Thursday, 14 May 2015

Three Special Places to Eat in Bristol

Since I turned 40 I've been mentally compiling a bucket list of sorts. In amongst the stuff that defies budgetary concerns (I won't be taking off on that Ibizan yoga retreat or hiring a vintage Fiat 500 and navigating my way around Tuscany anytime soon) there are some rather more attainable things to strive towards - not big, life-changing goals, but realistic things I've always wanted to do but haven't quite got round to; learning to surf, partaking in some wine tasting, dining in a Michelin-starred get the picture.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across a Groupon offer for Casamia Restaurant in Westbury on Trym, owner of one Michelin Star and widely regarded as one of the best - if not the best - places to eat in Bristol. Since visiting on an offer back in the winter (it was my Christmas present to myself) I've been back again, also on a Groupon offer, and absolutely recommend this method as a way to sample award-winning, experimental cuisine for a fraction of the usual price.

Our return trip to Casamia this week got me thinking about the other really special places I've eaten in Bristol; restaurants that exceed expectation and have that certain something that elevates them beyond other places in the city. Here are my favourites...


Well, of course. Hidden away in the middle of the affable but unassuming suburb of Westbury, Casamia might have a Michelin star, but it's not in the least bit snooty or discomforting. If you're lucky enough to spot a Groupon offer like we did (let's hope there will be another one coming soon...) you'll be able to sample its award-winning cuisine for a fraction of the normal price. Our offer included a 5-course set lunch menu for £76 for two (not including drinks) which, while not super cheap, is a relatively affordable way of doing the Michelin thing. And the food is truly outstanding. I had previously been a bit sceptical about the use of things like liquid nitrogen in cooking and have always preferred Jamie Oliver over Heston Blumenthal, but Casamia did a very good job of converting me to the merits of rehydrating things and scattering dishes with leaves and flowers. And it is just a bit exciting to have your dessert arrive in an undulating cloud of fog.

I won't go into too much detail about the dishes we ate and the complicated processes involved in their creation - there are numerous blogs and reviews out their extolling the virtues of Casamia. But suffice to say everything we ate was amazing and delicious. Even the butter is on another level (freshly churned Jersey cow stuff) You'll eat the kind of food here you won't eat anywhere else in Bristol, served with a theatricality that makes it a real treat if you usually find yourself beholden to the restaurant choices of little people. In short, this place makes a great change from Pizza Express, and if you have a special occasion coming up soon, I can't think of a better place for your celebratory meal.


What a genteel place Wilks is. If you're after sublime modern cooking in a friendly but formal setting, this is the place to enjoy it. The service here is amongst the best I've experienced in Bristol, or indeed anywhere, and the cooking is outstanding. Oh, and yes, it's also got a Michelin star. Visiting at lunchtime for the set menu makes eating here much more friendly on the wallet - the weekday lunch menu is £19 for two courses, £23 for three. 

I ate perhaps the best piece of fish I've ever had here, as well as an exquisite risotto that rendered both me and the other half speechless. What I really liked was the unobtrusive service - no "how is everything, guys?" every two minutes - allowing us to quietly chat and get on with enjoying our meal without constant interruptions. That we liked very much...

The Ethicurean

A mythical sounding place, located in a similarly fairytale-esque setting...this place had me at 'walled garden', to be honest. Situated just past Bristol Airport in the village of Wrington, the Ethicurean is truly magical. The restaurant occupies a conservatory-type building, with windows looking out across the kitchen garden and surrounding rolling hills. It's a breathtaking setting in which to enjoy your dinner.

Our visit seems like a long time ago now (last summer) but the memory of our evening there hasn't faded, perhaps because the whole experience made us feel like we'd been transported to a corner of southern France for the evening - not a feeling you often get when dining out in Bristol. Aside from its beautiful location, the food at The Ethicurean is pretty special too. Completely seasonal, locally sourced and ethical, it's no wonder everything we sampled was delicious. The cocktails are pretty amazing too - you might want to think about booking a taxi to take you back home...

(images courtesy of the Bristol Post and Guardian)


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