Honey and
Ricotta
a food journal

Monday, 20 January 2014

Bristol: Number 38, Bell's Diner, Boston Tea Party


It's taken me a while to sit down and write this post. It was meant to appear some time last week, when the memories where still fresh in my head. But the week passed, and I found other things to blog about. Procrastination re-entered my life as it hasn't done since finals. And I'm not sure why. I think it may be because I have so much to say. So much I want to tell you. And I don't trust myself to find the right words, to accurately convey my enthusiasm for this brief trip away. But now it's Sunday evening, we've had a perfect weekend, and B is roasting up a chicken for dinner. So, with my role in the meal done (apart from hopping up and down every now and then to take a photo), I have no more reason not to sit down and start recording 24 hours in Bristol.


This was B's Christmas present from me. Unable to think of a thing to buy him for Christmas, a night away was an easy decision. Thanks to the fabulous Mr and Mrs Smith website, inspiration was not hard to come buy, and booking was scarily easy. Before I had given it much thought, a Saturday night at the Number 38 hotel in Clifton, Bristol, was in the diary. That was it, Christmas sorted. Nothing more was done about it until the week before we went. A sudden realisation that Bristol is a bustling, busy, active city, whose restaurant scene is probably not that dissimilar to that of London i.e. a table may be difficult to come by. Especially on a Saturday night. Thank goodness it was early January. So an evening of reading reviews (and ignoring Trip Advisor's always useless comments), scouring websites, and plotting journeys on google maps later, Bell's Diner was booked. To B's delight, an early table was the only option. Great trust was put in Tim Hayward and his recent review for this. Turns out I will be trusting him again and again - Tim, thank you!


Being foreigners to this Southern city, we were heavily reliant on the recommendations of others for this. Not a situation we're normally in, or we like to be in. Mr and Mrs Smith did a fabulous job, as always, of sourcing a beautiful B & B. Situated in a large townhouse, with just ten rooms, looking out over Clifton Downs, this was simply, elegantly, chic-ly decorated. And the REN eye cream was an added bonus. An enormous bed, plenty of pillows, a beautiful desk in the bay window, and wonderful views, there wasn't much we could fault. Apart from the very slow breakfast service and not that amazing breakfast the next morning. But hey, we can't all be winners. And I am very pinnickity about my breakfast. Anyway, if you are going to Bristol for a romantic weekend à deux, the Number 38 comes highly recommended from me. If you don't want the toiletries in the room, I'll have them - drop me a line and I'll come collect them from you.




Getting out of London was as tricky as ever. I wasn't driving, but my directions weren't exactly top-notch. I'l say this wasn't helped by the random road closures and ridiculous one way systems, but B may like to disagree. After 100 and something miles on the M-something we arrived. Time for lunch. A trip to the Boston Tea Party it was. A burger for B and a bowl of Thai sweet potato soup for me. A fab burger (I may have sneaked a bite or two) with homemade slaw (because that's cool). Yum. And a proper portion of soup with several well-sized chunks of bread. All more than affordable and more than we needed: it was so great to be out of the London bubble of stupid prices for a poxy bowel of whizzed up leftovers and a stock cube. Homemade lemonade washed it all down perfectly. We couldn't resist it, served in glass jars with stripy straws.


Clifton is beautiful. Rows and rows of pastel Georgian townhouses, delicate verandas, crescents, square gardens, winding pavements, steep, steep uphills, and therefore steep, steep runs down, spectacular views over industrial lands, a magical suspension bridge... A bit like walking through a dream town, especially with all the Christmas trees laid out on the pavements outside every house ready for collection as they were that Saturday.




We ventured out of this haven for dinner. A half-hour wander in I'm not sure which direction and we were welcomed in to Bell's Diner. A very warm welcome. The people were lovely. I wanted them to be my friend. We knew it was going to be good straight away. This doesn't happen often. But I knew. Could just tell. Instinct, innit. (Sorry, I'm watching Jamie on telly as I type and it's rubbing off on me). We were led to a table in a corner, next to the record player (another point to them), and we soon settled down with a glass of Prosecco (on tap), for me, and a sloe g & t for B. A few croquettes and some lightly cured salmon to accompany, a jug of tap water and a basket of brilliant bread - smiles all round. And the smiles only increased throughout the evening. A menu of small plates to share, which is always my favourite: I can order more, and not run the risk of food envy or disappointment, as I get to try everything on the table. Not only could we mix and match plates, the drinks menu worked in unison with one third of a pint of beer available for £1.70, a taste of wine off a fabulous wine list (75ml), various cocktails, and, as I mentioned, Prosecco on tap.






So we tasted our way round the drinks and the food menu. Goat's curd and pumpkin (we forgot to photograph this one - too greedy), chicken oyster pinchos, lamb with apricots, baby gem lettuce with pancetta, marinated peppers, chargrilled prawns... I think that was all. I may have forgotten something but I was slightly overwhelmed. The chewiest, most delicious meringue with new season's forced rhubarb pomegranate and pistachio to finish. And of course I had space, because I have a separate sweet stomach from savoury. It's a fact. It was heaven. Everything was perfect.


All I can say is GO. Please go. If you're in or anywhere near Bristol, or in need of a break from London and find yourself drawn to Bristol, go.


Sunday morning saw a cold run around the downs, a slow breakfast with many a cup of tea, long cups of coffee over in Stokes Croft (mostly shut on Sundays - don't copy our mistake), walks through the University campus, asking why they rejected us (it would have been so much fun), more tea and this time some cake too, music and films purchased in Rise, and then a long drive home. Back to reality, and, sadly, away from Bell's.

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