Tag Archives: Bristol

Lunch at Matina – St Nicholas Market, Bristol

Fresh Mint Tea at Matina in St Nicholas's Market, Bristol

Fresh Mint Tea at Matina in St Nicholas’s Market, Bristol

I don’t really do eating out reviews as there are so many people who do them in blogworld but just this once…

I always have a good time visiting the covered market, which runs adjacent to Corn Street in the old part of Bristol City centre.  It is a small intimate space, which hums and buzzes with small independent food stalls, where you can either pick something up to take away, or sit down in one of their improvised seating areas and tuck in to a Caribbean curry, a Moroccan tagine, or a Portuguese fish lunch. There is a juice bar, a sausage shop, a pie shop, pulled port, pita and salad bar and loads more to choose from all crammed into this glass-roofed arcade of delights.

Matina is found at the far end of the market opposite the linen stall.  There is a constant queue outside and the reason is obvious. It is staffed by three busy cooks,  one making fresh breads, one on the grill and one organizing the salads. The baker sets the pace, as each order is made as it is taken. Kurdish bread is big, soft and fluffy, something like a naan.  We loved watching the baker stretching the dough over what my friend described as looking like an oversized darning cushion before positioning it inside the tandoor oven. He did the forearm slap as well!

Fresh Fresh Fresh!

Our shared mezze

The front of Matina’s is full of huge bowls of brightly coloured fresh salads, gleaming red cabbage and yellow pickles. The combination of the smell of sizzling koftas and chicken on the grill and the magical smell of freshly baking bread was enough to stay in my memory the first time I noticed it and I have now been back twice.  They offer fresh mint tea, or rose or apple tea and you can sit in an area adjacent to the kitchen where there is a communal table and benches and watch the queue move along and chat to other hungry folk seduced by the wonderful smell of freshly cooked food.

Today Brian had another enormous wrap filled with chillis and chicken and lamb and I shared a plate of mezze with a friend. We had the grilled halloumi on courgettes and aubergines, fresh lemony humus, and tzatsiki  and pickled vegetables and sauces together with a fresh bread.

We said no to the rice or couscous that was offered with it and we ate very well both of us sharing the plate.  It is incredibly good value and well worth queuing up for if you have a spare half an hour one lunch time.

There is something about eating outside in winter that appeals to people who spend so much time indoors and in the market you are both outside and inside, sheltered from any bad weather that happens to be lurking about.  It rained again this afternoon but we are promised better weather this weekend and Spring is happening regardless. Bristol’s public green spaces are full of croci at the moment. I don’t know whether there have been mass plantings last year or whether they particularly like the damp but they are so pretty, purple and yellow and white jewels brightening the roadsides and parks. I love them!

croci in Bristol

Hard Choices

The mud has dried and there are snowdrops on the bank

The mud has dried and there are snowdrops on the bank

“Is this a hard choice for you?’ he demanded.

Yes! I cried. “Oh,” he said, springing back up cheerfully. “In that case, it doesn’t matter. If it’s a hard decision, then there’s always lots to be said on both sides, so either choice is likely to be good in its way. Hard choices are always unimportant.”

From the New Yorker 28th Jan, 2013 “Music to Your Ears”  by Adam Gopnik 

Snowdrops in the woods

Snowdrops in the woods

As I sat by the bedside of my mother in law yesterday,  as I have many times in the last year, I was catching up on the magazine I subscribe to – the New Yorker.   I confess I didn’t quite understand the physics part of this great piece about how we listen to music and how the way we have listened has changed over time –   but I was interested enough to read on as the cognitive sciences and the insights generated from them are really what fascinate me most intellectually and articles like these give one some sort of access to the world of science which otherwise passes one by. Music, emotional maps, time, culture, fooling the brain – always ready and willing to be fooled –  who could not be curious at least to read this?

(The New Yorker article is reproduced here in full apparently with permission, so I will put a link in) Continue reading

Where Zeb Walks in Badock’s Woods

Where we walk a lot of the time is a piece of old woodland ten minutes away from home. I am not good at reading landscape and seeing the past and using my imagination to see what was and how it looked. I don’t usually see ghosts. This place however has a curious quality to it. It isn’t very big at all but it has steep sides and trees and the River Trym runs through from Filton to where it meets the Avon at Sea Mills. (So named as there used to be tidal mills there). It is another place worth visiting if you haven’t been there and only know Bristol as a busy city.

In the middle of the woods the Trym meets an unnamed stream which comes in under the road and is often full of something nasty from somewhere higher up.

This summer the Trym was almost dry and we wondered why it was so much lower than any previous year. Two evenings ago we were walking through and there were men in big helmets and yellow jackets, clambering about in the water and up the slopes and I wondered what they were doing. Fortunately I met Mark yesterday; he is the wonderful hard working park keeper who looks after the Woods on behalf of Bristol City Council – the man who knows everyone and everything that is going on.

The riverbed has a leak, a large hole in its side and it’s running into the sewers. It’s going to cost lots of money to fix and it’s all a bit of a worry. It’s very unusual for a river to run into a sewer, usually it’s the other way round. When it rains heavily the river rises right up the banks and rushes along in a mad frenzy, it’s very variable.

I was told a bit of the history of the river by Mark and how it has been altered over time.  There is more to be read on the Friends of Badocks Wood site; how it used to be four feet deep but got filled in when some boys drowned in it and how there used to be a pond down from the weirs. Someone else told me there used to be a little tea place by the side of the rocks.

