A quick stroll from Lawrence Hill station, Cafe des Amies is a corner cafe who prides itself in sourcing from local and independent businesses. Having come across Ginger Beard preserves at the Harbourside market, I was delighted to finally meet the founder, Harry! Sporting a magnificent ginger beard, he’s been taking over the kitchen at Cafe des Amies. The idea behind his pop-up comes from showcasing the versatility of his products. Afterall, his preserves aren’t just an accompaniment… they’re key ingredients to dishes!

 

There’s an obvious shared interest in this collaboration. The cafe has a good selection of local brews which includes my current favourite: the Left-Handed Giant. So, what’s the link? Well, GingerBeard produces preserves made from crafts!  With appearances from Moor, Bristol Beer Factory and Severn Cider, I was pretty excited to try GingerBeard’s Preserves.

 

After cooling off with a refreshing apple and rhubarb iced tea, I was offered a little espresso cup filled with my amuse bouche. Inside was a Bloody Mary soup with salsa verde. With an intense tomato flavour, the salsa verde added a nice tang that worked well with the saltiness from the anchovy.

 

I polished off my soup, and quickly moved on to the seafood cocktail. I was a little wary about this one considering the last time I had it was at my school leavers ball. Harry’s creation, however, was really enjoyable! The cocktail was packed with seafood and cubes of cucumber added crunch and freshness. The sauce was smoky and spicy with the Moor Amoor Chipotle ketchup. Although it was delicious, I could have done with some bread for moppage! On the side came more fresh seafood including mussels, clams, tiger prawns and squid. My only gripe was the squid was a little overcooked but that is often the case.

 

Having recently developed a hankering for Mexican food, the main course of chicken tacos had me wiggling my (metaphorical) moustache. Harry appeared from the kitchen for a chat, telling me the pulled chicken had been cooked in his Ultimate Stout BBQ sauce. Made with Bristol Beer Factory, and cooked for 6 hours, the chicken was tender and utterly moreish. Alongside was fresh, crunchy slaw and creamy guacamole. I’m more of a chunky gauc girl but I definitely appreciated its cooling effect when the hot sauce came out! Made in collaboration with Otomi, the habanero hot sauce was scrumptious. It isn’t for the faint-hearted but under the fiery kick, fruitiness cuts through the rich chicken.

 

In a shameless attempt to get their reviewer drunk I was then treated to a little sample of toffee vodka from the English Spirit Distillery. Far from the syrupy stuff found coating the bar at Lizard Lounge, it was nicely balanced and would make a great digestif.

 

With a little chilli sniffle building, I was ready for dessert. Now I have a mother who is pretty nifty in the brownie baking department and will always hold the, admittedly biased, gold medal. However, Harry’s creation has a stand-out difference of stout, plum and chipotle jam. It stopped the fudgy brownie being too sweet and sickly, adding spice and fruitiness. The stout ice cream, which could have been a little creamier, had a nutty flavour that worked really well.

 

Overall I was really impressed with his first kitchen takeover and Ginger Beard has certainly inspired me to be more creative with the jars of goodness I am steadily amassing in my cupboards. The website has a great selection of recipes for foodspiration, including the pulled chicken. I’m also looking forward to returning to Cafe des Amies.

 

Their new “tapas” style menu is a bargain, and it’s well worth checking out their Facebook or Twitter (@baramies) as they post deals there, including Bloody Mary brunches and craft evenings. Harry has plans for more takeovers in the future so keep an eye on @gingerbeardsp.