event. Because we are so small we can turn on a sixpence and make it for them if we can.”
Native Breeds products can be bought at Cirencester farmers’ market on the second and fourth Saturday of the month and also from Relish deli in Cirencester.
For details of other stockists and information, go to

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Casamia chef behind stoves of new Bristol opening

John Watson of Michelin-starred Bristol restaurant Casamia has been named as the head chef of new Bristol restaurant and bar The Gallimaufry.
Opening on the site of The Prom music bar on Gloucester Road, The Gallimaufry (apparently it means 'making the best out of what's available to you') is the latest venture from James Smailes and James Koch of The Colour Inn in Clifton.
The menu will be 'short, rustic, affordable' with main courses under £10. The bar will include local ales, wines and a small cocktail list.
Dishes include pork belly, radishes and apple; sausages with stewed lentils; neck of lamb, courgettes and mint.
John Watson said: "I want to fill people's bellies with hearty British fare, serving simple dishes that rely on the availability of local produce."
The Gallimaufry opens on March 17 at 26-28 The Promenade, Gloucester Road, Bristol.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Restaurant review: Belgreen, Exeter

There can’t be too many professional kitchens in Devon with a silver mirror disco ball hanging from the kitchen ceiling. But then Belgreen is probably unlike any café you have ever visited.

A quirky little place that doubles up as a shop selling vintage household goods and printed linens, this new venture from chef Isabel Davies and designer Teresa Green opened a couple of months ago on Magdalen Road in the desirable St Leonard’s area of Exeter.

A street that still boasts a butchers, a delicatessen, cafes and restaurants, clothes shops, a pub and a launderette (cheekily called the Dandy Dipper), Magdalen Road is a fabulous reminder that the independents are still thriving and that there is still life beyond homogenised shopping centres.

This independent spirit is certainly evident at Belgreen, which manages to be thoroughly contemporary yet retro and deliciously old-fashioned at the same time.

From the moment you step inside and hear the tinkle of the antique bell above the door, there is a sense of timelessness about the café. You half expect Margaret Rutherford or Joyce Grenfell to be pouring a cup of tea in the corner.

There are just six closely-packed tables for customers, which certainly makes for an intimate experience and booking is highly advisable.

Tables and chairs are rickety, wooden and mismatched. There are retro mirrors on one wall, a vintage ivory wall phone on another. Crockery is antique and knives and forks are the sort of bone-handled Sheffield Steel cutlery found at car boot sales and antiques fairs.

In the window, enamel colanders and whisks hang on a washing line next to co-owner Teresa’s striking linen tea towels.

Chef Isabel worked in some notable kitchens prior to opening Belgreen. She started at riverstation in Bristol before moving to London to work at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. Her first head chef’s position was at the celebrated London gastropub The Lansdowne and then at La Fromagerie in Marylebone.

More recently, she was sous chef at Mark Hix’s Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen in Axminster.

That’s quite a CV for a young woman barely into her third decade.

The menus change daily at Belgreen and they are chalked up on boards. Breakfast is served from 8.30am until 11.30am and might include home toasted granola or muesli with yogurt and raspberry compote; a bacon and tomato sandwich; Manx kippers, toast and butter or sauté tomatoes on toast.

And then comes lunch. With nothing more than £8.50 on the day we visited, the sub-£10 policy here is sensible, attractive and exactly right for such straitened times.

Portions are generous, too, and it would be quite possible to eat very well for around a fiver before you ordered drinks. There are half a dozen different wines available by the glass or bottle, as well as plenty of quality soft drinks and good coffee dispensed from a striking red Elektra coffee machine.

This is robust, seasonal cooking that uses as much local produce as possible and it is backed up with the best that Italy and France can offer.

My pappardelle, chicken livers, pancetta and sage (£8.50) was a generous plate of fresh pasta mixed with a tangle of precisely cooked chicken livers that were still rose pink in the middle. The pancetta added a salty crunch and the sage was used with restraint so as not to overpower the dish.

Across the table, roast pork, white beans and anchovy (£8.50) was the sort of comforting, rustic peasant dish you would expect to find in the Italian mountains, not leafy St Leonard’s. The strips of pork were surprisingly tender and the use of anchovy as a main flavour, rather than just a seasoning, was an inspired touch.

Dishes we didn’t order included watercress soup with pancetta and chilli flakes (£4.50); Provencal fish soup and rouille (£5.50); Welsh rabbit and watercress (£5); roast squash and blue cheese tart (£5.50) and Exmouth mussels with white wine, garlic and parsley (£8).

From the short dessert menu (scrawled in white chalk on a brown paper bag hanging from a wooden peg, naturally), a shared pear and almond tart (£3.50) was deep, moist and squidgy with a huge slice of tender pear in the centre.

A quirky place selling intelligently cooked seasonal food, as well as chipped enamel jugs and vintage blankets, Belgreen is certainly unique.

It may be a small café, but it has a large and generous heart. Like the silver mirror disco ball in the kitchen, this is one place where the talent really shines through.

Belgreen, 25 Magdalen Road, Exeter, EX2 4TA. Tel: 01392 271190.