Umami - Review - The Ethicurean. Nr. Bristol

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Review - The Ethicurean. Nr. Bristol
Author: Victoria Jones

Date Visited – 06/09/2014

On the weekend I had the absolute delight of visiting The Ethicurean – a great concept restaurant just on the outskirts of Bristol near the airport.

The Ethicureans slogan is ‘A Sense of Place’ – and this is a very fitting slogan when you consider the amazing location and delicious food. The restaurant is based in a Victorian walled garden, and all fruit and veg used in the meals is grown in the garden. Talk about reducing food miles?! Though the meat is not farmed on-site, it is all ethically raised by local farmers. The menu at the Ethicurean also changes daily, based on the ingredients that are available that day.

When you arrive, you drive down through a beautiful orchard filled with apple and pear trees, which when I visited a few days ago were heavy with plump fruit thanks to the season and great weather we’ve had this year! You park at the bottom of the walled garden, and walk up a little brick pathway back to the top of the garden where the restaurant sits. The whole place has a laid back, rustic charm and doesn’t feel too formal. Trees packed with ripe apples arch overhead, gardens sit to both sides of you filled with delicious veggies you are about to eat, in the restaurant itself pickling bottles and drying herbs fill the whitewashed stone walls – nothing to work up an appetite like anticipation so by the time we sat down I was starving!

The staff were all very friendly and helpful, and even the drinks menu was a delight to peruse before we even got to see the surprise of that days specially prepared food menu. The Ethicurean make a whole range of drinks on-site and from their own plants – My partner and I opted for the homemade cider (made from the apples in the orchard we had driven through on the way in) and my mum had a homemade elderflower cordial. They also stock a range of other great drinks – my dad is a real ale fan and there was plenty to satisfy him too (though less exciting and home-made!). The cider was deliciously dry – a proper west country scrumpy (I adore real cider – I made some myself last autumn!). The elderflower cordial was sweet, floral and delicious.

After a little while sitting and chatting (and admiring the gorgeous view towards Chew Valley and the Mendips) we were brought the menus – there seemed to be a long while before we received these, however we arrived shortly after the restaurant opened after being closed for a private function all day, so I guess they may have actually still been devising and producing the menus, and getting back into the swing of normal service, as the rest of the service all evening was prompt and efficient.

I opted for the Heritage Tomato Salad for starter (this was set to come with crumbled goats cheese – this was obviously not added to mine as I explained I was vegan). This consisted of a few different varieties of tomato, prepared in different ways and served in a lovely smoky consomé. Sadly I forgot to snap a picture of the menu so I can’t tell you exactly what was included, but there was a lovely crispy herb sprinkled over the top (I think it may have been some sort of seaweed) and the smokiness of the consomé perfectly offset the sweet tomatoes. I also didn’t realise that there could be such a difference in tomatoes! Some were cooked, so were very sweet, rich and almost caramelised, there were sharp, green tomatoes in there at the other end of the spectrum (as well as everything else in between). It was a really well-thought out dish, and beautifully prepared and presented.

For main course I had a mushroom pate, served wrapped in a lettuce leaf. This dish came served with chard, Romanesco Broccoli, an almost marmite-like mushroom sauce (full of umami!) and some sort of saurkraut-esque pickle. This was, again, completely delicious and beautifully presented. Every dish was a total assault on your senses – sight, smell and taste. Though the flavours contrasted a lot they complemented each other rather than clashing – marmite, saurkraut, leafy greens and rich, nutty mushroom shouldn’t work together, but somehow it did! The textures were also great – the smooth paté, oily pickle and crunchy romanesco all gave a different texture, making each mouthful something to explore and savour.

The others in my party each had different meals (between us we also had the squid starter, and the beef, lamb and pork-based mains), and though I didn’t try them myself I can testify that everyone was absolutely delighted with their food. We were a chorus of ‘MMMMmmms’ and ‘Aaaaahhhss’ as we were eating.

For pudding I had a scoop of homemade apple sorbet (lovely and sharp, and again made from their own orchard apples) and a cup of Lapsang Souchong (they also had great loose tea selection – another big tick in the ‘good things’ column). The Affogatto also looked great, and came with huge chunks of homemade honeycomb (or ‘cinder toffee’ as I always call it).

The entire evening was an absolute pleasure from the walk through the walled garden, to the beautiful view, through each bite of food to the final sip of tea, and I couldn’t recommend this place enough. A three-course meal ran at around £30 per person, but it was very good value considering how good quality everything was – I have seen far worse restaurants pumping out far worse food for £30 a pop!

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