A couple of nights ago I had a delightful dinner at the Hotel Du Vin with colleagues from a marvellous charity, The Brandon Trust. The dinner and the company were lovely, as was the hotel, definitely one to return to. The following day, after working fairly hard (for me) I was able to visit my lovely daughter Rachel to persuade her to come and eat somewhere. Like me she suffers terribly from restaurant envy, food envy and plate envy. This is a terrible affliction that starts the minute someone suggests eating. First of all we have to weigh up what the choices are, which eaterie is best and that requires a lot of time comparing menus, weighing up food options and chucking ambience and price into the mix. Do we go somewhere that we know is good, do we try somewhere new and risk it, small and quirky may end up as badly cooked pub grub and that is a whole opportunity wasted. This could ruin our day or even longer.
Bristol is absolutely heaving with great places to eat and hopefully Rachel will start blogging about them herself but until then I will share my eating experiences with you myself. We picked Bell’s Diner & Bar Rooms. This is set in a strange bit of a strange and vibrant city. It reminded me a bit of a mixture between Brebis and the Wellington Arms, picked up and put into a street heavily daubed with colourful graffiti and dodgy looking shops. Outside some yoof with dreadlocks (I actually felt out of place as one of the few without dreadlocks) were selling what looked like the contents of their wardrobe on the pavement outside a Video (!) shop.
Inside was a different matter, this is what reminded me of the Wellington Arms and Brebis, it was all clean but scuffed in a friendly warm used and loved way. There were eggs and other items for sale, the water came from a tap in the middle of the wall and there was a bread board with a range of delicious breads that were used to replenish our basket when needed. This was several times because the juice (or jus if you are posher) of some of the dishes had to be mopped up and it never looks good if you lick the plate in public.
I have no history of Bristol and know little of the restaurant scene there. It would seem that the owners had been there for a year but it had been a restaurant since the 70’s in different transformations. I certainly hope they are content with this transformation as I would hate to see it change too much. We had a selection of small plates prepared by Sam Sohn-Rethel, the very talented chef. Rachel ordered a white Negroni which arrived disguised as a red one. Lucky mistake because she got to keep both the original and the replacement.
Different artisanal breads, essential for mopping up the sauce
Records which were playing on what looked like a Dansette, the music was great, Santana, Steely Dan sort of stuff, the records were also for sale.
Nice touches like the milk bottle which was filled by a random tap coming out of the middle of the wall in the restaurant
Duck liver pate with red grape mustard, I have never eaten this red grape concoction before but it was yummy, went perfectly with the richness of the pate and was a beautiful rich red colour
Charcoal grilled salt and pepper prawns, so fresh the skins slid off with the first lot of juice that had to bed mopped up. Pat and I sucked the brains out of the prawns but Rachel wussed out
Whoop whoop, this was amazing. Charcoal grilled chicken oyster pincho marinated in chipotle with harissa yoghourt. This tasted of the Mediterranean, everything about it was just SO right. Using the oysters was genius, they are the part of the chicken that no one tells you about because if you know about them you will eat them. Only problem with this is that there wasn’t more of it. Seriously good
Charcoal grilled chorizo and morcilla (a Spanish black pudding). Rachel is an earnest chorizo snuffler and told me it was excellent.
Roasted Cornish scallops with samphire, potted shrimps and lemon. Perfectly cooked scallops with a crust on the outside and very lightly cooked in the middle. The potted shrimps added another dimension to the sea taste of each mouthful
Oh my, another dish I wanted more of, the best cooked lamb chops I have had for a very long time, slightly charred but just pink enough inside with a stunning burnt lemon to squeeze over (and add to the mopping up queue)
A last minute decision and a good one, pork and saffron albondigas (meatballs) with tomato and char-grilled pepper sauce. This tasted so wonderful, each flavour stood out but worked well with its fellow taste
Rachel thought this tasted of me, not quite sure why, maybe she can explain it. To me it was comfort food to the max. I love lamb and could just carry a flask of this around for ever. It is spring lamb, potatoes and peas cooked in yoghurt with mint and chilli butter. You couldn’t taste the chilli as a big bite, in fact the yoghurt wasn’t sharp or jarring either, it all just melded into each other in a delicious and comforting way. Perfection.
Rachel and Pat had four ice creams between them so back left is mango and passion-fruit, back right is tonka bean, front left is mint choc chip and front right is (genius flavour) toasted marshmallow. All were fab.
Pat standing in front of some of the items for sale (like the Wellington Arms in Baughurst, recently mentioned in Food and Travel Magazine)
I paid for this meal, enjoyed it very much and wonder if they could possibly open a branch in West Berkshire