Jobswap Week 2022 - researching Bristol's Brilliant, Independent Restaurant Scene!
Every year during the summer sees the return of our annual 'Jobswap Week' where Spicery staff switch roles to gain an insight into each others typical working day and learn a new Spicery special skill such as how to create a production schedule in the warehouse or even how to cook up a storm in our test kitchen for lots of hungry spicerers to eat at lunchtime!
This year as well as swapping on site at Spicery HQ, we were grouped into 4 teams with a mission to sample some of the tastiest cuisine Bristols Independent restaurants have to offer. Being based in Bristol we're spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out - with a huge range of amazing cuisines to choose from and a plethora of highly rated and reccommended restaurants, perfect for a research trip that's full of flavour!
Monday was all about Mezze with Chris, Samer, Robyn and Kayleigh starting the week off in style at Koocha Mezze Bar; showcasing Persian inspired vegan cuisine, Koocha really is a plant-based paradise! Located in the heart of Gloucester road (said to be Britain's longest independent shopping street) and with it's funky leopard print mural on it's bright, blue building - we knew it was going to be a vibrant and very enjoyable lunch!
After scanning the menu we opted for a spiced cauliflower shawarma, Koocha Fried Chick'in burger, doner and Jojeh kebabs and of course a selection of Mezze plates to sample between us including mixed veg fritters spiced with cayenne and turmeric, sweet potato somozahs, a creamy walnut and artichoke dip and falafels- a truly magnificient spread!
Even though we were all extremely full, we didn't feel our trip would be complete without checking out the dessert menu (all in the name of research of course!) so we rounded off the meal with a sumptous saffron & pomegranate cheesecake and a blissful baklava - complete with vegan honey!
Tuesday saw Jess, Jim and Jude transported to the spectacular, neon soaked streets of Seoul as they tucked in to some seriously tasty food at Tuk Tuck!
Jess: Job Swap 2022 saw us tasked with researching the local independent food scene in Bristol. Possibly one of the most exciting in the country, Bristol’s Street Food scene is becoming increasingly popular with the town centre alone boasting hundreds of pop-up stalls, cafes and restaurants.
There are a few reasons why Korean food has become so mainstream over the last five or so years. More Korean students are attending British universities than ever before and we are also seeing a greater interest in Korean ‘K-Pop’ music.You can now find Korean ingredients in most supermarkets helping the interest in the cuisine turn into an obsession! You will almost always find a Korean food stall at any foodie event in Bristol. Tuk Tuck, an Asian fusion restaurant, offer probably the best korean food that Bristol has to offer.
Their tagline says - ‘Join us on a journey through the street food markets of Asia. Taking in the familiar and the unique’. This certainly resonated with us as we read the menu, from the now familiar kimchi fries, dumplings and katsu curries to more unusual gyozas, bulgogi and bibimbap.
Tuk Tuck offer a selection of main meals and sides and we opted for a mixture of the two - Bulgogi Beef in a BBQ marinade, chicken and vegetable Gyozas, Chipotle and Teriyaki Tofu Nuggets, Mushroom Bibimbap, Loaded Tofu Fries, salted Edamame Beans in their pods and kimchi falling over edges of everything.
Yes, it was raining and yes, we opted to sit outside in the rain, but the pavement seating, the icy bottles of beer (made even better by the causal leaving of the opener on the table), the red and white chequered baking paper keeping everything held into the plastic trays, all added to the atmosphere and emphasised what is great about street food - informal but delicious.
This place has ONLY 5 star reviews, 182 to be exact. It has a great reputation for serving fantastic food that’s cheap and comforting. The inside is laid out in a contemporary diner style with music blaring, you order for yourself off a touch screen and can see the chef’s preparing the dishes. The food came out as and when it was ready so everything arrived hot and fresh. Sitting here, it’s easy to see why this cuisine has become so popular - long may it last!
Wednesday's outing sparked serious wonderlust for the Spicery team as James, Jake, Rhys, Georgia and Rob went to Stokes Croft for a spectacular, sun-soaked Caribbean meal!
Georgia: For our research trip we headed to the bustling area of Stokes Croft, where the vibrant spirit of the local community can be seen in the colourful street art adorning the walls and the never-ending selection of independent shops and eateries that line Gloucester and Cheltenham Road (which supposedly boasts the most independent shops of any street in the country!). Our destination was one such local gem - Caribbean Croft - a relaxed restaurant run by Bristolians with a clear passion for delicious, authentic Caribbean food.
As soon as we entered, we felt transported to a Caribbean beach bar! Reggae tunes pumped through the speakers (not so loud as to overpower our chatter, but enough to make you want to sway a little in your seat!), washed-out wooden boards pannelled the interior, lightbulbs encased in colourful glass jars hung from the ceiling, and a small bunch of flowers sat on each table with an empty bottle of Red Stripe for its vase.
Our main courses could be described as a Greatest Hits of Caribbean food: Jerk Chicken, Oxtail and Ackee, served with the obligatory rice'n'peas and plantain. Wanting to sample as much of the extensive menu as possible, we also ordered an assortment of sides - fried festivals, okra, mac'n'cheese, and some more plantain for good measure. All of the dishes are family recipes, passed down to the chef from his granny Ms Cat, and you can tell that the food is cooked with love and pride. It was bursting with flavour, served up in immensely generous portions, and fiery enough to make you reach for your drink after every mouthful (speaking of which, Old Jamaica Grape Soda, Ting, Sorrel Red Stripe, and a rum cocktail were our beverages of choice).
Shockingly, a couple of us even had space for desserts, which were Yard Cake - a traditional rum and fruit cake topped with Appleton Rum toffee sauce and served with cream - and a sickeningly sweet (but oh so delicious) banana and cinnamon slice topped with chopped walnuts, caramel sauce and whipped cream. Some might call this an unnecessary addition to an already excessive lunch, but it's all in the name of research, right? (Not a crumb of cake was left).
Considering that it was a Wednesday lunch-time, we expected the place to be fairly quiet, but it soon filled up with families, couples, and groups of friends - this restaurant is clearly a ray of Caribbean sunshine in the community that draws people in with what they describe as 'big, bold and boisterous West Indian flavours', and we concur! They claim that you will always leave with 'a full belly and a smile on your face', and this was certainly true - we staggered back to work ready to slip into an inevitable food coma during the afternoon, but already planning a return visit.
Then on Thursday Esme, Marc, Adam and Luke finished off our research outings with an extra helping of more magnificent mezze plates!
Esme: We had our lunch at Souk Kitchen, an airy, middle eastern restaurant on North Street (with a sister restaurant in Clifton). We started off with some of Souk Kitchen’s delicious, freshly-made flatbread, pickles, and some dips. The flatbreads were a highlight of the meal - soft and tender, and perfect for scooping up the zaalouk (a Moroccan dip made by slowly braising tomatoes and aubergines) and hummus.
For our main course we had whole grilled sardines wrapped in vine leaves, halloumi with watermelon and honey, courgette fritters and lots of other small plates. It was all beautifully presented, and perfectly cooked.
We somehow managed dessert as well, and had a slice of dark chocolate and caramel tart between us to finish. The tart was extremely rich, lightly sweetened and even though we were all so full we almost didn’t order dessert, we polished it off in a flash!
When in Bristol all of these destinations are 100% a must visit for anyone who loves food- we're already pouring over their various menus to decide what we're going to eat on our next visit!