Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Making Pasta With Exeter Cookery School

In the space of six months, I've gone from never having been on a cookery course to doing two. That's one of the reasons being a blogger is - despite its sometimes icky connotations - a good thing: it presents you with opportunities that might not have otherwise come your way. I'd often thought that doing a cookery course would be nice but there'd always been some barrier to actually making it happen: time, money, or simply plain old inertia.

So when the opportunity came up to create a recipe and blog post in return for the chance of winning a cookery course, I decided to be a little more proactive than normal...and I only bloomin' won the competition. It was this serendipitous course of events that led me to Exeter Cookery School a couple weeks back, to take up my prize of an afternoon learning the craft of pasta making.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of making pasta. It conjures up romantic notions of black-clad Italian nonnas sitting in sun-soaked piazzas, trays resting on laps, fingers nonchalantly rolling up delicious-looking tortellini and ravioli. The idea of making pasta ties in with the whole concept of 'slow eating', a wonderfully life-affirming approach to preparing and enjoying food which offers an important counterpoint to our busy, 24/7 lifestyles where food is often seen as nothing more than fuel. 

I love anything that calls for a truly manual approach to making food - for kneading and rolling, pinching and crimping. Making pasta is all of these things, and, as I found out on my course, not as tricky as you might imagine.

The school is located on Exeter's quayside, a lovely corner of the city close to the centre where you can have an amble along the waterfront and enjoy a Devon cream tea before your course. It's run by chef Jim Fisher (a Masterchef semi-finalist) and his wife Lucy who ran a cookery school in the Dordogne for 16 years before returning to the UK and opening their new venture in Devon. With experience of working alongside Rick Stein and Alistair Little, I'll admit Jim's credentials did make me worry he might be in the scary chef mold and that if my pasta failed to make the grade I might find myself expelled. 

Thankfully, nothing could have been further from the truth. Our small group was assured that we'd all go home with a box of successful ravioli and no cross words were spoken during the two and a half hour course (even when I couldn't work the pasta machine in a logical fashion.) 

In between demonstrations on making dough and kneading, as well as using the aforementioned pasta machine, we were let into a few tricks of the trade and shown that the key to a good ravioli is making sure there are no air bubbles in your parcel. I was also interested to hear that it's definitely worth the effort to drain your spinach properly - you need around an hour, not the hasty few seconds I though sufficed - when making a spinach and ricotta filling.

After a quick cuppa and a chat, Jim added our pasta to the pan and offered us some delicious fresh basil dressing to drizzle over our cooked ravioli. They were, I'm pleased to report, exceptional. There's something very, very satisfying about eating pasta made from just a few ingredients by your own fair hands - you simply don't get the same feeling from ripping open a packet 0f pasta from Tesco.

But the thing that I enjoyed most about the course was finding myself completely absorbed in the simple process of mixing ingredients, kneading and feeding the dough through the machine. It's pleasingly tactile, repetitive work you can really lose yourself in, the kind of activity that really does help to ease away stresses and calm an over-active mind like mine.
The school runs all sorts of courses so if pasta doesn't appeal there are plenty of other options to choose from - how about trying your hand at spun sugar, butchery, or French boulangerie? There are course for all abilities, whether you fancy learning the art of Indian cookery or just want to learn some kitchen basics.
Great fun, sociable and a really different way to pass an afternoon, my course here was everything I wanted it to be: friendly, absorbing and informative. The fact I could justifiably stuff my face with pasta at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon was just an added bonus... 

Find out full details about Exeter Cookery School here.


Monday, 8 May 2017

A Family Trip to Venice

"Venice is like eating and entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go." So said legendary writer Truman Capote and while I might swap the liqueur bit for, say, a packet of Rolos, the analogy is spot on. A trip to Venice makes you feel like you've gorged on previously unimaginable beauty - it's such a confection of pure loveliness you can't really believe it actually exists. I mean, it's a city built on water, a place filled with vistas that take your breath away around every corner. It's certainly the most exquisite, atmospheric place I've ever visited.

I first came to Venice when I was on an Italian exchange at the age of about 14, then a few years later on a family holiday and more recently on a day trip from the Venetian Riviera. But day trips and school exchanges don't really make for a meaningful experience and I'd been longing for a repeat visit, both to see the city with my own, adult eyes and to introduce my own children to a place that captured my heart all those years ago.

