Tag Archives: local

Eating like a local, Guayaquil, Ecuador

The guilt we feel for not eating purely local food is, of course, entirely of our own making. I’m sure no-one – local, tourist, or blog reader – really gives much of a monkey’s. Be that as it may, we were resolved to get back to trying more unusual food, shop in small tiendas and follow unsuspecting Ecuadorians into neighbourhood restaurants in the hope of finding new and exciting gastronomic experiences.

Our first foray came in the form of bus food; that is, snacks often sold by men and women who wander down the aisle between stops, baskets filled with pre-chopped fruit, deep-fried tamales, and mysterious packages wrapped in black plastic bags, usually served with scorching hot chilli sauce, or syrup (sometimes both). Long bus journeys are a bit of a necessity in South America, as the distances between major towns and cities are vast. As such, we were soon on the look-out for something to eat on our 14hr journey south from Quito, and it wasn’t long until we were rewarded. As five heavily-laden women squeezed onto the bus, the sweet aroma of freshly steamed corn on the cobs filled the air. These were served, piping hot, with a generous slab of fresh cheese (something like a cross between mozzarella and halloumi, and delicious). Later, we’d maintain our salt and fat intake by tucking into cheese tamales, bought as we passed through some of Ecuador’s less salubrious neighbourhoods which were heavy in both petrol stations and hopefully named ‘love hotels’. From a feeding perspective at least, things were going well.

Having arrived in Guayquil late at night, we were ready for a proper meal by morning. The town is a fairly standard urban centre, our opinion not helped by its immediate comparision to the hot and beautiful Galapagos Islands, and the fact it was pissing with rain. In a rush to escape the weather, we ducked into the nearest strip of food stalls we could find and took a seat. Tenedor del Oro is a chain, serving Ecuadorian classics from breakfast through to dinner. Having fared so well before, I opted for fried plantains with fresh cheese, while the Egg Poacher chose a ‘Guayaco’, much the same as mine, but the plantain and cheese are mashed together, formed into a ball and then deep fried. There was also a side of fried egg, while we both had what can euphemistically be called DIY coffee: a tiny cup of instant granules, a mug of hot water, and some sugar.

It can’t be said this was our finest meal – the cheese had a somewhat sour aftertaste, while the eggs had been fried a long, long time ago, the yolks sagging like collapsed souffles. We certainly weren’t hungry anymore (and unlikely to need to eat again for many days to come), but a pressing desire for vitamins drove us straight into the arms of the nearest smoothie stall – proving that, as with most things and despite good intentions, you can’t win them all.

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Salt Cafe, Morningside, Edinburgh

To unite the Egg Poacher and Brunch Hunter clans, a suitably smart breakfast venue was required – up stepped Salt Cafe in the heart of leafy Morningside. The stretch of shops along the main road haven’t always fared well, but Salt seems set to stay, offering excellent coffee and a simple brunch and lunch menu for the well-heeled masses.

Inside the interiors take a nautical theme, with great hulls from old rowing boats on the walls, a central bar of wood and metal, and great rolls of brown paper listing the daily specials. Bulbs are fashionably exposed, tables neat and hewn from burnished metal, all built to seat a reasonable number of covers for a relatively small space. Staff are few and very friendly, quick to deliver an excellent flat white while menus are perused.

For brunch the offerings are reassuringly familiar: Eggs Benedict, Florentine and Royale, granola, a selection of pastries – and there are daily smoothies, milkshakes and wicked sounding breakfast cocktails to clear the weekend’s fog away. There are local sausages, Scottish fruits and beers from nearby breweries; flavours are fresh and perfectly seasoned.

Salt was doing a roaring trade on a Thursday morning so will fill up fast at weekends. Head there early (brunch starts at the very reasonable 10am) and grab a table by the window to watch the day trundle by.

Price: from £5 (granola) to £9.95 (full Scottish breakfast).

