Kuch

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Modestly tucked away in Clifton is the brandly spank new merchants of south Persian soul food, Kuch. The decor could be described as “spartan” (maybe the Persians have finally forgiven Frank Miller for 300?) Apart from some vaguely Middle-Eastern tiles on the floor, a couple Persian rugs on the wall … and a Scottish sporran strangely enough(?), it was free of overbearing, hackneyed try-too-hard design; opting more for some openly displayed jars of date syrup, rose water, quince jam, dried limes, pomegranate paste, and pasteurised unrip grape juice.

I had the hand-pulled lamb shoulder, date syrup glazed, from the manghal (barbecue). The varying textures and barbecuey flavours of the meat were delicious. The herbs, including mint and coriander, were fucking Fresh, forceful and functional, accentuating the carefree shredded salad and luscious lamb flavours. The salad was slightly dressed with a vaguely tinned tomato taste and piquancy not far off from overwhelming, and sat on a patted bed of addictively intense hummus whose texture was – in a word – sensual (… move over chocolate, looks like there’s a new erotic foodstuff in town).

I was provided with too much flatbread for one main, but at £1.50 you can’t complain. Although the addition of sesame and zatar spice aromas on the flatbread means you could happily munch it all day long, I of course added to the order later a side of Kash_k Bazanjon + adass, an aubergine lentil stew – and was very glad to do so. It had a sweet walnutty glaze composed of fried onion and sweet mint. The glaze was addictive as hell. Its alluring savoury candied flavours complimented perfectly the fragrant oils and spices of the aubergine and green lentil stew – itself already complex, aromatic and very tasty.

Ringanak was added as a spur-of-the-moment – and at £4 very affordable – dessert. Its warm mushy date loveliness was counterbalanced by the subtle crunch of sliced pumpkin seed and the coolness of tahini ice cream. The dates provided a sophisticated flavour, but it was slightly off from being sickly. It was just fine however despite also being a bit gacky and sticking to the roof of my mouth.

The waitress continually smiled smiles I was convinced were for me and only me, but after the place filled up service did become noticeably slower. It is worth bearing in mind though, that Kuch had only been open for two weeks. She was rushed off her feet, and I wished I had picked any time other than a Saturday evening.

Atmosphere & service-6.5/10
Menu-9/10
Value-for-money-10/10

Overall-85%

Address: 133 Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PL
Phone: 0117 253 0300

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Poco Tapas Bar

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Poco prides itself in quality local, ethically sourced ingredients. You’ve no doubt heard this phrase a million times such it no longer has an effect on you. (What it does mean is fresh seafood like oysters, one of which was eaten by myself – but more on that later.) They serve an eclectic Tapas menu that changes monthly, as well as brunch and gluten-free menus, inside laid-back surroundings with unselfconscious quirky-rustic decor in a surprisingly very cramped space.

The oyster was served with a cider vinegar dressing, but the portion of dressing was comically far excessive for one oyster. A diner could much too easily use too much with the provided serving spoon. A Burnt Aubergine, Pickled Ewe’s Cheese, Walnuts, Tomato followed. It was, in a word, Delicious. Crafted obviously with care, it was frankly beautiful; a lavish party of rich flavours with contrasting textures in a simple style. Like a 1930s Hollywood Gala Event full of nuts, cheesy characters, and, er, baked eggplants … . Intense Mediterranean flavours explode from luscious flesh and a granular, sparse nibble of walnut.

The woman who served was in-your-face, unwarrantedly pre-empting my order and visit’s purpose – essentially this amounted to talking over the customer, in the process not listening. But while at times she irritatingly wasn’t paying attention to my words, I did get checked up on by the chef. He displayed tremendous pride and enthusiasm in his work, and correspondingly had an energy that was totally not contrived.

Final word … the local ingredients are indeed of high quality.