However, you don't need me to tell you that romantic ideals about travel don't always work out when you've got a teenager and a nearly 9-year-old in tow. Then there's the niggling suspicion that your rose-tinted memories might not equate with a city that's now moved into the 21st-century. You'll have forgotten just how busy it gets. But still - you got cheap flights and a convenient Airbnb so there's no need for over analysis. And when I say cheap, our 4 night break with flights came in at just shy of £750 for all four of us (I think that compares very well a break at Center Parcs.)
We enjoyed a wonderful 5 day break in the city over Easter, admittedly perhaps one of the busiest times to go, but despite the hordes of tourists clogging up St Mark's Square, we managed to navigate our way around the busier areas, taking refuge in places off the beaten track when it all got too much. It's perhaps good to go with the mindset that some of the key sights - San Marco, the campanile and the Doge's Palace, for example - might prove too tricky to tick off the list, but you might strike lucky. We were able to pretty much walk straight into the basilica, though the next day the queue was round the block.
If you can make it inside, though, this is a must-see - a gorgeous confection of gold and glittering jewels that will make your eyes pop out. Piazza San Marco, the pretty Palazzo Ducale, the Bridge of Sighs and the glittering Rialto are also must sees, but you will have to navigate the crowds to experience them.
If you're feeling flush, I can't think of a nicer place to recharge than the legendary Caffe Florian, located underneath the porticos that run along the square. It's a jewel-box of a cafe, founded in the 1700s and filled with ornate features: gold cornices, marble floors and Murano glass chandeliers. But do expect to lose around 10 euros per person to enjoy a coffee amidst is splendour.
The real pleasure of Venice, though, isn't the expensive attractions and queues. It's about getting lost in its complex maze of streets only to stumble upon a light-filled square where you can sit in the sun with an Aperol Spritz. It's about swapping ordinary modes of transport for water buses and gondolas - a much nicer way to navigate a city. Water buses can be quite costly for family travel but you can buy 24-hour tickets that allow you unlimited travel on certain routes. Gondola rates have been standardised so there's no quibbling over prices - currently it costs 80 euros for a daytime half hour canal ride. Even if you're on a budget I'd recommend you just suck it up - it's a special experience you can't get anywhere else.
With five days at our disposal we were able to visit pretty much every sestiere (quarter) in Venice. Our Airbnb was based in a quiet canal-side street in Canareggio, an atmospheric and authentic district with access to some of the city's best cicchetti bars. It was also close to the useful Fondamente Nove water bus stop, offering easy access to the boat that takes in three lagoon islands: Murano, Burano and Torcello.
This trip is a must-do. You can watch glass-blowing on Murano and visit the ancient cathedral on Torcello. But my favourite was Burano - an Instagrammer's dream of tranquil canals lined with multi-coloured fisherman's houses. It's outrageously beautiful and thought it attracts a steady stream of visitors, it doesn't feel over-run with tourists.
Further (relative) tranquility lies across the water from San Marco at the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, one of the most photographed landmarks in the city. Designed by Palladio, you won't find queues snaking out the door, plus its campanile offers just as amazing a view as that from the bell tower at St Mark's (again, without the queues and for a cheaper entrance charge.)
Don't miss the fish market at Rialto to see working Venice in action - it's a bustling, noisy place where tables are loaded with glistening fish and seafood fresh off the boats. At the other end of the spectrum, we enjoyed a lovely couple of hours at the Fenice Opera House, a much more sedate experience where you can take a pew in one of the boxes and feast your eyes on a gorgeous, glittering interior and frescoed ceiling.
Another interesting sight a little off the beaten track is the Bovolo Staircase, off a little side street near St Mark's. It's a real architectural delight that harks back to 15th century Venice and was used in the famous Orson Welles film adaptation of Othello. On reaching the top you're rewarded with gorgeous views across the rooftops of Venice.

Another little known and free way to experience hidden Venice is at the exquisite Casino Venier, currently the headquarters of the French Alliance but once the home of a decadent 18th-century casino, a meeting place for Venetian high society and a place of drinking and debauchery. A fairly non-descript exterior belies the splendour inside where you can explore two lavish rooms almost untouched since the 1700s. Feast your eyes on the most incredible tiles, stucco walls and ornate ceilings. Look out for a loose tile in the main room's floor and watch passing pedestrians as the Casino's former clientele would have done to check out visitors before allowing them entry.
Other free must dos include a visit to the Dorsoduro area and a wander around the church of Santa Maria Della Salute, a baroque masterpiece built to celebrate Venice's deliverance from the plague. Do not miss the chance to capture the stunning view of the church and canal from the Accademia Bridge - I guarantee your photo will look like a Canaletto painting. If we didn't have two tired kids in tow we'd have stopped by the Peggy Guggenheim gallery too - I'm reliably informed this is a must-see for aficionados of modern art.

