Sep 112012
 

The Cowshed is not a cattle-filled barn on a farm but a bustling steak restaurant on Bristol’s Whiteladies Road.

Cowshed-0195 Cowshed-0196 Cowshed-0197

The large glass frontage lets in lots of light. In the front area is a large bar and several tables. More seating can be found half a level up. The kitchen and a large banquet table are half a level down. Decor is modern with slate flooring, exposed brick walls, large blackboards regaling us with The Cowshed philosophy and quirky ornaments such as wooden crate shelves displaying old glass bottles.

Cowshed-0194 Cowshed-0199

Owner Adam Denton likes to buy local. As well as buying from Ruby & White butchers next door, other suppliers include The Bath Pig, Lahloo Tea, Clifton Coffee and several others I’m not familiar with.

Cowshed-0201 Cowshed-0202
Cowshed-0203

My Crab & Lobster Risotto (£7.95) has a decent crab flavour and is well cooked. The lobster on top is fresh and tasty.

Pete’s Grilled Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce, Poached Egg & Parmesan Shavings (£5.95) is a very simple dish, so relies on good ingredients cooked well. It doesn’t disappoint.

Matt’s Assiette of Duck: Smoked Duck Breast, Duck Terrine & Duck Liver With Raspberry Dressing (£7.95) is a lovely trio of textures and flavours. The bread and dressed salad are decent too.

A good start!

Cowshed-0206

Pete stays vegetarian for this meal with a Wild Mushroom & Taragon Risotto, Parmesan & Crispy Rocket (£12.95). I think it’s a little pricy for what it is, but again it’s well made and with lots of flavour.

20120625-IMG_4810

Having not had the cut before, Matt takes my recommendation for what is probably my favourite cut of steak. His 280 gram rib eye steak (£18.20) is delicious. It doesn’t include sides or sauces. Fat chips (£2.50) are good, though I’d like a touch more colour on them.

Cowshed-0205 Cowshed-0208
Cowshed-0209

I go for a Steak On Stone, which is, so the menu tells me, unique to The Cowshed. Raw steak and “a lava rock heated to 420°” allows you “to cook your steak exactly how you like it, in your own time”. I choose 280 grams of Trimmed Sirloin Steak (£22.70) rather than 220 grams of Fillet Steak (£24.70). My steak comes with three sauces (bearnaise, barbeque and peppercorn) but no sides.

Both the menu and our waiter warn me not to touch the stone, and indeed, judging by how quickly my steak slices cook, I can see why. I cook and eat at leisurely pace and the stone certainly stays hot throughout, though the last couple of slices do take a little longer to brown.

It’s a novel idea, and given that the price of the sirloin is the same by weight as for a sirloin steak served in the normal way, it’s a great deal, especially with the sauces which are normally an additional £2 each.

20120625-IMG_4821 Cowshed-0211

Pete declares his Elderflower Syllabub, Pimm’s Jelly, Meringue, Fruit Coulis (£5.95) superb – a grown up nursery dessert.

20120625-IMG_4817

I’m not as keen on my Chocolate Delice, Bitter Chocolate Sauce & Chantilly Cream (and at £8.30 it’s a bit pricy for a dessert) but it does get finished by the others, so I’m guessing they liked it better!

Cowshed-0214

Matt loves his chocolate brownie and fruit choice, a daily special which I failed to make any notes about, so can tell you neither name nor price.

 

The Cowshed is a very pleasant local restaurant, with a straightforward and appealing menu, good food well cooked and friendly service. It’s a nice place to while away an evening with friends and we’d happily go again.

 

Our visit to The Cowshed was part of a week-long South West Tour courtesy of The Food Travel Company. They are a new company offering specialist trips for food (and drink) lovers, with group departures and customised itineraries available.

Thanks to Matt Gibson for additional photos.

 

bristol-beer-factory-1

I so enjoyed my first Tour-At-Home, working though Marble’s beers, that it inspired me to do more in depth explorations of breweries.

