Tag Archives: lunch

Kingsmead Kitchen, Kingsmead Square, Bath

In a busy square in the centre of Bath al fresco diners, vegetable stall holders and off-key buskers with a penchant for Ed Sheeran come together. It’s a popular spot with locals and tourists, away from the long and swarming shopping streets that require nimble footwork to avoid being mown down by buggies armoured in shopping bags or selfie-stick toting school groups with no periphery vision.

Though the strained notes of Galway Girl persisted as a backdrop, at Kingsmead Kitchen it was a scene of relative calm. Indoors it has a distinctly bistro feel with a series of specials chalked beside the bar, a recently buffed coffee machine and an impressive wine selection to choose from. Diners at marble topped tables were neatly packed together, the friendly staff employing impressive hip flexes to weave between them as they delivered great plates of stacked salads, sandwiches and breakfast fare. Outside a series of metal tables were waiting for those willing to brave the British summer – with half an eye on the brooding clouds above us we decided to brave it, not least in the hope that we might witness the long-suffering stall owners lobbing this seasons’ best root vegetables at the guitarists in an attempt to make them stop.

Despite a tempting list of specials – smoked mackerel and spelt salad, venison ragu – we aimed for the all day brunch items, opting for shakshuka and an omelette the size of the Egg Poacher’s head. Italian coffees came in proper crockery (praise be) and, though less full bodied than we might have hoped, were well made nonetheless. The food was hearty and generously portioned, though the proudly local and well-sourced ingredients could have benefited from a little more seasoning.

Though fully sated we had to leave disappointed – there was to be no show down between teenage buskers and the kale-weilding traders today. Nevertheless, it was a perfectly pleasant spot to linger in – and an ideal haven in which to rest before rejoining the dithering masses.

Price: from £4.95 (bacon sandwich) to £9.95 (Kingsmead Breakfast).

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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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The Buttery, Harbourside, Bristol

Buttery6The Buttery is a Bristol institution, a firm favourite for the mix of canal boat dwellers, office workers and tourists that gather around the Harbourside in all weathers. It’s a bit like stepping back in time – chips in cardboard cones, milky coffees served in brown glass mugs from your granny’s days – and there’s something reassuring about a place that has stayed committed to simple food without the words “hand-crafted” “traditionally sliced” or “rustic” anywhere in sight.

The Buttery itself is a tiny shed from which breakfast favourites are despatched with aplomb – bacon butties, fried egg rolls, sausage baps, any and all combination of the three with extra portions of cheese, black pudding or mushrooms to create a truly cholesterol raising start to your day. On busy weekends you take a number wait – but there’s plenty of aquatic life to contemplate with tug boats, pirate ships and irate swans all competing for space in the busy waterways; you’re likely to be joined by pigeons and the odd hungry dog as your orders arrive through the hatch wrapped in a single white serviette.

In Bristol we’re blessed with many fine eateries, all proclaiming a passion for provenance, few food miles and artisanal beginnings – undeniably worthy, but often beyond the means of many. And it’s here where The Buttery proves its worth – a no-nonsense greasy spoon serving cheap and tasty breakfast to Bristol’s finest.

Price: from £2.20 (bacon roll) to £4.90 (bacon, sausage and cheese baguette).

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Princes Pantry, Harbourside, Bristol

20140115-233104.jpgAt the turn of the year it’s always tempting to tell all those who proclaim it’s time for a “new you” to “naff off” – whatever’s right or wrong with you at 23.59 on the 31st December, you’re likely to be much the same at 00.01 on the 1st (if a little shoutier, backcombed and more glittery). So, with the aim of not making any new year’s resolutions whatsoever, it seems apt to write about the most un-organic, un-seasonal, downright unhealthy breakfast joint in town – The Princes Pantry – perfect for those with a hangover that lasts well into January.

In an unassuming hut on the corner of a busy T-junction, the Princes Pantry has been attracting its own loyal band of clientele for years, all in search of something fried between slices of white, square bread and cooked on a skillet that was last cleaned when news of the Millennium bug spoke of our almost certain demise.