Do also take a wander through Venice's old ghetto, the first ghetto in the world and a tranquil, fascinating quarter which offers an alternative side to the city. And for something totally different, we followed a friend's recommendation to visit one of Venice's most curious locations - the Acqua Alta bookshop in Castello. Overflowing with books on every subject you could possibly be interested in, this weird and wonderful place leaves no surface untouched by stacks of books - there are even full-size, book-filled gondolas shored up in the middle of the store...your local branch of Waterstones it ain't.
When it comes to eating out, sampling a plate of cicchetti washed down with a glass or two of Aperol Spitz is a non-negotiable. It would be all too easy to find yourself lured into the many restaurants peddling boring Italian standards but to do that would mean missing out on Venice's authentic eating experience - essentially enjoying an Italian-style bar hop, with delicious fresh food thrown in for good measure. The Italian answer to tapas, cicchetti are small plates of local specialties with a strong leaning towards fish and vegetables.
The Canareggio district is a good place to sample this typically Venetian institution, with a good variety of bacari (the name given to cicchetti-serving bars) to choose from. We really liked Ca D'Oro Alla Vedova,  on a little side street off the busy Strada Nuove, where we tucked into crispy fried courgette flower, salt cod croquettes and perfect arancini. A stand-at-the-bar kind of place, it does get busy but has a very authentic vibe and traditional interior - you can see where Russell Norman of Polpo got his inspiration from here. The great thing about this kind of eating is it's relatively budget-friendly and you can move from place to place for a bit of variety.
We also had a really good and - considering the location - inexpensive lunch at Ristorante Cherubino, a stone's throw from St Mark's. A great place to fill up on good quality pasta and pizza, I had a delicious Penne All'Arrabiata here, while the boys tucked into very good pizzas. There were two gondoliers eating alongside us which I took as a reassuring sign.
There are numerous places for drinks with our without the accompanying cicchetti all around Venice - you won't need to stumble far to find a glass or Prosecco or Aperol. The lively square of Campo Santa Margherita is a good place to watch the Venetian night unfold, or if you're feeling super glam (and a bit spendy) then you could treat yourself to a cocktail at the legendary Harry's Bar, much loved by Ernest Hemingway and birthplace of the Bellini.

Venice isn't really a place to take very young children - the crowds and the canals aren't conducive to a relaxing city break - but it's a place everyone should visit at least once in their lives, with older children (ours are 13 and 9) as likely to fall under its spell as the grown ups. 
You'll do lots of walking, and the crowded streets around the main tourist areas will certainly get on your nerves from time to time. But it's testament to Venice's inimitable atmosphere and breathtaking splendour that these irritations fail to cloud your view of this truly unique place. I'm already dreaming of my next visit...

We flew from Bristol to Venice with Ryanair and stayed at the ARTE 2 apartment via Airbnb.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

South Bristol Arts Trail

There are lots of things Bristol does well - green spaces, independent shops, cool bridges - but when it comes to creativity, the city is a veritable powerhouse of interesting people doing interesting stuff, from street art (Bristol hosts Europe's largest graffiti festival, Upfest, each summer) to screen printing and every conceivable artistic discipline in between. 

I'll admit that when I started working at Aardman, I was pretty overwhelmed by the wealth of creative talent housed in just one building; and in between doing their creative day jobs, my colleagues somehow find time to pursue other interesting side projects too (whereas I usually just go home and do the ironing...)

Through working at Aardman I've had the great pleasure of being introduced to not only some lovely people, but also the interesting projects they work on around their day jobs. Take Jodie, for example, one half of Bristol-based design duo Peskimo

By day, Jodie does a variety of freelance jobs at Aardman but in between she creates the most gorgeous illustrations with her husband David. Appearing on colourful prints and quirky accessories, I was instantly drawn to Peskimo's retro-inspired aesthetic and have a few of their pieces now hanging in my home. 

It was also through Jodie that I got to hear about the South Bristol Arts Trail, an annual event that has become one of the biggest and most popular arts trails in the city. I've pottered around the trail a couple of times now and this year promises to be another fab event, with over 45 homes and public spaces opening their doors in the Southville, Bedminster and Ashton areas. 

On my first visit a few years' back, I really enjoyed exploring less familiar city streets, with the added bonus of having a snoop in some seriously arty houses and taking in the talents of some of Bristol's most inspiring illustrators, screen printers, ceramicists and jewellery makers. 