I’ve been following the Bristol Beer Factory on Twitter for a little while, so when I stumbled across some of their bottles in Borough Market (at the excellent Utobeer stall, run by the owners of The Rake, a fantastic real ale pub just outside the Market) I grabbed one of everything they had – four different bottles, which represents round half of the brewery’s bottled offerings.

As before, I’ve tried to arrange the beers in a reasonably sensible order, from light to dark rather than in strength order.

bristol-beer-factory-2 bristol-beer-factory-3 bristol-beer-factory-4 bristol-beer-factory-5

We start with “No. 7″, a traditional English best bitter at 4.5%. Deep amber in colour, it pours with a nicely lingering, frothy head. It has a deliciously caramel or toffee nose on it which leads you into a sweet malt taste, with a tasty, lingering hoppy bitterness that balances it out perfectly. This is the only beer of the four which appears not to be bottle conditioned; there is a little fizz present, but it’s well controlled and actually adds to the beer. All round, this does exactly what it says on the bottle – it’s a very traditional style best bitter, and it’s delicious. It’s also going down at an alarming rate.

Next up, Bristol Hefe, a 4.8% German-style wheat beer. Before I get into the taste of this beer, can I just say that although I love my beer to be alive (we’re now into the bottle conditioned beers), I am less enthusiastic about a beer that literally leaps out of the bottle when I try to open it. I lose a good two inches of beer in an admittedly pleasant smelling spray across the kitchen that I then have to waste time mopping up. Beer shouldn’t be this lively.

Ok, rant over.

In the glass, it’s a very murky pale gold; it looks rather like set honey. Wheat beers tend to be murky, and the beer explosion probably mixed in the yeast to a huge extent too. The head is little more than a smear, which considering the volume of foam I just had to wipe up is surprising. It smells exactly as a wheat beer should; yeasty and sweet – and there’s something else, almost pine needles. On drinking, I’m glad to see the foam hasn’t gone completely to waste and there’s lots of champagne-like bubbles filling the mouth. It’s tangy, with hints of citrus orange and even zest. I’m not really getting the banana notes that the bottle (and every other review!) suggests, but maybe that’s just me. Even so, it’s a very good example of a wheat beer – I just wish more of it had ended up in my glass and less on my floor.

On to Exhibition, a classic, strong, dark English Ale coming in at 5.2%. This sounds right up my street, but I open it very cautiously over the sink after my fun with the Hefe. It turns out my paranoia is unwarranted; the beer is virtually flat and pours with no head at all. It has a deep, dark red tone to it and smells wonderful; rich, sweet coffee and dark chocolate malt. It tastes just as good; bitter chocolate, a hint of coffee, roasted almost burnt sugar, and dark fruits. It’s not as flat on the tongue as it looks in the glass either; there’s some nice gentle bubbles lurking there. It’s not as sweet as the nose suggests, and with a lighter body than you might expect from such a dark ale. Very tasty; I can see how it’s won awards!

Lastly, Bristol Stout, at 4%. Another relatively flat pouring beer; black as a stout should be and virtually no head. A big nose of deeply roasted malts, perhaps a little less complex than the Exhibition. On tasting, it’s another light body. The roast is still there but not so much else. There’s a distinct bitter tail to it, but it takes some time to kick in – it’s rather odd, the beer starts out with a fairly simple roasted maltiness and it’s not until you’ve swallowed that you suddenly get this quite heavy bitterness jumping up at you. It’s quite a nice beer, but it’s not as heavy as I expect a stout to be and that big bitter tail is unusual.

Overall, a very interesting collection of beers; tasty and well crafted, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye open for their many other beers the next time I’m near a stockist!

 

After a wibbly, wobbly night on an air mattress on our friend Matt’s living room floor, we decided a good hearty breakfast was in order. By the time we’d slowly heaved and panted our way up the very steep hill from Hotwells to Clifton (ok all the heaving and panting was only on my part) we really deserved something delicious. And hearty.

MattRosemarino

We found both at the relatively new Rosemarino cafe bar at 1 York Place.