Atmosphere & service-6.5/10
Menu-8.5/10
Value-for-money-6/10

Overall-70%

Address: 45 Jamaica St, Bristol, BS2 8JP
Phone: 0117 923 2233

Pho

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Pho very recently opened at this location, with some fanfare, and therefore it was fairly full. You are given the impression that this is a restaurant that puts pride in their eponymous dish. The menu offers a fair, reasonable range of Vietnamese dishes – but I sorrily must say (while giving some benefit of doubt) they will have to be downgraded on the food front.

You see, I ordered a Bun Rieu, but the coriander wasn’t very fresh, and the broth was weak – the apparent crab flavour was non-existent. Meanwhile the range of table sauces and seasonings could also have been better. I was disappointed.

The restaurant’s newness at this location possibly means they are still in a period of finding their feet with suppliers; but I’ve had to chalk the basicness of their condiments, and the apparent poor quality of essential ingredients, to be indicative of an underlying crudeness of the chain’s translation of Vietnamese food. Whoever is head of quality control isn’t very good at their job. Which leads me to wonder whether the owners of this 10 year old family-run chain, Stephen and Juliette Wall, aren’t just people who talk lots but know less.

There are certainly much better places in Bristol for genuinely authentic Southeast Asian cuisine (Street Food, Thai Classic, and Teoh’s to name but three). Therefore, embarrassingly, Pho just shows that the English’s poor reputation of cooking is quite justified.

The food was by no means awful, just way off from my expectations of the place. And the menu does have more to offer than my one dish after all – including a fair number of starters, broken rice dishes, and condensed milk coffee.

The service was brilliant. Bright, cheery faces welcomed and served with promptness, friendliness, and without the overzealous rush you tend to find in longer-established chains. The decor is modern, while retaining cosiness. Sleek, but by no means a sterile feel. Meanwhile the descriptions of each dish on the menu are both comprehensive and fun.

UPDATE: On a subsequent visit six months later, I found their Pho Bo Combo with beef brisket, steak and meatballs having a slighty bit more of a satisfying broth base. And the coriander was fresher. These factors have given me a slightly better impression of Pho, however, I do still feel their pho to be overpriced.

Atmosphere & service-9/10
Menu-5.5/10
Value-for-money-5/10

Overall-65%

Address: 28 Clare Street, Bristol, BS1 1YA
Phone: 01179 119 739

The Kebab House

The name of the place really doesn’t do itself any favours. Nor does the location. Nor does its appearance from the outside. It is these factors that curse the place to an over-reliance on its takeaway service rather than its restaurant for profit.

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Due to the narrow layout you’d be forgiven for thinking from outside that it was “just” a takeaway. But once in, you’ll find the décor homely, with scores of desaturated photographs stuck to the walls. Their subjects are not Hollywood A-listers of course, just regular punters, replete with holiday jumpers and garish hairstyles. Plainly no one has used an analogue camera in decades. Elsewhere on the walls about you are sweet, sentimental scenery naively hand-painted, which adds further to the place’s charm.

The name!! If you reply ‘The Kebab House’ to someone’s query for the best place for authentic, traditional Greek Food, they’d literally assume you were giving them a joke answer. It’s as if the owner thought “What is the most underwhelming, generic sounding name I can think of?” It’s nothing less than self-sabotage.

The service was not much more than standard; courteous and quick, but pretty standard. The menu offers a comprehensive wide range of Greek (Cypriot) dishes. My Kelftiko was cooked to perfection. The accompanying Greek salad superb, and the portion sizes decently large. And in addition to the mint imperial on the doilyed plate for my bill, there sat a business card. This was just the sweetest thing ever – and deserves bonus points?

 

Atmosphere & service-6.5/10
Menu-8/10
Value-for-money-8/10

Overall-75%

Address: 6 St Michael’s Hill, Bristol BS2 8DT
Phone:0117 921 1958

Rocotillos

Rocotillos brands itself as an American ’50s diner, and from the outside and inside it looks like one. The decor has a typically cliched chrome look to it; colourful, yet somehow uninviting. The cubicles look nice and fun but are cramped, and the barstools are authentic but … well you’re sitting on an immobile pole!

