Full Circle

Just like Lamont Dozier did in 1977 with his absolute BANGER, this weekend I went back to my roots.

I returned to Bristol for the first time since I graduated – the city where this little blog began all those many moons ago; the city I have such a deeply complicated relationship with and, most pertinently, the city which houses so many fine restaurants.

The ‘homecoming’, ‘back where it began’ warmth in my tummy is strong, guys. Before I dive into sharing my thoughts and meals with you, it’s worth highlighting that this article is more for me than for anyone else. It is the final act of catharsis that will put a line under the processing which I did over this weekend, so please do forgive me if at points this first section feels a trifle airy-fairy and excessive.


Oh, Bristol, you fine flirtatious cat. You really took me on a bleeding ride didn’t ya? You first welcomed me into your arms when I was an extrovert lil quacko of a 19-year-old. I’d returned from my travels, happy as Larry and entered the lion’s den. I was greeted by Adidas and funky glasses galore, and I felt deeply, overwhelmingly out of place. A certain force turned my head in November of that first year and set the tone for a distressing and chaotic few years.

I convinced myself that Bristol wasn’t for me. It was shite, it was boring, it was small, the public transport didn’t fucking work (it didn’t and still doesn’t – this point remains even post-revelation), and I just bloody well-missed home.

Arriving back this weekend, with time, distance, age-induced cynicism and a slight come-up from a fair few beers and coffee, I realised something:

You all told me how wonderful this city is, but I couldn’t hear you. It wasn’t that I didn’t know it, but I was unable to process the joy that had been laid before me as I was, let’s be honest, sidetracked by certain human emotions which are rather cringy to talk about online, and going through something of a crisis. My head flew. It spun out of control, and the result had me walking blindly around this city for 3 whole years rather than being blown away by its beauty and astonishing variety. I apologise to those on the receiving end of my misguided rants – I was, as I truly realised this weekend, not necessarily ok, and moreso than I had thought. I thank you for your patience and thank Bristol for welcoming me back.

Like a literal montage from a movie, I found myself walking around laughing off the old painful sores and recalling all the memories and friendships I had undervalued. This weekend, in a spectacular fashion, I had my eureka moment. I found clarity in a period of my life that I had packed away on a dusty shelf to gather dust, wiped it away, and the city began to shine.

Beautiful drawings by moi x these were done on the bus home when processing everything x
One of my faves

The Food

The rest of this article will be what we all know and love – me gushing away and getting overly excited about food.

There was a lot of walking around this weekend and saying “uch, that place is so good!” – genuinely, for a city the size of Brizzlepop, the quantity and quality of food is astonishing. After meeting Super Rockstar Raf after my bus, we wandered down the old Gloucester Road and settled in ‘the Hungarian caf’, Deck.

It was steamy and warm inside, and it matched the comfort of the food dished up. I got a beef goulash with carrots, spuds, little nokedli (baby dumplings), paprika and a refreshing-to-see sheen of grease on the surface of the stock. It was a soup, not a stew, which was interesting as it countered the image I had maintained of the popular dish. Genuine comfort food and perfect to knock the hangover from the night before smack-bang on the noggin – gone. Restoratively simple and delicious – chapeau for the coffee and cake, too.

Fast forward a few hours, and a “small life-changing and affirming revelation which rewrote how I viewed some of the most formative years of my life so far” or two later, I sat down for dinner at Bianchi‘s with my mystery dinner date. (it was a date but wasn’t a date because she was going for another date with another guy after – deeply confusing, but wonderful wonderful company! Thank you to this lass)

What proceeded was mastery. Some of the first pieces I ever wrote were on two sister restaurants of this fine establishment, run by Dominic Borel and Ben Harvey, and their latest restaurant continues the trend in a less ‘push-the-boat-out’ kinda way, but with a little bit more finesse and white table cloth vibe. It was a wonderful dining experience and a well-chosen spot for my non-date date (lol).

I started with scallops (scah or scoh-llops? how we saying it?), simply and elegantly served in their shell. They were cooked in pork lardo, topped with crispy breadcrumbs and were sweet, soft, tender and had the perfect, ever so slight bite to em. The fishy lardo was one of the richest things I can recall, and I would gladly pay stupendous amounts of money to have this fishy lardo packaged up and put in a jar to spread on toast. DIVINO! The breadcrumbs added the mouthfeel you wanted with such smooth scah/scohllops and soaked up the extra lardo. I haven’t had many scallops, but these were fresh and pleasantly sea-salty. It was an astonishing plate of seafood.

The non-date date chose the mussels cooked in fennel, nduja and alcohol of sorts (cider, maybe?) – I had one, and it was divine. We also split a beef carpaccio with the pepperiest of EV olive oils and the saltiest of parms. Little capers added bursts of freshness, and the inclusion of nasturtium brought freshness, bitterness and elegance. Both divine and wonderfully accompanied by good wine. A simple, unassuming masterclass so far.

Then I got the farfalle… simple eggy ribbons of pretty bow-shaped pasta in a simple cacio-pepe sauce (cheese n pep) and covered in that godly sheen, EVOO! The oil isn’t necessarily the most traditional addition to the dish, but it was really good. It also meant that I had the oil on the plate for my mop-up focaccia.

My dining partner (lol) got potato stuffed pasta (carb on carb, comfort on comfort) with a beautiful tomato sugo and fresh mint! It was divine, and to quote the lovely waitress, “It’s the mint that makes it”, and it was. The tomato tasted different without its traditional Basil, and it was a beautifully prepared plate of food. Great stuff again!

We finished our wine, enjoyed a dessert liquor (a bitter Grappa and a minty Fernet Branca, which tasted like mouthwash but was actually fricking divine), paid up and went.

My dining partner went her way…. and I went mine.

I think I can stop now – I hope you enjoyed that! A bit of a verbal dumpage, a bit longer than it maybe could/should have been, but a thoroughly enjoyable weekend has been documented.

Love you all and thanks for reading as always! Love you all, and thanks for reading, as always!

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