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Browns New Menu Review

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After a cool refurb and fresh menu redesign, Browns Bristol has really pulled its socks up.

Browns had always been a reliable eatery. Now however, with its chic art deco-meets-modern interior design and elevated cuisine, it’s a real culinary destination rather than a one-course pit stop.

Old black and white photos of the city adorn the high walls; the colour scheme is black, white and slate grey, with vintage emerald and mustard green booths/comfy chairs. Dark wooden floors and tables keep things cosy; whilst the giant mirrored mosaic behind the bar adds a touch of glamor. For those of you – like myself – who are big on ambient lighting, there are candles and an abundance of funky metal lamps throughout.

browns mirror

The dining area is vast and the bar area becomes relatively packed by 8.30pm, but that’s not to say you can’t have an intimate meal. In fact the many levels, alcoves and tucked away areas mean you often have your own little ‘zone’ to call home for a few hours.

Now for the best bit… da food.

I asked the hubby if he’d come along with me to check out the new menu. As you can probably guess, I didn’t have to ask twice. We got dressed up, hopped in a taxi to town and came away wanting to do the whole thing over again.

The wine list is fairly extensive and suited to all tastes. We opted for a Cave de Fleurie Beaujolais. Light, silky and supple with floral and berry aromas, it’s one of our all-time favourites.

To start, we went for the whole baked Somerset camembert which came with warm toasted bread and tomato/rhubarb chutney. We are big cheese fans. In fact, in our circle Dave’s nickname is ‘Monsieur Fromage’, so this went down an absolute treat. It’s not for the dairy faint hearted however. It is a WHOLE camembert after all. Why did it work so well? So often you order this dish or it’s served at a dinner party and the cheese isn’t quite ‘there’ yet. It has to be molten throughout and this was. Yasss.

cheese at browns

If you think that was enough to start, you’d be wrong. British mussels in a white wine, garlic and parsley sauce were also up for the tasting. A good plate of mussels or ‘moules’ is a fairly fool proof test for a restaurant I reckon. If done well, they are beyond delicious – hot, flavoursome and comforting. If badly executed i.e. cold, not freshly cooked with little or no sauce, they are pretty inedible. These were the former I’m glad to say. The portion is also pretty ‘main’ size, so you certainly aren’t being ripped off.

mussels

Other tempting options include beef carpaccio with parmesan crisps, pea shoots, and a tarragon/lemon mayonnaise as well as asparagus and prosciutto ham served with a poached free range egg and hollandaise.

For the main event, Dave went for the roasted lamb rump that came with potato gratin, crushed minted peas and red wine jus. I continued along the seafood front and opted for the whole grilled lobster which came with garlic and parsley butter, avocado mayonnaise and fries.

The lamb came pink, as requested and as it should be. Again, an extremely generous portion arrived and the eating was indeed as good as the looking. Thankfully, the potato gratin – another risky customer – was moist, punchy with garlic and soft. So dreamy.

lobster

My lobster was delicious. The only qualm? I wish there had been more. I adore lobster but when you get down to the nitty gritty, there isn’t much real meat to enjoy. But that’s the nature of the beast… or shellfish. Still, the flavour was all there and it wasn’t overcooked (easy to do).

Portobello mushroom tart, pork belly, fillet steak and pan fried sea bass are also available.

They say you should always save the best until last (in all things) and in this case, that old adage rang true. Dave picked salted caramel profiteroles which took us straight back to childhood and our parents’ dinner parties. Also, who doesn’t love salted caramel?

desert

But the star of the show was the chocolate brownie. It came hot, with honeycomb ice cream poised on top and Devon cream toffee sauce.

chocolate brownie

Desserts don’t come more indulgent or delicious than this one. We are big bakers and dessert eaters (sorry not sorry) and we both said this was one of the best puds we’ve had for a while. If you’re on a diet, stay clear. My view? Worth it even if you are.

Browns location: 38 Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol, City of Bristol, BS8 1RE

Browns website: http://www.browns-restaurants.co.uk/restaurants/southwest/bristol 

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Behind the Scenes at Thatchers Cider

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I have a confession to make… I’m a cider snob. I like it dry or medium-dry, and cloudy – with the heady scent of fermented apples still brimming in the glass. The kind of cider that’s been greasing the wheels of agriculture and industry in Somerset for centuries. Not for me, the sugary, sweet, supermarket stuff… I’ll have a pint of real zider, and you can leave the twigs and leaves in, too.

Spanning four generations in the same family, Thatchers is our region’s most famous cider-maker – and their range of produce is broad. Although most of their ciders are slightly over-processed for my liking, they do still make cider the traditional way. I’d say a visit to their orchards at Myrtle Farm in the heart of Somerset’s cider country is a must-do for any cider-lover in Bristol.

Exploring the orchards

Image courtesy of Natacha the Franglaise

My recent visit began in the Thatchers Exhibition Orchard, where manager Chris oversees over 450 different apple varieties. The weather conditions in Somerset offer the perfect conditions for growing apples – with cold winters allowing the trees to lie dormant, and temperate springs promoting bee pollination and blossom-growth. True to form for this time of year, it was pissing with rain as we strolled among the lines of fruit-laden trees – but the apples like a little of that, too.

Hearing how Chris and his team fuse new apple buds to young root stocks to produce varieties like Dabinett and Jonagold was insightful, and his ability to harness the power of nature to produce the finest harvests made for fascinating listening. Our tour continued past the huge apple vats and ancient fermentation tanks to the state-of-the-art canning plant, and it was a joy to hear the various Thatchers team members share their passion for the product.

