I don’t even know why I was so excited about Flinty Red but I was nearly tripping to Cotham Hill last night. Admittedly, half the semi-skips up Park St were shuffle-and-hops to keep up with my longer legged companion, he of the “are you sure you don’t want to go to Nando’s” wit. He was joking of course and in fact the restaurant was his selection. However, I had read some great reviews of the food and I couldn’t wait. If he hadn’t been joking I would have chosen the restaurant over him with little hesitation.
Flinty Red was a subtle, intriguing, exhalation of understated elegance. The table had a dark chocolate polished surface that was almost, but not quite, warm to the touch. The wine glasses were clear and large enough to allow a fair measure to be poured, whilst leaving enough room for the wine to be gently swirled. The setting was quiet and we were the only two people in there for most of the time. We were dining on a Monday, however, and two days previously they were fully booked for Saturday night.
The menu was divided into categories such as raw/pickled/salad and cured/smoked/preserved. We had tapenade and toast from the first group a salchichon Iberico with nutmeg from the second. The dark olive tapenade was light and delicious with flecks of caper, and an accompaniment of fragrant garlic-flavoured oil on toasted bread.
I understood little of the food menu and even less of the wine one. Since the owners also run Corks of Cotham, the independent wine merchants just a few doors down the street, the selection was vast and fascinating (no Merlot in the condensed list that I saw). This dinner was much closer to an adventure and the waitress was more than helpful, and definitely necessary, in explaining different dishes and providing a recommendation for the wine selection. The Portuguese red Dos Roques (£25) was a pleasure to drink and a lovely accompaniment to the five dishes of various sizes. The plate of salchichon Iberico and nutmeg was a delicacy and the incredible pumpkin and chestnut ravioli was served in a portion of three with a butter sauce.
The grilled beef dish was presented sliced and with colourful swede, and hispi cabbage accompaniments. The meat was served so rare that the dark hue was not unlike the fresh pomegranate presented with a separate quail dish. All of it was wonderful and the olive oil served with the bread was peppery with a deep flavour while tasty enough not to need a balsamic addition.
I chose the crème brûlée for dessert while he opted for the forced rhubarb, meringue and Seville orange curd. The crème brûlée’s vanilla cream was thick and silky with a delicate crispy burnt sugar covering, while the rhubarb treat was sweet, sharp and heavenly. The dinner experience made me feel like a tourist and the service was discreet and friendly. This wasn’t an inexpensive dinner but the price was evident in the quality of the food. As my beautifully eloquent companion phrased it, “it’s not beans on toast, is it?”. Not even close.
You’ll find the restaurant at 34 Cotham Hill, Bristol, BS6 6LA.
Telephone number: 0117 9238 755, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.flintyred.com/