Lunch @Bulrush, Bristol

If there is ever a good time to get out to a decent restaurant for lunch it is in the week of a General Election and the fallout from an unexpected result. We are seeking refuge from the continuous media commentary by meeting Ralph & Chedzgal at Bulrush in Bristol. Bulrush is a coalition of George Livesey’s culinary skill in the kitchen and Katherine Craughwell’s passion for wine and seasonal cocktails.

We all take our seats and, on Katherine’s recommendation, Ralph & Chedzgal both elect to have a glass of Terres Falmet Carignan, an aromatic fruity red from the Languedoc region. Rock has a glass of Loureiro, a refreshing and well-balanced white from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal. I’m choosing a past favourite, Nor’hop, a floral pale ale from the Bristol based Moor Brewery. We are already starting to relax.

P1030633a

We are presented with an amuse-bouche. It is a broccoli mousse with port & cider vinegar and served with an alliance of Guinness crackers, crème fraiche and oats. It looks and tastes fabulous.

Rock starts her campaign with the barbecued asparagus with elderflower hollandaise and Roscoff onion. It arrives looking like an elegant haystack of asparagus and onion sitting on bright yellow hollandaise. She loves it. Chedzgal bravely votes for braised pig trotter with smoked eel and an apple dashi. To me it looks as unelectable as it sounds – but Chedz is clearly enjoying herself. Ralph and I both swing toward the blowtorched sole with gazpacho, almond & pickled grape. Another dish that is beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat.

P1030638a
Barbecued asparagus, elderflower hollandaise & Roscoff onion

P1030637a
Blowtorched sole, gazpacho, almond & pickled grape

I labour under the impression that great starters do not always mean great main courses but remain hopeful. Skate with crab, pickled peach & radish liberally decorated with flower petals and circled by a bisque arrive for Ralph & Chedzgal. Wow! I’m taking the conservative option of Hereford beef with seaweed and baby turnips. It is sensational. Rock is having the plaice with peas, broad beans & salted strawberries. I’ve run out of superlatives….

P1030642a
Skate, crab, pickled peach & radish
P1030646a
Hereford beef, seaweed, baby turnips
P1030651a
Plaice, peas, broad beans, salted strawberries

 

The decision as to whether we have dessert is something of a landslide! We’ve lost any ability we may have had to be strong and stable. Chedzgal has the pine mousse with lemon sorbet, toasted almonds and frangipane. Rock & I share the BBQ apricot, apricot stone ice cream & rosemary meringue. Ralph has the Cheddar Valley strawberry, strawberry sorbet, chamomile & wheatgrass parfait. Another wow from everybody in our constituency.

And yet, one of the best moments of the meal is still to come! If you order coffee here, you also receive a party of petit fours. Bulrush petit fours are unlike anything I’ve had before. They look and taste like turkish delight, liquorice allsorts and toffee fudge but they are much better than that. A brilliant trick of design and taste.

P1030661a

Throughout this meal George, and his colleagues in the kitchen, have shown great skill in their use of unusual ingredients and a fantastic touch when balancing unconventional flavour combinations. No room for debate  – this is quite simply one of the best meals we have had in the UK.

Advertisements

Lunch@No Man’s Grace, Bristol

Today we are meeting Ralph & Chedzgal at No Man’s Grace in Bristol. No Man’s Grace is a small restaurant in the Cotham district of Bristol that was named as the Best Newcomer 2015 in the Bristol Good Food Awards and by The Times as one of the Top 25 coolest restaurants in the UK.

p1010827a

I am immediately excited to find that on draught they have Bibble, an ale from the Wild Beer Company of Somerset, which has both malty flavours and citrus notes. I have a pint and Chedzgal a half. Ralph has a glass of Mas Delmera, Monastrelle – a rich, full-bodied and fruity red. The designated driver has an elderflower crush. 

p1010834a
Salt baked beetroot with ewe’s curd & candied walnuts

Our starters are preceded by an extra dish – small, delicate airbags of cheese choux pastry. The starters themselves split our group by 3 to 1. Rock, Ralph & Chedzgal all steer toward the salt baked beetroot with ewe’s curd & a clutch of candied walnuts. The beetroot is tender and full of flavour and all the items on the plate work really well together. But I’m manoeuvring toward the hand dived scallop with fennel & blood orange. The scallop is perfectly cooked and the dish beautifully presented. 