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The Swan at Wedmore, Somerset

IMG_2070[1]Nothing quite screams ‘bank holiday weekend’ than a leisurely Sunday roast, followed by a nap on a giant double bed in one of Somerset’s multitude pub with rooms. The Swan does all of these things will aplomb: the young staff deliver great plates of roast beef, fresh gnocchi and delicate crab washed down with local lagers or a multitude of wines by the glass, while upstairs the rooms are cool and inviting, with woolen throws and tartan armchairs adding a touch of texture to otherwise neutral Farrow & Ball tones. Ours had a small balcony overlooking the main strip of yellow stone buildings, the nearby church chiming on the hour to complete the Archer’s feel; better still, a claw-foot bath and a host of Bramley products meant an afternoon bubble bath in the sunshine (pint included for good effect).

And of course, one of the best bits about an overnight stay is the fact that breakfast comes with it. Like their dinner menu, the focus is on local fare – the bread comes from a bakery a short stroll from the door, and bacon is home-smoked; elsewhere suppliers are listed on the chalkboards around the bar. The menu is simple and traditional, and offers plenty for those less egg-averse than me (my bacon and mushrooms on toast looked somewhat lacking without the mound of scrambled egg). Nonetheless, with ingredients this good the flavours win the day, and, importantly, the coffee is just as well-sourced and made with equal care.

There’s plenty to love here, and lucky locals flock (expect a troupe of chinos and well-polished sprogs mussing their Sunday Best in the garden out the back). For those less close, it’s worth the journey – come armed with the papers and your PJs and you’ll be in for a weekend treat.

Price: from £3 (toast & jam) to £11 (The Swan Full English) B&B from £85.

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The Runcible Spoon, Nine Tree Hill, Bristol

IMG_1943[1]The Runcible Spoon is tucked up one of Bristol’s infamous hills, though thankfully only a short hike from Stokes Croft’s centre and therefore unlikely to put off all but the most hardened of calf muscle. It’s been overseen by a handful of different owners, all committed to keeping things fresh, seasonal and as local as can be, and its latest incarnation tows the same provenance-conscious line.

On a chilly March morning, the tall windows steam, hiding the inside from view. Stepping across the threshold is like dropping in to your favourite aunty’s living room: eccentric nick-nacks, pot plants, creepers, antique cutlery and a wonderful old original fireplace set the informal tone, while 6 Music on the radio and the friendly, laid-back staff add a touch of cool. It really is a teeny space – the studious chefs can be seen through the hatch to the kitchen and the bar is within touching distance; long-legged stools and a benchtop by the door help them to squeeze sociable diners in.

With a focus on quality ingredients, the brunch menu is short but compelling: bacon sandwiches with onion marmalade, veggieIMG_1944[1] and full English breakfasts, avocado flat breads with poached eggs. Facing my ovophobia head on, I opted for the baked eggs with chorizo, and wasn’t disappointed. This is brunch in its truest sense, with potions so generous you won’t even remember lunch exists: along with smoky choizo, creamy eggs and sweet peppers, there was a side of properly buttered sourdough, too. Coupled with some decent flat whites this was an excellent way to start a Saturday – and for those who don’t believe in early rising, it’s served until 3pm.

Price: from £2.50 (sourdough toast and cinnamon butter) to £8.95 (Big Breakfast).

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No. 12, Easton, Bristol

wpid-img_20150207_140941.jpgAt 10am on a Saturday morning, No. 12 is stacked floor to ceiling with children. They spill out onto, under and into the handful of tables available, cosying their way onto window seats and other people’s chairs. As you’d expect, there’s a sense of weekend chaos in the air: toast crusts and pastry crumbs fly, and over-caffienated parents read stories at a rate of knots. The staff assure us this is nothing new, and indeed they squeeze past tiny heads and adult legs like pros, delivering piping hot coffees and plates of fresh breakfast with a patient smile.