Rosemarino-4905

The space is light, airy and welcoming and the menu full of appealing dishes such as sautéed mushrooms, parmesan and sage on toast (£5), meat and veggie cooked breakfasts (£6.95) and simple bacon butties (£4).

Rosemarino-4908 Rosemarino-4911

Coffee is excellent and comes with glasses of iced water – a nice touch.

Rosemarino-4913

Pete and I both ordered Tommy’s 1 pan wonder – bacon, onion, mushrooms and potatoes fried in 1 pan with 2 eggs cracked on top and melted cheese, served with toast (£5.50). It was as marvellous as it sounds with generous helpings of sticky, sweet onions and salty bacon and plenty of potatoes and cheese. A high fat content too which would make it an absolutely stellar hangover cure!

Rosemarino-4914

Matt made very happy noises over his eggs benedict (£6.50) with poached eggs and speck served on muffins and drenched in a home-made Hollandaise sauce.

Based on their breakfast offerings, I’d love to see what their lunch menu is like. If you visit, do let me know.

 

Bristolians, it seems, don’t much care for eating out on a Sunday evening. Or perhaps restaurant owners have just decided they don’t fancy opening on Sundays? At any rate, we found that many of the restaurants we had shortlisted for our Sunday evening meal weren’t open.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4903 BristolGrazeChophouse-4881

Luckily for us, Bath Ales’ Graze Bar & Chophouse, recommended by my friend Dan, was open and we were mighty glad.

Located on a corner of the lovely Queen Square, now devoid of large carriageway dissecting it, Graze is very centrally located and, on a Sunday at least, we were able to find a parking space only a few paces away.

To our surprise, the place was almost empty, with only a few fellow diners sharing the space with us during the evening. I don’t know whether Bristolians don’t look to eat out on a Sunday because there aren’t many restaurants open or whether there aren’t many restaurants open because Bristolians don’t look to eat out on a Sunday night…

BristolGrazeChophouse-4901 BristolGrazeChophouse-4902
BristolGrazeChophouse-4900

It’s a nice space – a cross between a casual, comfy pub and a relaxed bistro. I particularly liked the open kitchen, the cow head on the wall above, the cuts of cow logo that featured both on the sign outside and on the custom wallpaper and the lovely bright tiles on the floor.

Pete and Matt started with pints of Bath Ales’ SPA. I was cold so I had a hot chocolate.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4878
BristolGrazeChophouse-4879
BristolGrazeChophouse-4877

Our waitress, who had only been working in the restaurant three weeks, was really friendly and very helpful as we struggled to choose from the many temptations on the main and specials menus.

Matt and I chose to share two starters, both specials.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4882 MattGraze1

The pigeon salad with Stilton and bacon (£6.95) was delicious. The meat was cooked rare and was tender and dense. The saltiness of both the Stilton and bacon contrasted with the meat nicely. The Stilton also added a lovely creaminess. The whole thing was pulled together with a simple dressing or gravy.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4883

For my money, the devilled duck livers on toast (£5.95) were even better. A generous pile of soft livers, pink inside and with just the right hint of spicing in the sauce, sat on a chargrilled toast. This was absolutely excellent and generous enough for a satisfying weekday lunch.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4886

Pete chose the butternut squash soup with chilli and ginger (£4.95) (also from the specials list). Thick, sweet and comforting the chilli and ginger both came through, making it an even more successful winter warmer. It was served with chunks of fresh brown bread.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4891

If there are sausages and mash on the menu, Pete finds them hard to resist, and he didn’t resist here. The pork and herb sausages with mash and onion gravy (£8.95) were decent pub grub. Pete liked the almost liquidy mash, though I prefer it a little firmer myself.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4892

It was hard not to be a little envious of Matt’s peppered venison steak with black pudding bubble and squeak (£12.95). The meat was beautifully cooked and with good flavour. The bubble and squeak worked nicely with it. And the gravy was superbly tasty too. Another winner from the specials menu.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4894

I chose the 24 hour braised shoulder of pork with parsnip puree, kale, apple sauce and sage and parsnip crisps (£11.95) after the waitress helped me decide between this dish and the main menu pork chop with braised pork belly and black pudding sauce (£9.95). I’m sure that would have been tasty too but I was very happy with my choice. The pork had been pulled into pieces and assembled into a cylinder. It was soft, soft, soft! I really liked the sweetness of the parnsip puree and the tartness of the apple sauce. And the parsnip crisps and fried sage leaves were wonderful. And, like Matt’s dish, I had a rich, meaty grave too.