There's something really lovely about grabbing a coffee and wandering from street to street, popping into artists' homes, having a chat and perhaps picking up something a bit unique for your home - so much nicer than filling your walls with mass produced pieces from Ikea. I've always found prices to be very accessible too - you should find something that brings a little joy into your life without breaking the bank.

But what if you have kids in tow - surely, dragging them from house to house to 'look at art' isn't the most child-friendly activity to fill a Saturday afternoon? Aside from the obvious risk attached to errant toddlers let loose in houses filled with artworks, your little ones are well catered for at this year's event with children's workshops taking place at a variety of venues during the weekend. Make an animal shadow puppet, mask, or head over to the Tobacco Factory for a special Bricolage workshop with the Let's Make Art team and get stuck into an exciting sculpture project.

If your kids love getting creative in the kitchen too, there's the chance to try their hand at some Indian cookery with The Thali Cafe. While you tuck into some lunch, your kids can learn how to make chapattis and lassis, as well as designing and decorating their placemats and colouring in a special limited-edition ice cream bowl, which they can take away as a souvenir. 

And don't miss Roy Gallop's Wonky House workshop, featuring mechanical toys for children of all ages and a human juke-box...that's right, a HUMAN JUKE BOX. If that doesn't sell this event to you, I'm not sure what will. 

Oh, and did I mention that you get all of this eclectic entertainment for free? You can also drop into the Tobacco Factory for music, St Francis Church for choral entertainment and Trika Yoga for some free stretching and mindfulness. 

If that sounds like an eclectic mix of weekend entertainment you can get on board with, you can find out full details about the South Bristol Arts Trail on the website here.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Trialling the Thai Cookery School at Thaikhun

A couple of weeks' back I joined a small group of other bloggers and journalists for an evening of Thai cookery with the lovely team at Thaikhun, a restaurant I had the pleasure of sampling at the end of last year when it opened in Bath's Little Southgate Quarter. Having come away from that occasion feeling very impressed with the place, I was keen to make a return visit. However, this time it would be me doing the cooking. Hmmm...

Very competent at my small but perfectly formed repertoire of personal classics - I'm great at Bolognese, risotto and other Italian standards - I'm not so hot on more exotic cuisines. My curries are often disappointing and even Delia's fool-proof Thai curry recipe has turned out to be not to be so fool-proof in my less than capable hands. So it was with a slight sense of trepidation that I rose to the challenge of testing my skills at Thaikhun's newly established cooking school.

Just launched, the school runs at the Bath branch every fourth Sunday (other dates are available at Thaikhun's other locations), inviting Thai food aficionados to create their very own two-course feast. Led by an experienced chef - in our case a very lovely lady who had travelled down from the Manchester branch especially - the two-hour sessions are designed to give you a grounding in the basics of Thai cookery, impart some interesting know-how and give you the opportunity to socialise while you enjoy a starter and main course made by your own fair hands.

For our session, we started out by making vegetable spring rolls - so much easier than I'd expected, though there is a bit of a knack to rolling them like a pro. But with a Gin Cooler to hand, any worries I'd had about my cooking limitations started to fade away and I began to really enjoy the experience. 

It helped that our guide for the evening was very funny, keeping us engaged with her insider knowledge and personable teaching style. In fact, it felt nothing like a 'lesson' but more of an informal invitation into a friend's kitchen - I didn't feel intimidated or insecure about my abilities at any time during the evening.
After whipping up our spring rolls - a mix of vermicelli noodles, finely chopped carrot, mushroom and cabbage, as well as a spices, herbs, ginger and soy sauce - they were whisked off to be deep fried while we got on with the important task of choosing another cocktail from Thaikhun's menu (I highly recommend the coconut mojito.)

Then the moment of truth arrived as our first course was delivered and I'm happy to say mine and my guest's (it was a joint effort) were absolutely delicious and nothing like the greasy, anaemic looking spring rolls that often turn up in your takeaway.

Refreshed and ready to take on our main course, we returned to our cookery stations to be guided through the steps needed to create the perfect Thai Green Curry. Like the spring rolls, this task wasn't anywhere near as scary as I'd anticipated. Turns out some simple tricks of the trade and knowing how to create the perfect, proper curry paste is the key. 

We were introduced to some exotic ingredients such as Galangal and palm sugar, and instructed how to use the coconut milk to get a perfectly creamy consistency for our curries. Taking just a short time to master, we were directed back to our tables to enjoy our left over spring rolls, bowls of steaming rice and our curries - and I'm pleased to report that, for once, my curry was well above passable. 

