REVIEWS: food and drink

RAPSCALLION MAGAZINE – RESTAURANT REVIEW: sherry, tapas and a mercifully short wait for our food at Pintxo in Bath – for a lunchtime pre theatre meal (but what about the toilets?) 

Pintxo. Tapas and Sherry Bar. Barton Street, Bath

We had originally sat down in The Garrick’s Head by the Theatre Royal Bath on Saturday lunch time but with no sign of service and curtain up fast approaching next door for the play God of Carnage we left thinking a packet of crisps and sandwich from Sainsbury’s would have to do. However a few doors up from the usually excellent Garrick’s Head was Pintxo. It’s a tapas and sherry restaurant come bar with branches in Cornwall and Bristol. We had no idea what it would be like and so went in and asked how long would it take to get served as the clock was ticking.

We were assured of quick service so took a corner table in an interior that feature wood and muted earthen colours. Having experienced the rip-off tourist tapas bars of Barcelona we were not unnaturally rather hesitant and so chose the offerings on the specials board. I had an Amontillado sherry served in a tumbler and Linda had an Elderflower presse.  A jug of iced tap was placed on the table without having to ask and the food arrived within a few minutes. I have to confess to not making a note of the selection  – but it featured skewered chicken, hot peppers, meatballs and a type of peperonata – and I’m sure mushrooms and melted cheese were in there somewhere – or at least that was the gist of it. The selection was fine. Hot, tasty and above all they came in quantities that made you think they were not scrimping. The sherry was nutty, warming, richly dark, agreeably dry and a generous 75cl in volume. And set me up for the play about couples falling out.

The place was about half full but had a healthy vibe with families and couples and I must report clean toilets – one of my concerns as they can say so much about how a place is run.

The dishes were around six or seven pounds a go so with sherry and drinks the bill came to £40. Expensive but as a one off pre-theatre meal I was happy with as so often eating out can be just so-so in quality. And you can often you think you could do much better yourself at home. But at Pintxo I thought as a wedding anniversary treat it was about right and unlike the couples in God of Carnage we didn’t fall out over the food or the bill.

Harry Mottram

Reviewed at the Saturday lunchtime, September 15th, 2018.

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Pintxo. Tapas and Sherry Bar. 31 Barton Street, Bath, Somerset. BA1 1HG

RAPSCALLION MAGAZINE – RESTAURANT REVIEW: the official dessert of Axbridge has been discovered in an antiques shop during an unusual night out in an exquisite pop up Bistro in the depths of Somerset (beware this review contains a terrible pun) 

The pop-up Bistro night in Axbridge

Ripley Antiques Pop-up Bistro Number 10. Axbridge, Somerset

I’m not sure how Jules, Lou and Sally do it. Their kitchen is tiny, they have to move large amounts of antiques to fit the diners in and they have to serve the food at speed with the minimum of fuss. A lot of restaurants fail to achieve the standards they manage with their pop up bistro but then I guess they have just the one menu consisting of four courses which must help.

Set in their antique shop on The Square in Axbridge the evening is a delight. For £25 we are served with a starter, main, dessert and cheese and biscuits. The ambiance is possibly the best you can get as everyone is friendly, many residents know each other and there’s the sense this is being a special occasion.

The starter is a tarka dahl soup of vegetables and lentils (served with a chapatti) which was a medley of spicy flavours perfect for an autumnal evening after a brisk hike over the Mendips. It’s a meal in itself really, and on an ordinary evening that would have sufficed. However this pop up bistro evening is not ordinary as the 30 or so diners chatted away and poured themselves another drink or three. (You bring your own drink making it an economic night out.)

Next was Jule’s fish masala featuring husk, cod, king prawns all apparently fresh from Brixham harbour. Marinated in a rich home-made curry sauce and served with pilau rice infused with saffron we all knew we were being spoiled. Some had seconds while others having scoffed their course popped out for a cigarette or a vape.

The adorable couple behind the evening

The star of the show was undoubtedly Jules’ lemon posset with blackberry compote spiced with port and sprinkled with ginger biscuit crumb. The blackberries had been picked from the fields and hedges surrounding the town. (Note: the town’s Blackberry Carnival is next Saturday.) The area is known for the dark fruit which were once sold by the barrel to jam makers from a shop on Cheddar Road. This dish should be the town’s official dessert as the ingredients all complemented each other and of course the blackberries (along with strawberries) are the town’s culinary motifs. I suggest the title of The Blackberry Jewel of Axbridge. (Jewel – see what I was trying to do there? Oh never mind.)

Cheese and biscuits followed with a birthday cake presented to Pat Filer by Jules who was celebrating her twenty something birthday. (Ahem. Clearing of throat.)

A great night out for Axbridge residents – look out for the next one in October – see their Facebook site – and don’t forget Axbridge’s charity Progressive Supper on Saturday, November 17th, 2018. It’s a chance to meet lots of people, eat at three locations in one evening and raise money for the 2020 Pageant held over the August bank holiday – see the event’s Facebook site for updates and when to register.

Harry Mottram

Reviewed at the Saturday evening, September 15th, 2018.

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Ripley Antiques, The Square, Axbridge, Somerset BS26 2AY England. Tel: 07585 220591