Breakfast options have their own imaginative titles – “Cardiac Arrest”, “Gut Buster”, “Beast” – and are handed to you wrapped in white napkins or encased in polystyrene. Most of the early morning crowd opt for the traditional Breakfast Roll, with or without added sausage, bacon and/or fried egg and all the sauces you’d hope for (red. And brown.) Tea and coffee come from massive urns on the counter and if you’re feeling particularly fancy you can opt for a baguette instead, or even mayonnaise.

In recent times they’ve diversified for the lunchtime crowd and offer homemade soups, falafel, pizza or slices of avocado to nestle in your BLT. But, without a doubt it’s at its best providing cheap, breakfast favourites to the hungry masses. A greasy spoon and proud – as well it should be.

Price: from £2.10 (bacon roll).

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EYE, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

IMG_5209A thick fog sat heavily on the water, surrounding the ferry and our fellow, silent passengers, all of whom seemed wrapped for stormy seas in woolen jumpers and oilskins.  Nary a word was spoken, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d stumbled into the Dutch version of The Killing, with something dark and hurty just around the next corner.

Mercifully, the short and free commuter journey merely deposited us onto the bank opposite,  and, once the haar had cleared, we could find our way to one of Amsterdam’s most striking modern architectural achievements, the EYE Film Institute.

Looking a bit like something Captain Kirk might have double parked while he nipped in for some milk, it’s a stunning home to all things film, with a dedicated film library and a rolling series of exhibitions. It’s worth the journey purely for the stunning design – inside Labyrinth-style corridors empty you out on to levels above (or below) the one you started on, the sleek wood-and-stone surrounds are lit up by the giant windows that look out to to the water.

Its restaurant is at its centre, with tables placed as if on one giant staircase so all can make the most of the view. The menu is both modern and traditional (perhaps a nod to the variety of films they show here); croquettes or herring with onion and gherkins or homemade cakes made by ‘Kuyt’ or ‘Lanksroon’ – the traditional apple cake was delicious, served with fresh mint tea and honey. For those with bigger appetites to sate, there were extravagant Breton white bean soups or smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, all ready to be matched by a large selection of wines or dark, Dutch beers.

As with many places in Amsterdam, the service was efficient but somewhat cool, though they seemed more used to faltering tourists here than elsewhere. The location, interiors and 180 degree views across the water make this a trip worth making – and the food’s not too bad, either.

Price: €3.25 (tosti)  – €7.50 (smoked salmon sandwich).

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Zazus Kitchen, Gloucester Road, Bristol

20130821-220004.jpgZazus has been a Bristol regular for a few years now; for a time, they moved restlessly from area to area, not quite content in their pokier spaces in Stokes Croft or Clifton village. Finally they’ve settled in the northern quarter of Gloucester Road and it seems a perfect match: as couples move towards Horfield in search of a strip of grass and space for a toddler, ZaZus offers a family friendly space around the corner with just the right amount of street cred to keep their friends coming, too.

Toby stays at the helm, moving around the floor like a foodie, moody rock star, but with time to greet familiar faces. The rest of his staff are good looking and efficient, though less warm in the bustle of a busy Saturday service. And they are busy – it doesn’t take long for the wooden tables to be filled, and even in gloomier climes the outdoor area will fill. There’s a distressed, Scandinavian feel to the surroundings with wooden floors and cool tones, there’s modern art on the walls and an electro soundtrack playing in the background. As you’d expect from the crowd, there are crayons, high chairs and stickers books to keep small ones entertained – and noise. Lots and lots of noise.

The food, however, is dependably well-sourced, using quality ingredients from largely local sources. Egg fans are well served: the Egg Poacher’s chorizo and black pudding hash with poached eggs and hollandaise were declared “awesome”, while you can have them served every which way elsewhere on the menu. I was less impressed with the veggie breakfast – the bubble and squeak was slightly bitter, the spinach a little too well-cooked – but in fairness my own ovaphobia had it’s part to play here. Their coffee, however, is excellent.

Zazus’s has a loyal following and it’s serves it’s neighbourhood well. Perhaps in a few years’ time we’ll be back with our own bundle of joy in tow; for now, I’ll leave the colouring-in books for someone else to enjoy.

Price: from £3.50 (bacon bap) to £7.50 (chorizo and black pudding hash).

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