Tempted by the selection of local cheeses (£6.95) I asked our kind waitress to check which cheeses they were. She even wrote them down for me so I could tell you and I’ve gone and lost the piece of paper. And worse still, I didn’t even take a snapshot! So you’ll have to take my word for the fact that I was served four lovely cheeses, a very well chosen selection.

MattGraze2

Pete and Matt both ordered the ginger and lemon cheesecake (£4.95). The cheesecake topping was declared fabulous (and the smear of lemon curd too) but neither were very positive about the soft cakey texture of the gingerbread cake used as a base. A cheesecake really benefits from a more solid, crunchy base to contrast with the creamy topping.

BristolGrazeChophouse-4896

None of us were up to drinking much this evening so our bill came to just £82.75 plus service. Expect it to be a little higher if you have wine or a few more beers during the meal.

We were pretty impressed with the food, especially for the prices and would happily recommend it.

 

Having enjoyed such a magnificent meal at Bell’s Diner the evening before, it was really hard to assess our meal the following night, at Brasserie Blanc, objectively. It suffered in comparison. Which is a shame as it’s the kind of relaxed, straightforward French brasserie that we’d probably appreciate more without that juxtaposition.


The brasserie is located within a beautiful historical building. The exterior of this former Georgian Quaker meeting house doesn’t really prepare you for the amazing room inside. As you walk through the doors your gaze sweeps around a cavernous space, beautifully and sympathetically restored and adapted. Tables in the balconies are accessed via a striking modern staircase hanging infront of an impressive decorative wine display cabinet.

The balcony tables along the front wall seat two. Those along the other two sides seat 4. I really liked being up in this area, we had a great view and plenty of space but it felt cosy and intimate at the same time.

After ordering drinks (a carafe of wine for Pete and a mojito for me, though I asked for a regular rather than the vanilla version on their cocktail menu), we were served sourdough and butter; very nice.

I order mojito’s quite often, always requesting them to be made on the sweet side, but otherwise normal. What arrived was undrinkably bitter, with an additional unpalatable flavour I couldn’t identify. This is where our fantastic waiter, Luke, came into his own. When I explained the situation, he suggested he’d pop down, have them make another (or make it himself if need be) and if it still wasn’t to my taste, we’d find something else for me instead. A South London lad who’d come to Bristol to study several years previously and ended up staying, he was the kind of waiter that’s a little too rare in the UK – knowledgable, friendly, extremely professional, efficient and very good at making his customers feel well looked after. Like Shelly, the previous evening, Luke’s input improved our overall evening’s experience. And my second mojito was absolutely spot on!

Both of us went for the day’s special starter – a chicken liver parfait with white truffle butter served with toast and pickled vegetables. The parfait was really rich and creamy (though Pete earned brownie points when he said it wasn’t as good as mine). I quite liked the pickled vegetables served with it, which helped cut through the fattiness though on reflection, I rather like sweet chutneys with rich, smooth pates such as this one. Given the generous serving, I would have liked more toast.

Pete opted for the beef Stroganoff with pilaf rice, which he enjoyed. It was a far subtler sauce than his version, and less creamy too. He enjoyed it but I prefer the one he makes, based on a Nigel Slater recipe, though it’s no doubt less authentic.

For my main I chose rump of Cornish lamb with pommes château (translated as pot roast potato). The lamb was really good. Full of flavour what I really liked was how the outside was really nicely browned, to the extent of provided a little crunch here and there, and yet the inside was beautifully pink, as requested. The potatoes were nicely seasoned and just the right texture; both firm and soft. And the jus or thin gravy was really tasty too. With the meat and potatoes came a few baby carrots, some braised celery pieces and a huge mound of rocket. The first I enjoyed, the second I removed from the plate as fast as possible and the third I found rather baffling – it doesn’t really go with or improve the dish at all!