To the tasting…

Thatchers brought a selection of their lovely cider to Bristol a few months ago, so this was a fortunate second tasting for me. We sampled diverse brews including Redstreak, Old Rascal, Vintage, Haze, Katy, and more – each offering a different balance of scent and flavour to the last. It turns out Old Rascal is the team’s overall favourite Thatchers’ cider – a very fine drop indeed.

Lunch at The Railway Inn

Image courtesy of Bristol Bloggers

The Railway Inn is Thatchers’ local pub, with a broad selection of beers and ciders alongside a full menu of delicious dishes sourced, of course, from in and around Somerset. The pub has been lovingly converted from its original stone structure to a warm and welcoming space – with traditional snug, open bar area and stylish oak-beamed dining room. There’s garden seating for summer visitors, and a seasonal menu that makes the very most of the region’s natural produce.

Take a tour

If all this talk of apples and cider has got your taste buds tingling, you can find details on Thatchers’ guided tours and tastings on their website here. October is Cider and Perry Month, so now’s the ideal time to celebrate and support our local orchards and cider-makers. Harvest season is upon us too, so if you visit Thatchers there’s a good chance you’ll get to see the trucks arriving from across Somerset – their fruity haul ready for pressing.

If you head over, do book a table at The Railway Inn – it makes a good visit great. I can recommend the Thatchers Gold-battered fish and chips, and the sticky toffee pud hits the spot. Cider’s not bad ‘n’ all. Cheers!

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For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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Pata Negra Revamp Kitchen And Menu

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pata negra

Pata Negra Steps It Up for the Autumn Season

Bristol’s proud independent streak is well-documented, and we’re lucky to have so many vibrant and exciting bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in this city.

If you enjoy visiting and supporting Bristol’s varied independent venues, it’s likely you’ll have a list of places old and new that you’re just waiting for the right time to tick off.

The Ox on Corn Street had been sitting on my must-visit list for months when I went last month, and I was very, very impressed.

But from the style-savvy team behind The Milk Thistle and Hyde & Co, what else could I have expected?

Also on Corn Street, and also run by the same talented team, Pata Negra is another venue I’d been curious about for a while — but on those occasions when I’d peered in past the door, I’d never felt encouraged in. Despite the great location and classical décor, it somehow just didn’t feel tempting.

Fresh changes at Pata Negra

That’s all changed now. In the latest round of developments at Pata Negra, the kitchen has been brought up from the basement to take pride of place at the forefront of the room — and the difference is striking.

You step through the doorway to skilled chefs preparing delicious dishes in their new open-plan setting, with a fine haunch of cured Ibérico ham hanging from the wall.

Further towards the back of the room, welcoming window seats and banks of plush red-leather benches offer the perfect settings for intimate gatherings of friends.

A menu re-vamp for the autumn season

The engine-room of the restaurant is now fully on show, and a menu re-vamp has changed things up for autumn. Diners can expect seasonal twists on authentic Spanish classics alongside new dishes created to bring the best out of the kitchen’s open grills.

Meanwhile, the wine and sherry list showcases the best of the Iberian Peninsula — the perfect accompaniment to the delicious tapas dishes, fresh seafood and decadent desserts on offer.

For full details on Pata Negra’s refreshed autumn menu, head over to the website here.

For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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The Time I Beat Bristol’s Scariest Escape Room

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Hell in a cell Bristol

I’m put in many a tricky situation exploring the very ‘Best of Bristol’.

Usually up high, scaling buildings and cranes (#antimitchclimbs), but I didn’t think it would result in being locked in a prison cell with a psycho killer called Pig Face (pictured above). Welcome to Hell in a Cell, ay?

Now for some of you reading, Hell in the Cell will make you think of wrestling but I can promise you this is scarier than when Shane McMahon jumps off the top of that cell.

Probably..

Hell in a cell Bristol

The rather terrifying Pig Face.

Hidden beneath the old Crown Courts on Bridewell Street, within the cells, this has been dubbed “Bristol’s scariest attraction”. And so in the interest of research I took on Pig Face, and lived to tell the tale!

I can’t actually give away too much of the game, because this is an escape room and that just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?

What I can reveal though, should give you a taste of what to expect.

Hell in a cell bristol

You don’t know what you’re getting yourself in for until they handcuff you and throw a bag over your head..

Like any escape room, Hell in a Cell Bristol sets players challenges that they have to complete. Perhaps the first challenge is not backing out after you’re handcuffed with a sack placed over your head.

It’s then trying not to cack yourself as you’re led into the pitch black cells, where you know you’re not alone, but you can’t quite tell what’s there.

It’s that lovely fucker by the name of Pig Face.

Pig Face is reasonably fair at this point and allows you an hour to make your escape. It’s go time!

Oh, and all your belongings have been taken off you, so you can’t use your phone torch or ask Siri for help.

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You ok there hun?

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What I will say is that you bond pretty bastard quickly when you’re scrambling to find light and remove your handcuffs. I was with my good friend Colin Moody, but with three other people I did not know, and we came out of it with an unwavering sense of camaraderie.

That probably explains why this Bristol escape room has proven so popular with corporate clients in the city. Hell, it’s proven pretty popular with all but one reviewer on a popular site that rhymes with whip chastiser. That person claimed it wasn’t very scary. Ooooooo sorry ‘ard.

The game itself was challenging, terrifying and fun (if you like being scared). It will most certainly fill you with adrenaline and leave you in need of a celebratory drink if you do make it out.

This is NOT for the faint hearted. I don’t scare easy, and if you’re like me you won’t feel a sense of fear, but you’ll definitely be made to jump. Nobody is immune to that.

If you do scare easily, go to the bathroom beforehand. Or don’t, these are real holding cells so you could always have a pee in there..

Fancy it? Then click here to book.

Tag us in your psycho selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you take on Pig Face

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