I left Thaikhun feeling pretty confident about replicating these recipes in my own kitchen and inspired to venture beyond my cooking comfort zone every so often. And with a few exotic cocktails sloshing around in our tummies too, me and my guest went home glowing from an evening very well spent. 
For more information on Thaikhun's cooking school, visit the website here. You can also read my review of the restaurant here.

I enjoyed a complimentary visit to Thaikhun but all words and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A Visit to the Bristol Harbour Hotel Spa

Bristol is good at a lot of things. But when it comes to pampering and relaxation, there aren't really many places to choose from if you're in need of some serious down time. My go-to place used to be the Relaxation Centre but that closed down a year or so ago, so aside from the Lido - a lovely place but not, strictly speaking, a day spa - options for R&R are seriously thin on the ground.

Now, I can't say I have the funds for regular pampering sessions, but when it comes to present ideas for birthdays or Christmas, I'd always choose a massage over a snazzy handbag. So, I was excited to hear that there is - at last - somewhere a bit special to visit in Bristol that I can point potential present purchasers towards.

Opened a few weeks' back, the Spa at the Bristol Harbour Hotel is a tranquil, subterranean warren featuring treatment rooms, relaxation zones, sauna, steam room, gym and a gorgeous indoor pool. Sensitively lit to help you totally unwind, the spa is a bijou haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city - it's hard to imagine that you're just moments from the busy St Nick's Market.

Occupying what was once a bank vaults - the hotel was a Lloyds Bank building in a former life - there's a unique feel to the space, though some visitors may find the lack of natural light and low ceilings a little confined. Personally, I liked the underground aspect of the spa - I'd imagine it would offer a seriously cocooning experience if you really needed a day to get away from it all.

I visited on the Spa's opening night and enjoyed a very relaxing hand and arm massage but there's a good variety of treatments on offer, for both women and men. Pregnancy treatments are also available, plus you can try some holistic treats such as reflexology and hopi ear candling. One of my favourite salon brands - ESPA - is used in lots of the massages and body treatments. 

Manicures, pedicures and waxing are also available. And if you're really looking to splash out on something to soothe mind and body - as well as pampering your face too - the Ocean Spa Ritual sounds utterly blissful.

I would wholeheartedly recommend combining your spa visit with lunch, dinner or drinks at the hotel. Again, Bristol's hotels can disappoint if you're looking for somewhere a bit luxe for a weekend away, afternoon tea or evening cocktails, so the Bristol Harbour Hotel's quirky, decadent style offers a much needed alternative to the more bland, conference-style offerings in the city. 

We had a glass of wine in the recently opened Gold Bar, a gorgeous space that successfully blends contemporary decor with the building's exquisite original features - I couldn't stop gazing at the stunning ceiling cornices and elaborate stonework that gives the room a wonderful sprinkling of old-school glamour. 

I've been told that the food at the hotel's Jetty Restaurant is pretty special so it seems that I really should be sampling its wares too, perhaps along with that Ocean Spa Ritual I mentioned earlier. I've got a birthday coming up so maybe now might the time to start dropping hints and perhaps leave a spa brochure lying around? 

For more information on the Bristol Harbour Hotel and Spa, visit the website here.

All photos kindly supplied by the hotel, all words my own. 


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

My Bristol

So, my home city has been named the best place to live in the UK by the Sunday Times. This comes off the back of a fair bit of publicity for the city in recent years - it seems Bristol has steadily built a reputation for being something a bit special and lately it seems like every other publication is singing its praises.

As someone who was raised in the city and came back here after I become a parent, I've seen it undergo a whole lotta changes over the years; most of them good, though I have to say that I'm less happy about Bristol becoming a bit of a London satellite - just try buying a family home in a good catchment area if you want evidence of the impact of London-Bristol migration.

I also have my own personal gripes - rubbish public transport, poor secondary school provision and a pretty bad litter problem - and I do think some stuff that has been written about the city is slightly romanticised. Yes, people from Bristol may seem physically compelled to thank every bus driver for every bus journey they ever make...but that does rather depend on whether you can actually get a bus in the first place.

And, like any city, for every affluent suburban street and graceful Georgian square, Bristol has its fair share of neglected, depressed areas that don't quite fit the rosy picture displayed in the broadsheets. It isn't really accurate to portray Bristol as some sort of utopia, despite its proud heritage of inclusiveness and political agitation, and it would be remiss to glaze over the fact that many of the city's best offerings are the preserve of its wealthier residents. BUT...that's a whole different conversation.

