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A classic English meal with a perfectly matched French wine

People occasionally ask me what characterises British food. Unlike French or Italian food it can be hard to pin down, there are so many different ethnic influences but last night I had a meal that was quintessentially English summer food.

It was at one of my favourite restaurants Culinaria in Bristol, our new English home (the city, not the restaurant though I suspect we’ll be going often enough to take up residence there) which is run by Stephen Markwick who has been cooking in the city for years.

My first course was cucumber fritters with dill cream which sounds less than overwhelming but was really quite delicious. It could only have worked with scrupulously fresh, organic cucumbers and a perfectly made light batter but it was wonderfully fresh and subtly flavoured, a perfect partner for the strong, dry strawberry-scented Bandol Rosé we’d ordered (a 2006 Domaine La Suffréne)

Next was a simply cooked lemon sole with herb butter with a selection of lightly steamed seasonal vegetables - new potatoes, peas, carrots, broad beans and asparagus, most probably from the weekly farmers' market I've discovered takes place in Bristol every Wednesday. A feast.

Finally we shared a summer pudding, a classic English dessert of bread soaked in a compote of fragrant summer berries. “Stephen has been looking forward to the gooseberries for weeks so he could make summer pudding” said his wife, Judy who runs the front of house. Of how many British chefs could you say that?

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