I booked the table by phone on Thursday and had phoned again on Friday to check whether or not anything later than our 6.15 slot was available. It wasn’t. But on neither occasion was any turnaround time mentioned to me. So we were pretty annoyed when Luke came up at 7.25 to deliver a message he’d only just been given informing us that they were expecting the table back at 7.30. To his credit, when I responded that, as far as I was concerned, that was too bad, since it wasn’t mentioned on booking and I would not have gone ahead and made the booking if it had he agreed completely and said not to worry about it. We didn’t and went ahead and ordered dessert.

None of the desserts really grabbed me and I was feeling a little full so I abstained whilst Pete went for the rhubarb brulée cup. Served in a martini glass, a base of rhubarb compote was topped by a compotent creme brulée with silky custard and crunchy topping. It disappeared fast!

There was no further pressure to hurry us away from the table, though we did soon pay the bill and head back to the hotel. Without drinks or service , our bill was a little under £25 a head which is reasonable for the setting, service and food.

I’d go back to try the pork rillettes and cheese soufflé starters and perhaps the steak or fish mains.

Back at the Hotel Du Vin, we decided to stop in the bar for a while. The restaurant was extremely busy but the restaurant manager and staff were happy to serve me a dessert at a table in the bar. I had a delicious buttermilk panna cotta with fresh cherries and a glass of Pedro Ximinez with which to finish off the evening!

 

On Friday evening, I enjoyed the best meal of my year so far. And it was in a restaurant I’d not even heard of 48 hours previously!

Having finally decided on a destination for our celebratory weekend away on Thursday morning, I booked us a posh room at the Bristol Hotel Du Vin and then set about making restaurant reservations. I had a feeling it would be too late to secure a table at michelin-starred Casamia but emailed just incase. When I received their confirmation that they were full, I cheekily asked where they would recommend as a second choice? Online reviews backed up their kind advice and I quickly booked a table for ourselves and a Bristol-based friend.

Bell’s Diner has, so I learned, been going strong since it opened back in 1976. Current chef and owner, Chris Wicks, took over almost a decade ago and has been serving his innovative cuisine ever since. Located in Bristol’s colourful Montpelier district; bohemian and funky, but with a bit of a rough reputation – we chose to take a taxi there. (Having chatted to the driver about the recent local council initiative to ask locals about which graffiti to keep and which to clean up, we looked at interesting pieces en route, including an unfamiliar Banksy he pointed out).

From the outside, the restaurant – housed in a former grocery shop – seems tiny, but as we were warmly welcomed and shown to our table, we realised it’s a bit of a warren, with two further dining areas. Simply and elegantly decorated with a warm, cosy style, it’s an inviting interior.

We were looked after by a team of 3 waiting staff during the evening but the lead waitress was Shelly. She was friendly, efficient, proactive about offering advice about the menu, enthusiastic about the food and an absolute asset to the restaurant. In truth, our perfect evening was almost as much down to the service as to the excellent food.


Shelly – our friendly, welcoming, enthusiastic, efficient and knowledgable waitress

Drinks ordered and delivered, we enjoyed olives and home-made breadsticks followed by a selection of delicious breads. Foccacia, walnut and raisin and two others, we chose two each, sampling all four between us. Very more-ish indeed.

Not long after, we were served a complimentary amuse bouche of egg emulsion with black truffle. Velvety smooth, creamy rich and pleasantly warm it was served simply in an egg shell with a tiny toast soldier alongside. Its mild savoury flavour was a perfect introduction to the rest of the meal.


egg emulsion with black truffle

One of the things that I most liked about the menu was the strong appeal of several dishes – often I’m drawn to just one dish, or worse still, find that there’s only one which even vaguely interests me – but on this menu I found several dishes in each section that I longed to try. How handy then that I was dining with two fellow food sharers and was able to taste a fair selection of dishes!