Having hovered long enough to bag a table, we set about devouring crisp, fresh pastries and well-made coffees before moving on to the main event. The menu is short and satisfying: there are bacon or sausage sandwiches and a pork pattie creation that stands 4 inches tall. Veggies (a popular breed in Easton) are served by scrambled eggs or waffles with fresh fruit, and trays of freshly made granola bars and cakes wend their way from the kitchen at the back. As well as café food (for which they won a Bristol Good Food Award) there’s a deli that provides artisan cheese, charcuterie and craft beers to the foodie masses; take-away coffees prove popular, too, with the barista ready to share a laugh while whipping up the perfect flat white.

By 11, the children have dispersed, their parents no doubt taking them on to their third breakfast or pre-lunch snack. Meanwhile, those unencumbered with heirs can order another coffee and settle back (perhaps letting a soupçon of smugness creep in). A popular spot, and rightly so – just pick your times carefully if you want to avoid the miniature hoards.

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Spicer & Cole, Queen’s Square, Bristol

IMG_1728[1]Last weekend it was wet. Cats-and-dogs, heaven’s opened, where’s Noah when you need him? wet. As we squelched through Queen’s Square, mulched leaves fusing to our feet as rain drops filled our pockets, a small black sign glowed in the distance, it’s white Swedish font making it look all the world like welcoming Bang & Olufsen store, but with promises of coffee.

And very nice coffee it is too. As well as the house there’s a guest blend that makes all the right provenance noises – single origin, natural process – and the baristas make each cup carefully, no matter what the well-heeled clientele request (soya-decaff lattes proved particularly popular. Shame really.) The interiors match the minimalist signage, with the ubiquitous exposed lightbulbs, brushed steel and plain wooden tables made softer by the low ceilings, quietly cool music and a well-formed list of menu options chalked up on the wall.

As well as simple options – toast from many breads, fresh pastries, granola – there are some bolder offerings like brioche French toast with chai spiced plums and maple syrup, or mushrooms with thyme wrapped goats cheese and a poached egg; the Egg Poacher’s eponymous breakfast choice came with smoked bacon, harissa and rocket in a roll that was artfully crammed into his face, lest the eggy goodness escape down his chin.

During the week this place fills with busy bankers, office workers and freelancers, dropping in for giant toasties or stocked salad boxes. At the weekend, the pace slows and shaggy-haired creatives, offensively well-off students and day-glo’d gym folks can take their time over brunch that’s served ’til 2pm. With another site recently opened in Clifton, there’s little doubt that Spicer & Cole are here to stay. Head for a corner table and settle in.

Price: From £2.25 (toast) to £6.95 (brioche French toast & chai spiced plums)

 

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Katie & Kim’s Kitchen, Picton Street, Bristol

IMG_1576[1]Katie and Kim’s represents all that is good with eating in Bristol. Simple, delicious fare from good sources is served on plain wooden plates to one big communal table – all are welcome to take a pew and you could find yourself sat next to any variety of beardy local, hip bike fiend or wandering tourist. Theirs is a small space next to the fruit and veg shop, with the eponymous chefs at the helm in a small kitchen at the back.

Katie is the baker, and from the oven come freshly made sourdoughs, milk rolls and seriously fine looking cinnamon buns. The menu on the blackboard is short and simple, with some surprising flavours adding something pretty special to some brunch familiars – bacon served in a roll comes with basil, aioli and tomato, while poached eggs nestle on a bed of chard and a rosemary and cheese scone. There is much to please egg lovers (baked eggs with ewes curd looked especially good) and everything was so delicious even this self-confessed ovophobe has been inspired to give those poached domes another go.

Though the space is neat, the service is great with happy staff nattering to diners, friends and owners in equal measure. The lovely Kim makes a decent coffee and the mismatched crockery and unfussy surroundings lend a sense of breakfast at a friend’s house – and it’s all the better for that.

Price: from £2 (toasted cinnamon bun) to £7 (smoked salmon, poached eggs and greens).

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