Instead, as someone who does truly love my home city - despite taking some of the plaudits with a pinch of salt - I've collected my favourite places in Bristol and the surrounding environs. They're not the big name attractions that you'll probably already be aware of, but rather places that, if I was visiting the city for a weekend, I'd be very happy to stumble upon...

Clifton Wood

Central Clifton - with the Suspension Bridge, Georgian architecture and an abundance of chi chi cafes - is an obvious addition to any tour of Bristol, but equally enchanting is Clifton Wood, a hotch-potch of quiet little roads and steep hills lined with pastel-coloured houses. You can enjoy fantastic views over the docks from up here, plus there's a cute little pub, The Lion, to fulfill your refreshment requirements. There's a distinctly Bohemian vibe in this part of the city - it's the sort of place people make mosaics for their walls and prettify electricity boxes with painted pictures.

You'll eventually wind up either down by the docks or back in Clifton; if you hit the latter, take your pick from a variety of photogenic attractions: Royal York Crescent, the Observatory, Clifton Arcade and Birdcage Walk, to name just a few.

The Lido

Staying with the upmarket side of Bristol, there's something very charming about this place. Brought back to life in 2008, the Lido retains the character of a 1920s bathing club, with its functional swimming pool lined with retro-style curtained changing rooms. Opposite the changing rooms is a lovely restaurant - enjoying a lazy, post-swim brunch in the sunshine can almost make you feel like you're on holiday. And to be able to get that feeling in the middle of a city is no bad thing. Visit the website for more info.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

A proper old school museum - the sort I love. With only small concessions to the modern, interactive way of displaying information, this museum hasn't really changed much since I used to come here as a child. 

Housed in a beautiful neo-classical building, this free museum has a whiff of old school exploration, with its collections of stuffed animals, Egyptian mummies and rocks and minerals. I particularly like the gallery, a tranquil space hung with some impressive artworks, including pieces by Seurat and Renoir. Visit the website for more info.

Gloucester Road

No prizes for naming this legendary high street as a Bristolian must-see. Often referenced as the last great high street in the UK, there's still a defiantly independent feel to Gloucester Road, despite the presence of a couple of chains. But if you were, say, wanting to visit the street art of Stokes Croft or indulge in some retail therapy at Cabot Circus, you could swap catching the bus for a wander down this quirky, interesting road, the kind of place where you can lay your hands on pretty much anything and everything. 

Traditional hardware shops rub shoulders with San Fran-style cafes, while you can have a rummage in a multitude of amazing charity shops or browse pretty homewares and clothing in some super-cute boutiques. I couldn't live without the traditional toy shop Totally Toys (a lifesaver for last-minute presents) plus I love a nose in the pound shop and brilliant health food store Scoop Away. 

Just before the junction with Cheltenham Road hook a right up to Zetland Road and you'll come across a real culinary gem - Green's Dining Room is, in my opinion - one of the best and most consistent restaurants in the city; it's a lovely, unpretentious little place serving some of the most delicious food I've ever had in Bristol.

Botanic Garden

A relatively recent discovery, this is a really lovely place to enjoy a break from the city noise. Owned by the university, the gardens are located just off Durdham Downs on Stoke Park Road (follow the brown signs) and feature collections of unusual plants and trees. It's all very calm and civilised beyond the garden threshold - the perfect place for an undisturbed wander on a sunny day. There's a cafe on site, plus the gardens often have interesting exhibitions on show - the last time I visited the plants were decorated with pretty glass sculptures. Visit the website for more info.


I bloody love Clevedon. Home to my two best friends when I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time mooching around in Clevedon in my youth. Having smartened up in recent years, Clevedon now has a beautifully restored Victorian Pier and a refurbished outdoor swimming pool, as well as a pretty pebble beach backed by elegant houses and cafes. There's a smart parade of shops at Hill Road, while Poets Walk offers gorgeous views across the water. 

And while said water might be a tad brown - the Bristol Channel isn't the most photogenic of waterways - Clevedon is a very convenient place to get to when you're looking for a bit of sea air. Just 20 minutes by car from Bristol, it's a lovely spot to sit in the sun eating fish and chips or a proper Italian ice cream from Forte's.

More Bristol Recommendations

I wrote a piece for HelloBRSTL on recommendations for things to do and where to eat in Bristol - take a look here.

Photos courtesy of Lido Bristol, Visit Bristol and Bristol Botanic Gardens.
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