Matt opted for the two hour poached duck egg, salmon tartar. Somehow, after it’s two hours of poaching, the egg yolk was beautifully runny and the white still translucent and gelatinous. The salmon complimented it very well.


two hour poached duck egg, salmon tartar

Pete went for the tomato essence, tomato salad, thyme flowers, olive oil. Aptly named, this dish really did deliver the fundamental character of tomato in every single mouthful. The clear “soup” was the biggest revelation – so strange to have such a vibrant red fruit distilled into a concentrated liquid version of itself. I’d even seen tomato essence recipes before (I think Raymond Blanc does something similar), but hadn’t imagined they would pack such a punch! The tomato salad within was also delicious.


tomato essence, tomato salad, thyme flowers, olive oil

I chose the cornish crab, mango, avocado ice-cream, shellfish bisque. Sat on a bed of chopped fresh mango was a generous mound of crab, bound, I think, with creamy mayonnaise. Delicious and fresh. On top was the avocado ice-cream, the sweetness countered by salty cheese crisps. The only off-key note of the dish was the bisque – it tasted to me as though the pan had caught and the burnt flavours had accidentally been stirred in and this bitter flavour fought with that of the shellfish.


cornish crab, mango, avocado ice-cream, shellfish bisque

Matt and I both ordered the gressingham duck, pear jelly, balsamic, pumpkin, pomme anna, baby leeks. With the exception of the balsamic, which was such a tiny dribble on the plate that I assume it was only for decorative purposes, all the elements worked together fantastically (and somewhat surprisingly) well. The duck was truly superb; cooked to perfection with a gentle crispness to the skin and yet medium rare flesh that was incredibly tender and meaty, it tasted so good I couldn’t help commenting on it repeatedly until it was all gone! The roasted pumpkin, served both in cubes and a purée, was a perfect, sweet yet earthy foil to the lightly salted meat. The pomme anna was suitably plain. The tiny leeks had just the right balance of softness and crunch. And the pear jelly cubes just added an extra flavour dimension to a few of the mouthfuls. Duck is something I order fairly often. This dish of simple ingredients, simply presented was something special. Matt seemed to agree!


gressingham duck, pear jelly, balsamic, pumpkin, pomme anna, baby leeks

Pete went for the anjou pigeon, confit leg pastilla, cherries, yoghurt, summer beans, cacao nibs. The dish included both confit pieces of pigeon as well as pigeon pastilla – crispy filo parcels based on the delicious Moroccan original. Perfectly cooked, full of flavour and much more tender than we expected the pigeon and cherries were the two main flavours of the dish. The yoghurt and cacao nibs were garnish. Not a fan of the white beans, Pete left them, but I liked them very much and thought they provided an appealingly light and summery carbohydrate choice.


anjou pigeon, confit leg pastilla, cherries, yoghurt, summer beans, cacao nibs

Our desserts arrived and both Pete and I were convinced we’d won the (good-natured) “I chose best” contest which so often arises when dining at lovely restaurants!

Matt knew his toasted brioche, mirabelle de Nancy, bay ice-cream couldn’t compete but still enjoyed the sweet bread, sharp fruit and herby ice-cream.


toasted brioche, mirabelle de Nancy, bay ice-cream

The four miniature desserts that made up Pete’s lemon fantasy were tart, soufflé, sorbet and jelly. The lemon jelly was intensely sharp and topped with a similarly tart foam; much too acidic for me, they were very much to Pete’s taste. The sorbet, similarly acerbic, was served in a light pastry case. The slice of tart had more sweetness to in it’s thick, creamy lemon curd filling and was more universally appreciated. The soufflé too offered a nice balance of sweet and sharp and was everything a good soufflé should be – nicely risen and light without losing moistness or becoming hollow inside.


lemon fantasy (tart, soufflé, sorbet, lemon jelly)

My banana soufflé, toffee sauce, vanilla ice-cream just blew me away. Shelly broke the surface and poured in the toffee sauce. And then I dived in. Like the miniature lemon soufflé, this one had risen nicely and was light, moist and yet had body. The taste, for a banana-lover, was indescribably delicious. The ice-cream was nice and gave a respite, if one wanted it, from the sticky sweet combination of banana and toffee. Despite being so full I could hardly move, I could have eaten this again immediately I finished it!


banana soufflé, toffee sauce, vanilla ice-cream

With coffee and tea came a pretty slate of petits fours – mini macarons, madeleines and biscuits. All lovely!


petits fours

Pete and Matt enjoying coffee

And finally, our meal was over and it was time to leave.