There is a nice pdf here which shows you the layout of the woods, as you can see it really isn’t very big but it feels big because of the mature trees and the hill slopes and you feel a mile away from the city when in fact you are surrounded by it. These images have been put on boards around the woods to help people orientate themselves when they are there.

Dog walkers are a wonderful disparate group of people, the one thing we have in common are our animals and their needs and as we go round and about we love to share our stories and our bits of gossip.  I have met people who came here as children, people who remember the Wildlife Park, now closed, people who remember shimmying up the fences round the Lake and swimming late at night when the Club was closed. In the war there were allotments on the field by Doncaster gate, then pre-fabs which were demolished in 1979. I heard about how it was almost a no-go area full of burnt-out cars at one time before we moved here and now it is a much loved and well used place. Last winter I saw the spotted woodpeckers most days and there are nearly always grey wagtails down by the stream. Wild garlic grows here in abundance in the Spring and there is lovely mixed woodland to wander through.  The Council make changes and not everyone likes them, but that is always the way with spaces with different groups of users. From a dog walker’s point of view it is almost perfect. It is safe, enclosed and peaceful; there are streams to jump in and a mix of woodland and open spaces to run in off lead.

Here is an experiment with WordPress’s Gallery Format, I think you should be able to see all the photos full size in a sort of carousel if you click on one of them (let me know it it works and if you like it).

Photos from my phone yesterday, not an iphone, so they are a bit blurry… Zeb saw a ball in the water so decided he had to rescue it. Poodles like going in water if there’s a bit of a challenge involved.

I looked for photos and old maps today, I wanted to find a picture or a drawing of the rivers and the pond that Mark was talking about but I ended up getting completely distracted by these acoustic pieces by Jono Gilmurray based on recordings of the water rushing through Badock’s Wood. Not only dog walkers are inspired by this lovely place….

Badock’s Wood 11 by Jono Gilmurray

Woodland Walk in April

April is the month of showers and young shoots in England and once again the nettles and the wild garlic are overwriting the brown manuscript of faded winter leaf litter in vivid shades of green;  baby saplings are shooting from where the squirrels have planted forgotten acorns and hazels – and when the sun shines, muddy puddles glint and poodles dive in for a quick paddle.

 

We walked through the woodland at Ashton Court, passing by the new mountain bike trail along the deer park fence; it has weathered and is not as intrusive looking as it was when it was all raw and new and finally came out on this dusty path down the hill with a view to the sky and Dundry Hill in the distance.

The buzzards were busy carrying nesting material around, beautiful big birds outlined against the blue.  There was much rustling and squawking and the alarm calls of birds which I couldn’t quite identify; tall trees creaking and rubbing alarmingly against each other in the wind. We walked softly down the side of the hill and along the lower wall.

Wood pigeons flew out of hollow trees, wrens whirred and fizzed on their short flights from woodpile to streams, goldfinches bathed in the shallows and for a big city there are always surprises. We heard talking up in the air at one point and realised there were two people chatting in one of the ancient pollarded oaks that are cared for at Ashton Court. I took a picture of the tree they were in two years ago almost to the day. It is a miniature ecosystem in itself, with ferns and fungi and grass growing in its centre.

Pollarded Oak Ashton Court

Celandine and wild violets were a couple of the more common wildflowers that we recognised. I nibbled a blooming violet and it was gently sweet.

If you can identify nettles, then at this time of year you have a free source of the most wonderful healthy (and, dare I say it, fashionable)  green vegetable to add into your supper dishes. I saw a piece by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall about them the other day here in the Guardian. Brian’s Dad and Gran always ate nettles in the springtime and Brian says his Dad could pick them with his fingers the way he can – must be a special nettle picking gene!

Last year around this time I made nettle gnocchi and wrote about them in this post. I haven’t made them since, but I remember they were very good and I really should make them again!

 Yesterday we picked (that is the ‘royal we’ – Brian picked the most because he has asbestos fingers and I didn’t have any gloves, good excuse!)  the top four leaves of young nettles on our walk and I picked a bunch of wild garlic.

Both nettles and wild garlic are fairly easy to identify and I have written about the wild garlic on a page here. If you are unsure about any wild plants find someone who is confident about their identification skills and go out with them the first time. Better safe than sorry.

You could always borrow Zeb as he is expert at finding wild garlic.

We made a risotto with the wild garlic and the nettles that we picked which I will post about next.

Z is for Zeb Bakes, answers to the Quiz and an extra Competition

And now the end is here…. Thanks for suggesting this to the wonderful Chiots Run. It’s been great fun!

ZZillions of Zinging Zippy Zappy Zigzagging words later…

Z is for Zeb Bakes and for Zucchini Chocolate Cake, the cake of the season, I am sure everyone who has either grown or been given zucchini  has made a version of this cake this month. Continue reading

U is for… Urns

U is for… Urns

Italianate Garden, Ashton Court Mansion, Bristol

When we visited the Rose Garden at Ashton Court recently we noticed that the border walls to the adjacent Italianate Garden at the back of the Mansion had been restored with these elaborate urns and sculpted heads and stopped to take some photos. If you were reading my blog last year you might remember the ha-ha and the cows, this is all in the same place. Continue reading