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. 

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