With time on my hands in Bristol, I headed to Harvey Nicks to see if they had a food hall here.
No hall, perhaps, but a little corner of the store had been given over to fodder. There, I found a few things to interest me.
First, a tub of Tom Douglas “rub with love” for salmon. I’m always looking for ways to make our regular bit of fillet more interesting and this ticked the right box.
Containing brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper and thyme, it should be interesting.
Then a white fig confit to eat with goat’s cheese and a bag of pfeffernüsse, those gorgeous little German ginger biscuit/cakes, covered in icing, which probably won’t actually make it back to London on Sunday afternoon.
And then, as if I hadn’t been tempted enough, I found a Harvey Nicks Christmas shop a few doors down. Having wandered around, I was about to leave, wending my way toward the exit, past the cheese counter.
Except that I couldn’t force myself “past” said counter without reaching out to try some of the comte that was sitting on a little wooden platter waiting to be tasted. Lovely.
And that started a conversation with the rather good looking and muscular (what biceps!) young man who was serving.
Comte good, of course, but how about something regional?
“Oh, I can’t really buy cheese – it won’t keep between now and my journey home on Sunday.”
“Well perhaps a little to keep you going while you’re here,” he suggested in flirtatious manner, unwrapping a piece and proffering a taste. That’s really not a fair tactic.
It was Keen’s cheddar – something I’ve never liked. Or not until now. Perhaps that’s because I’ve only ever had it from a supermarket. This, however, was out of this world: absolutely gorgeous.
He actually works as a cheesemaker with Gorwydd Caerphilly, which I recognised instantly on the stall. Indeed, as I told him, I’d had some from their stall at Borough Market a couple of weeks ago.
He explained that the farms that produce Keen’s and Mongomery cheddars are incredibly near (only a couple of miles apart), yet the taste is so different. He suggested that perhaps it’s the extra layers of cloth that the Keen family put on their cheese that gives it such a different taste, showing me the difference in thickness of covering.
Inevitably, I bought a small piece, wrapped specially in wax paper (none of that plastic nonsense). Fortunately, while my hotel room’s minibar is empty, it’s still working and the cheese won’t get hot and sweaty in what is a quite warm room. But like the pfeffernüsse, it’s possible that not much will make it home.
And then it was time for the real countdown for my meal at Brasserie Blanc to begin. Which seemed to cause time to slow down.
Having earlier played ‘hunt the iron’ to no avail, I’d attempted to press my trousers with one of the Corby Trouser Presses that haunt every hotel room in the UK. To no avail, as it was reluctant to heat.
Eventually, I found the iron, hiding on its board at the ‘wring’ side of the wardrobe. Let’s face it: you can’t turn up at a Raymond Bland eaterie with creased pants!