My daughter has been to five tasting menus in her entire life of two years, if you include Bell’s Diner when she was still in utero, and the one at City restaurant was probably her favourite (and mine).
The restaurant has the feel of a badly lit and greying office space appropriated for the night by a comedy troupe of high schoolers. An older adult by the door ensures everything is going ok but the rest is left to the younger students who in times of quiet cluster around each other as if in the playground. A training restaurant is a most curious thing.
The wine prices start from £11 a bottle, left unopened at the table, and the tasting menu is £22 each. The waitress’s forgetfulness with our cutlery was fun rather than annoying and the service seems the training ground for the perfectly presented food with astonishing contrast.
The off-menu amouse bouche of blue cheese panacotta with redcurrant jelly is seasoned well and tangy in a most delicate way and an interesting precursor to our first dish of potato ice cream. The creme fraiche and caviar of this course is enhanced by fresh young purple basil which is a tasty touch on the dish that is painted on the oversized plates.
The guinea fowl + parsnips + girolles + oats dish was my daughter’s favourite and she devoured half of mine. She has excellent taste. The meat was tender with crisp skin and well seasoned. The portion would have been enough for a two-year-old but it was lucky there were a few more dishes.
Tasting menus I have tried so far, which include Moreish, Berwick Lodge and the Square Kitchen, have small courses and at least one or two ‘mains’ with some form of meat dish that provides the substance while the rest are there to impress. I didn’t walk away hungry from the City Restaurant but it was close. The six dishes were tastes and there was no attempt at a main.
The meat-heavy content was also a boon for my companion who was eager to point out my hypocrisy at eating foie gras while purporting to aim for veganism at some point. He wasn’t fun but he was right and the dish itself was cold and not my favourite.
When I looked for a vegetarian option on the menu the only suggestion was that patrons call ahead to ask about substitute ingredients in the dishes. I’m not sure if this place is the best for non-carnivores or those intolerant to dairy. The dessert included the word milk and I didn’t like it at all.
The service however was quick and friendly which was perfect as we were out with a toddler and done within an hour and a half. No staring into each other’s eyes here, just alternating between keeping our daughter amused.
And in how many places can you make snow angels on the floor and not get kicked out?
The City Restaurant is part of the City of Bristol Colleges and there are four around the city which act as training ground for future chefs. The restaurants provide lunch, snacks and themed evenings.