Date and Time: Sunday 11th March 2012 from 13:00
Names of Establishment (in order of appearance): Lahloo Pantry, Arch House Deli, The Primrose Café, Zazu's Kitchen, Cordial and Grace
Location: Clifton Village
Reason for Visit: An introduction to the Hi! Street ‘app’ via a bespoke BS8-based Cake Crawl; utter genius…!
Inviting me to join a team of cupcake enthusiasts for a sweet soiree amidst the café-laden metropolis of Clifton Village was rather like asking a desert-dweller whether they'd like an iced beverage...Initiated by Bonnie Colville-Hyde in light of the imminent launch of her extra-curricular venture, 'Hi! Street' (an 'app' which provides localised deals in regards to the independent retailers in one’s immediate area), the concept of a cake crawl was unsurprisingly met with unanimous approval. That said, I will hasten to add that whilst gorging on baked-goods, quaffing flutes of Prosecco and nattering with the girls involved a great deal of fun, it was also all in the name of research! And, to that end, our itinerary/findings unfolded as follows:
13:00 – Empty Stomachs and Introductions
First things first, I feel that I should 'out' the team and so, without further ado, we are:
Bonny Colville-Hyde (@hi_street) – The captain of our cake-based crusade and part of the Hi! Street production team (http://www.histreet.co.uk/)
Helen Pullen (@Boutique_33) – Involved in the promotion of http://www.boutique33.co.uk/, an up-and-coming boutique in the heart of Clifton Village
Emily Knight (@BristolBites) – The owner of http://www.bristolbites.co.uk/, the definitive guide to Bristol's foodie scene
Hayley Constantine (@Hayles) – The owner of fashion/lifestyle blog, http://www.ceriselle.org/
Sarah (@PrincessPurling) – A fellow foodie and Sunday Roast mastermind!
Rachael Simmons (@doeeyedcabbage) – The Best Foodie Friend (BFF) and (rather humble) kitchen whiz...
Sam Evans (Me - @samfraggle) – The notoriously sweet-toothed owner of http://www.canapesandcupcakes.blogspot.com/
13:00 Continued – Arrival at Lahloo Pantry (http://www.lahloopantry.co.uk/)
As an unpretentiously modern tea-room with a huge range of home-baked indulgences to choose from, Lahloo Pantry was a great place to kick-start our 'crawl' and, due to the extensive line-up of teas on offer, most accompanied their cake with a brew...the Wild Rose, White Peony and classic Earl Grey all proving especially popular. Most also opted to indulge in a home-made lemon and buttermilk scone which, albeit a rather sizeable starting point given the fact that we had four additional venues to visit, was just divine - the delicate balance of flavours further enhanced with the addition of a wonderfully tart lemon curd and passion flower preserve, yum! Others chose the Victoria Sponge (complete with genuine strawberry over-spill) and vanilla macaroons; both of which were reportedly delicious.
Verdict: The tea-lovers choice and my personal favourite in terms of good quality edibles...
13:45 – Arrival at Arch House Deli (http://www.archhousedeli.com/)
Here, we decided to share the desired edibles between us and, each donning a cake fork, well and truly tucked in! Our selections (and consequently, our findings) were:
Chocolate and Star Anise Sponge – an unusual combination whereby rich chocolate gave way to the aniseed aroma of star anise; an acquired taste…
Cherry and Coconut Polenta Cake – a light, well proportioned bake packed full of juicy cherries – a winner for me!
Honey Cream and Banana Loaf – An oddly flavoured sponge which, to be honest, I wasn’t overly fond of. Based on my rather established cake-related wisdom, I thought that the banana content required considerable oomph so to lend to the arrangement a little more in the way of texture and taste.
Jasmine Tea and Lemon Sponge – The overall favourite given its perfectly executed consistency and subtly sweet fragrance – pure joy!
Verdict: An extensive and imaginative line-up of bakes for those who believe that variety is the spice of life! Once again the 'Deli of the Year 2011' delivers...
|Cherry and Coconut Polenta Cake|
|Four between Seven!|
14:15 – Arrival at The Primrose Café (http://www.primrosecafe.co.uk/)
It's fair to say that at this point, we were all starting to feel a little 'caked-out' but soldiering on as we had originally intended, opted again for the 'sharing is caring' concept. Thus, the BFF and I split a slice of the Victoria Sponge between us which, packed with fresh raspberry compote, fared rather well but, in my view, less spectacularly so than the cakes sampled elsewhere. Also, although on this occasion we were rather grateful for distinctively 'modest' portion sizes, I'm not sure that we would have left as satisfied had we not been, suffering quite frankly, from our adventures thus far!
Verdict: A moderate 'cake-over' may have fabricated an accurate review of this particular venue and yet, considered something of a Bristol institution, I’m pretty sure that it won’t hinder the likelihood of a return-visit!
15:00 – Arrival at Zazu's Kitchen (http://www.zazuskitchen.co.uk/)
Starting to slip into a sugar-induced slump, it's fair to say that the well-made latte (on my part) and individually-sized Portuguese custard tarts all but saved the day; their almost savoury appeal mutually appreciated and immensely enjoyed. That said, the presence of a crème brûlée style burnt-sugar stickiness provided the angle required to define this input as a valid part of the crawl – not to mention the fact that it made for simply delicious eating! Furthermore, the buzz of a much-loved establishment made for a lovely, if not a little humid, atmosphere: recommended!
Verdict: The turning point: A much-needed diversion to prevent sponge-elicited sickness!
15:30 – Arrival at Cordial and Grace (http://www.cordial-and-grace.co.uk/)
With brightly-coloured, candy-striped décor, Cordial and Grace certainly looked the part...and upon being presented with a tasting plate of all the cake-affiliated luxuries on offer that day, it tasted the part too! We sampled the likes of Cinnamon and Nutella Sponge, Blueberry and Lemon Loaf and, my personal favourite, Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies, (so good I had purchase the rest of the supply to take home!) We also ordered savoury (pesto) scones in order to balance the palate somewhat, which were presented over three dainty bone-china tiers and accompanied with cream cheese and tangy home-made chutney. And, to complete the 'crawl', we toasted crisp Prosecco to the success of our afternoon, full stomachs and new-found acquaintances as the sun set over Clifton Village – idyllic indeed!
Verdict: My favourite venue in terms of overall ambiance and, with a quaint sewing parlour downstairs, the appeal of what is fundamentally, a rather girly space and a reasonably-priced range of afternoon tea options to boot, I absolutely can't wait for an excuse to re-visit...
|"Let Them Eat Cake!"|
In conclusion, a fantastic afternoon with engaging company and an opportunity to both experience new venues and secure old favourites. This was also a great introduction to the upcoming Hi! Street iPhone 'app' which will ultimately support independent businesses (such as those detailed above); offering localised deals and money-saving incentives to those who register...a commendable notion which, one might suggest, makes exploring one's neighbourhood, 'a piece of cake'!