The lunchtime conversation seems to have a driving theme…we talk about the length of time it takes to drive from our respective homes to the restaurant, the nature of Bristol’s parking regulations, the prospect of a world where some or all vehicles are driverless and even the potential route of our next UK roadtrip. After really enjoying my Bibble, I decide to change gear with a glass of Yealands pinot noir – a lovely, soft pinot with notes of plum and spice.

p1010836a
Potato gnocchi with braised leek, kale florets, chanterelle & field mushrooms

Main courses also split the group 3 to 1. Rock sticks to the inside lane with potato gnocchi, braised leek, kale florets, chanterelle & field mushrooms. Ralph, Chedzgal & I have accelerated into the outside lane with brill, violet artichoke, samphire, gnocchi and a crab bisque. It is one of the best brill dishes I have ever tasted – firm, fresh flesh driven to new heights by the bisque.

p1010835a
Brill with artichoke, samphire, gnocchi & crab bisque

We are all still along for the ride when it comes to dessert. Ralph & Chedzgal both choose the high octane chocolate cremeux with malted milk sorbet. I taste Ralph’s – it is intense and fabulous. Rock & I indicate a desire for the forced rhubarb with vanilla yoghurt and pistachio. Another beautifully presented dish that manages to be both comforting and refreshing.

We have had a fantastic time here. Really great company, high quality food & drink and attentive, knowledgeable service from Julu. I’m very confident that No Man’s Grace will be a driving destination for us in the future!

Sunday lunch@Greens, Bristol

We are meeting Edda at Greens in Bristol for Sunday lunch. The Good Food Guide describes Greens as a ‘welcoming bistro with wonderful food’ and some of Edda’s colleagues have told her that it is ‘amazing’. We can’t wait to see Edda and we are definitely looking forward to a colourful lunch.

We arrive first and the restaurant is quiet with only two other sets of diners. Edda soon arrives, and so do other diners, as the place starts to get into the lunchtime swing. Greens has a set lunch menu, a Sunday lunch menu and a vegetarian menu. A kaleidoscope of choice for all.

Edda picks the carrot & leek roulade with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes & vegetables that include a vibrant purple cabbage. I have the pan-fried sea bass with Jerusalem artichoke puree, roasted tenderstem broccoli and a citrus sauce that brings orange & lemon to my dish. Rock goes for the fillet of pollock with chickpea casserole, cavolo nero & pancetta. We also share a side dish of broccoli in a superb golden yellow hollandaise with chestnuts. The sea-bass and pollock are cooked perfectly and all the dishes are well put together with beautiful purees and sauces.

For dessert Rock tries the vanilla pannacotta with a red citrus compote. Edda has the blackberry sorbet and, as it’s my turn to be seasonal, I pick the christmas pudding tart with brandy cream. The white pannacotta is delicate and sublime to taste – plus it passes the important ‘wobble’ test. The sorbet is both rich in taste and colour. The tart is full of spiced fruit and surrounded by melt-in-the-mouth pastry. We are over the rainbow and having a blast.

Lunch@The Townhouse, Bristol

Bristol – famous for many things – including street art. We might see some Banksy today but we will definitely see Hockney doing his version of Hogarth at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. But, first we are meeting my niece Edda for lunch at The Townhouse.

From an artistic perspective, I am disappointed to see that there is no Pollock amongst the fish on offer, no Poussin amongst the poultry and only a sketchy mention of Bacon. I choose the Townhouse Fish Stew which is a collage of cod, prawns and beautifully fresh mussels.

P1020411a

Rock selects the Cheese and Broccoli Quiche served with a warm salad, while Edda decides to munch on a selection of small plates including Roasted Pumpkin and Truffled Mushrooms on a frame of Brioche Toast.

P1020408a

There are several shades of craft beer available. I enjoy the dark and intense flavours of the Crafty Dan 13 Guns while Rock & Edda both go for the lighter Wiper and True Pale Ale.

P1020404a

For dessert Rock & Edda share the surreal tower of Winter Berry Eton Mess – a riot of red and pink colours. I indulge in the Chocolate Nemesis, so rich and intense that the kitchen must have used a heavy palette knife to serve it. It arrives with Vanilla Cream and chocolate powder painted across the plate.

P1020413a

Now it’s time for Hockney’s Hogarth with maybe a bit of Banksy en route.