The place has a good range of milkshakes. Its coffee is superb, especially with a free refill. The staff are young and pretty.

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Unfortunately that’s where it ends. The main dishes are fine but nothing you couldn’t find elsewhere. A great range of burgers, but they’re all premiumly priced. In fact, everything on the menu except the coffee is on the high side.

I went for blueberry pancakes, despite my begrudgingness to part with such an unreasonable amount of cash. I was extremely sorely disappointed to find the bacon was NOT streaky bacon but ordinary back bacon. Angered in fact, as I felt cheated despite there being no explicit misleading on the menu. But as an “American diner” one would expect them to make the effort with this ingredient, to go the whole hog, as it were. After all, you can find streaky bacon in British supermarkets.

On a related note, a traditional British greasy spoon may not be as exotic, nor its insides so ornamented and cute, but you will find far, far better prices. The fare will be standard but will also still be satisfying while cheap as chips (it will probably be ‘X and Chips’). You won’t be missing much if you pass this one by.

 

Atmosphere & service-6.5/10
Menu-6/10
Value-for-money-4/10

Overall-55%

Address: 1 Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1EZ

Giraffe

In the promising ambience of the shiny new Cabot Circus shopping centre sits a large, fresh, airy establishment that calls itself a restaurant, that calls itself Giraffe.

Painted and decorated in warm colours it somehow manages to feel without heart or soul. Its sterility will remind you of abandoned Soviet hospitals.

If only it were abandoned. Surprisingly, quite the opposite. It had a startling mass of clientele, considering its atmosphere and value-for-money are so bad. If you have ever seen the IT Crowd episode with Jen’s and Roy’s dinner dates at a hectic family restaurant called Messy Joe’s, it is kind of like that. But without the fun. I am not entirely sure who the restaurant is meant to cater for. Young couples and families are present in equal measure.

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I feel I ought to mention though, that the menu is like a field! Full of pony shit. Pathetically uninspiring, pitifully unfocused, bland and unmemorable. The prices on the menu suggested that I may at least find solace in sizeable portions. In fact the opposite. Disappointingly meagre. I tried to catch my waitress’ expression to look for any semblance of sympathy. She faced away the whole time.

The service is barely competent. A friendly acknowledgement is too big an expectation. Service charge is optional, but was added to the bill anyway. Fortunately I requested it be taken off for me and they complied without hesitation. (I expect they get that a lot.)

 

Atmosphere & service-3/10
Menu-3/10
Value-for-money-2/10

Overall-27%

Address: Glass House, Cabot Circus, Bristol BS1 3BX

Aron’s Jewish Delicatessen

This is a little bit of a mission to get to, as it’s not immediately near a main road. Yet it is located in the relatively posh, upscale Redland district; therefore receiving custom from people in the local area who are cosmopolitan and have money. Hardly a Jewish ghetto.

Not to say the menu is overly pricey or anything. Reasonably priced when you consider this is the ONLY place in Bristol you can get a Reuben or Rachel Sandwich. (But being so tucked-away doesn’t do itself any favours.) The range of Hungarian extras are also rather rare and special touch.

The venue is small and cramped. The decor is quite charming but a little contemporary. My complaint against glass-surface tables is a personal one I must admit. As is my complaint against classy cutlery that handle and feel more like silverware.

On the whole, any complaint on anything is totally decimated by the fact that you’ll never find a Rachel or Reuben anywhere else in the whole city. Let alone one garnished so elaborately with such exotic sides. The exclusivity of the dish really does add something; for a brief moment you are transported to Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It might not be perfect (and in the city centre you can find some good salt beef places), but at the very least their sandwiches are very much more than reasonable. Finally, the staff are friendly and unintimidating. In fact, they are a lovely couple whose love for food is equal to their love for each other.

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Atmosphere & service-7/10
Menu-8/10
Value-for-money-6.5/10

Overall-72%

Address: 19 Chandos Rd, Bristol BS6 6PG
Phone:0117 973 7165