At the weekend my boyfriend’s family came to Bristol,UK. Which is fun because, as you know I love being a tourist in my own city but also because you get to see responses to the city from people who don’t know it, you get to take adventures and visit places forgotten or past by. I wonder if being a tour guide would get boring, or would your energy be supplied by the gleaming faces of tourists?
Having walked the city till our feet were sore and muscles in my legs, which I didn’t know existed, burnt and stung with exhaustion we decided it was time to reward ourselves to a dinner out. We decided to take them to a little Jamaican in Stokes Croft, named Rice and Things. Me and my boyfriend had passed this restaurant several times, like the other lovely smelling cafes and bistros staggered throughout stokes croft, we finally went we had the occasion to go, and couldn’t ignore it any longer. Much to the appreciation of our guests, they were thrilled to not go to a chain, as it would’ve been an easy option to choose, tired and flagging from a long day out.
The menu at Rice and Things was bursting with combination of foods I’ve never tasted, dishes were named with suggestions of the chefs personality and heritage. The atmosphere was buzzing; people coming and going, grabbing their take-away meals or waiting for the next available table to open up.
Then it was our turn to taste.
When the food arrived we let out a gasp. Thank goodness we didn’t have any starters, the plates were piled high with fried chicken for me, and jerk chicken for the hot spice tolerant. We had rice and beans for a side, fragrant with cinnamon, herbs and spices my amateur pallet couldn’t yet pick out. We also decided to try the ‘boiled food’ option, the ambiguity of the description let curiosity order. The boiled food was a boiled banana, dumpling and potatoes, the mellow tastes complementing the subtle spice of fried chicken perfectly. It was a feast, a mini banquet, the tastes were beautiful and we were disappointed not to squeeze a desert in. There is nothing I like better than to see satisfied faces around the dinner table, the food turning into the subject matter, and nodding in approval that “we went somewhere different”. Everything about this place makes me want to recommend. It isn’t the glossy chain, you don’t get what you expect, instead you get a plate in front of you that has a story, another culture filled dish, made with love and pride.
Much to the appreciation of our guests, they were thrilled to not go to a chain. I am forever wanting to try different foods, finding back street cafes big enough for about 4 people, or street food with lingering smells that invite you in, but not going to mass restaurant chains. They are popular because you know what to expect, the menus normally have safe go-to options and you don’t have to think about hunting somewhere else, perhaps it is more convenient or genuinely find the ambiance and food appealing. But there are so many delicious restaurants and eateries around that expose you to such amazing food that I can’t go back to chains, not when I have been to the other side, not when there are so many independent businesses offering up food that I’ve never tasted, offering a culture other than the one I’m used to. I like to support these places and enjoy finding them, hidden gems, to use a cliche but they really are.
Food is so much more than an eating habit, for me it is my favourite social activity, at university we would pass up a night out for a dinner party, bring a dish and a bottle and plenty of conversation, I miss those days. When I was younger I remember getting my nice dress on for a “dinner out Friday”, it always felt special. We weren’t sat around our dinner table, mundane and boring from too many after-school dinners, predictable and rushed, too eager to play we would finish our dinner with fork fulls of leftovers ,much to the dismay of my mother. But eating out meant we were fresh in surroundings, the adrenaline of doing something different encouraged interaction and with the lack of distraction meant we caught up as a family, acknowledged each other and listened to stories of the week.