Without wine, our bill came to about £40 a head (which includes a few soft drinks). All all three of us felt this was great value for the meal we’d enjoyed so much. I genuinely contemplated cancelling our Saturday night reservation elsewhere to see if we could get in again, but was persuaded against it!

Note: the wine list is extensive and expensive. To my recollection there are only 2 or 3 wines below £25 and the majority were £30 and up, up and away.

 

Sands Restaurant was quiet when we arrived, early on a Friday evening, but became busier as the evening progressed. The whitewashed walls and vaulted ceilings of the basement rooms provide a cozy setting with modern furniture and white tablecloths providing a modern, unfussy look. A glass atrium lets in natural light from above (or gives a view of the stars, at night). Service is friendly and efficient.

For drinks Pete tried the Lebanese Almaza beer whilst Matt and I enjoyed Sands’ homemade still lemonade, lifted by the addition of fresh mint.

We ordered a selection of mezze as a shared starter.

Moussaa’at Batinjan
This cold dish of baked aubergines and chickpeas with tomatoes and spices was delicious, the spices bringing out rather than masking the wonderful strong flavours of the produce.

Zahra Maglia
Not usually a fan of cauliflower, I loved the small hot pieces of fried cauliflower topped with sesame oil, parsley, garlic and lemon juice. A light coating of flour before frying gave a light crispiness to the florets and the flavours were light and fresh.

Sujiq
These tiny maroon Armenian sausages were spicy with just the right kick of heat. Very moreish.

Sfeeha
My favourite choice were these little square pastries filled with a seasoned minced lamb and topped with pine nuts. The lamb was practically pureed and so soft and moist, with a wonderful delicate flavour.

Kellaj
For me, this dish, consisting of 4 slices of baked Lebanese flatbread sprinkled with grated halloumi cheese and then grilled, was the only slightly disappointing starter. I wish we’d ordered the grilled halloumi pieces (Jibna) instead.

With the starters we were served three circles of Lebanese flatbread called Khobez. Light, fluffy and soft, these were truly superb and we ordered three more to enjoy with our mains.

For our mains, Matt and I both had the Kharoof Mahshi, a slow-baked lamb shank with garlic and herbs served with rice. The lamb was so tender it fell off the bone. The meat and the sauce were meaty and savoury goodness. The rice too was tasty, almost a dish in it’s own right.

Pete ordered the Kafta Khash Khashi, what I’d call koftas, topped with a spicy tomato sauce. The waitress made a mistake and he was served the plain Kafta dish without the sauce. He decided not to ask for it to changed since he liked it well enough.

Despite being stuffed, Matt and I couldn’t resist sharing a dessert and, since we couldn’t decide on one, we went for the Mixed Sweets platter which included a pistachio and walnut Baklavva, Ataif - mini pancakes filled with cream, pistachios and rose water and Usmalia – baked vermicelli pastry filled with lebanese cream and drizzled in rosewater syrup. Lebanese cream, by the way, is simply whipped cream flavoured with rosewater. The baklavva was nothing special but the Ataif were light and delicate and the Usmalia was an absolute revelation. I’d only previously come across the vermicelli pastry packed tight into a solid layer in pastries similar to baklava, not served as individual fried strands held together only very lightly by the sticky rosewater syrup. Magical!

Not being a fan of nuts or rosewater, Pete declined a dessert and had a latte instead.

The bill, including service, came to a little over £90 for the three of us.

I recommend the restaurant highly and would certainly like to visit again next time I’m in Bristol.

© 2006 - 2014 Kavita Favelle Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha