Severnshed, Review

The view from the Severnshed is one of the loveliest in Bristol and it held my gaze for most of the evening although it was mainly the smokers who enjoyed the fresh air on the balcony. The lounge / bar area to the left of the entrance is suffused with warm lighting in a comforting dark wood environment. The restaurant to the right is spacious and has a similar set of doors that look out towards the floating harbour and the houses on Redcliffe.

The Severnshed changed owners in March 2010 to the same people who own Coal Grill and Bar at Cabot Circus although apparently the staff stayed in place. Monday night provided an opportunity to sample the new wine menu and some new dishes. There were four of each and I expect they were either chosen for their differences in order to demonstrate the range of the kitchen or because they were the best of what was available. I’m hoping it was the former.

The first combination was lime and chilli king prawn skewers seasoned with just salt and pepper, accompanied by an Australian Riesling. The prawns are on the starter menu for £6.95 and they were quite under seasoned with no hints of citrus or spice. In contrast, the pineapple addition to the skewer was juicy and had a just barbecued, sweetly grilled flavour. The wine, of which I had a taste was pleasant and chilled enough.

This was followed by chorizo with garlic oil accompanied paired with a rose cabernet sauvignon tempranillo. The spicy sausage flavoured with paprika was thickly cut, full of flavour and the best dish of the four. The rose had a nice colour and was suitable for the dish. The cost of the dish at the restaurant is £4.50 for a small dish or £11 for three dishes out of a selection.

The lobster risotto had an actual piece of lobster which was cooked from fresh. Sadly the dish was slightly under seasoned and the parmesan cheese added a gloopiness to the very well cooked rice which was interesting if not actually useful. I’ve had better risotto so not sure how happy I would have been with the menu price of £11.95 for the slight blandness which was served.

The last taste was a dish of beef on skewers in meatball sized portions. I managed one of mine but it took so long to chew that I didn’t bother with the second one. It was served with a more robust merlot red wine which was nice enough and could have been a good choice for a meal.

For most people the highlight of the evening seemed to be the service and the cocktail served at the start. For me it was the atmosphere and the view although the latter was slightly marred by the blackboard by the balcony doors which had a list of drink prices. At £4.50 for a pint of Westons Organic Cider it would have made an expensive round for two. This slightly spoiled any thoughts of a future visit although the chorizo promises that there may be some hidden treats on the menu. Despite the waterfront location, seafood was not a winner on this beautiful evening.

Souk Kitchen, So Loud But Hard To Resist

From the outside, Souk Kitchen looks like one average sized room with a bright and colourful menu posted on the window. The bright pink, yellow and blue of the menu is not exactly what I expect from middle-eastern cuisine with its modern brightness. I also find it surprising that they do a breakfast menu but it’s 11.40am and it will have to do since the Tobacco Factory does not open until noon.

We are seated quickly at the last empty table and the service is friendly. The dark brown tables look similar to the ones at Flinty Red and the wooden white chairs are comfortable. The place itself though is so loud. We can barely hear ourselves across the table and have to repeat things and point to menu items. There are 10 tables in the restaurant and four of them are playing host to infants. There’s a very cute six-seven month old who finds it entertaining to practice her new noise-making skills. At the start of the meal this is lovely but by the end it has become mind-numbing.

Suki: tea of the month – Mango Tango £1.70

Weekend specials
Vegetable chorba soup, cauliflower puree, toasted almonds + bread £3.95
Souk Mezze + grilled flat bread £7.50
Chicken Shawarma wrap, hummus, red cabbage & fennel slaw £6.95

The food specials sounded delicious and colourful but I didn’t think there was much you could do with breakfast. I was wrong.

They had ‘the local’ for £6.25 which comprised Lincolnshire sausages, grilled back bacon, two free-range fried eggs, fresh grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, homemade bubble & squeak cake, toast with butter + jam or marmalade; eggs on toast with possible extras; basket of toast; basket of pastries; granola;and french toast with the possible toppings of – cinnamon +almond French toast, with seasonal fruit compote, crème fraîche and maple syrup £3.95, – Crispy bacon, grilled banana and maple syrup for £4.50.

I didn’t go with any of those and instead we both chose something that sounded more like a special, the Shakshouka, which for £4.95 was described as a typical Middle Eastern breakfast dish of poached eggs cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions + spices, served in the pan with homemade zatar flatbread (extra grilled merguez sausage £1.50 or feta 50p). I ordered mine with both sausage and feta while companion chose only the feta.

The dish was very tasty and the eggs were cooked (poached) well but with a yolk still runny while the whites were firm. There were peppers in the sauce which itself was well seasoned and fresh tasting. The feta cheese was very good, and I’ve tasted many varieties over the years. This was a salty and firm cheese that wasn’t too sour while the heat from the food helped it become even creamier. The sausages were firm and spicy and well suited to the dish.

The breads were also very good with a spicy rub as a topping and served warm in a basket.

I ordered a decaf Americano which I enjoyed and there was a special little touch of bringing heated up and frothed milk as an accompaniment (a shame I didn’t use it). My companion ordered a green tea which was served in an individual teapot so that it was freshly brewed from tea leaves rather than a tea bag.

If I was awarding marks then Souk Kitchen would easily get 5 / 5 or 10 / 10 for food. The service and atmosphere, however, were a whole other story. Admittedly there were only two people serving and while the guy seemed distantly friendly, the service from the woman was poor and sloppy. My coffee was sloshing away as it was placed down with the waitress barely breaking stride before she was off to the table behind us. I saw her smile only once when an older woman walked out after asking her a question and not waiting for a reply – it was more of a ‘why are people so strange’ expression that included a smile. It was the kind of service that didn’t expect a tip so I didn’t leave one.

The noisy children and the groups of people on tables made the place very loud and conversation for us was nearly impossible. I ended up writing in my notebook while he read a book he had with him.

The food may be too tempting though, enough to overcome the atmosphere. Some more dishes:

  • Chargrilled lambs liver, cabbage, walnut & barberry bulgar pilau, pomegranate & cinnamon molasses £10.50
  • pan fried salmon, zatar roast anya potatoes, roast red peppers, courgettes, harissa & mint £10.95
  • Greek yoghurt panna cotta, saffron poached fig £3.95

They sound quite hard to resist.

Souk Kitchen, 277 North Street, Southville, Bristol, BS3 1JP, 0117 966 6880

Myristica, opening night

As previously mentioned, I hold great affection for Myristica and am very glad they are re-opening. The date was announced yesterday and Myristica at Welsh Back opens tonight. More precisely, the opening will be on March 19, 1730 at 51 Welshback, Bristol, BS1 4AN.

To make a reservation call 0117 927 2277.

Opening times are as follows: Mon-Friday Lunch 12.00 – 2.00 | Mon – Saturday Dinner 5.30 – 11.30 (last Orders 11.15) | Sunday Dinner 5.30 – 10.30 (last Orders 10.00).

Myristica, Welsh Back

The Indian restaurant Myristica has been closed for over a month while they relocated from their King St premises. The wait is nearly over however as today they announced they will re-open in mid-March. The restaurant will be taking the place of what was once Bibas Lounge Bar and Restaurant at 51 Welshback Bristol BS1 4AN. As Amit Lakhani says, the Welsh Back “is a centre of food excellence with Severnshed, Riverstation, Mud Dock and Aqua well established, and now Myristica bringing something new to the mix. We were a bit tucked away in King Street and this site will give us much more exposure,”

The restaurant was recently voted Best in Bristol by the Evening Post and offers a slightly more delicate and unusual selection of dishes. Myristica specialises in authentic, regional-specific Indian food and the menu goes far beyond what you’ll find on the highly Anglicised menus of normal curry houses. The menu reads like an Indian food odyssey with exotic ingredients and a much more extensive choice of fish and vegetarian dishes and desserts, and whereas most Indian restaurants use one curry sauce as a base for all their dishes, at Myristica all sauces are made individually to order for true authenticity.

Sample dishes include starters of baby squid deep fried and tossed with bell peppers, chilli flakes and honey and rabbit varuval, a South Indian speciality of rabbit meat tossed with onions, chillies, curry leaves & ground spices; the house speciality main course of pista murgh (breast of chicken cooked in a mild cream sauce with ground pistachios and a hint of saffron) or prawn chettinad with kerala paratha (wild catch black tiger prawns cooked with a roasted blend of fennel, peppercorn and curry leaves ) and tandoori pineapple (glazed with cinnamon and honey served with saffron ice-cream) or chocolate samosas, for dessert.

Despite losing the open plan kitchen feature at the new site, Amit is confident that Myristica will thrive on Welsh Back and it will be a great platform for growth of the business into a second site in Clifton in the near future.

Myristica is expected to re-open mid March, please visit the website or call for bookings. Myristica’s popular cookery school will re-commence on April 10.

Graze, a comfy experience

Friday night in Bristol and it’s after 9 o’clock by the time a friend arrives to visit for the weekend. We stop off for a quick drink in the Big Chill Bar and they have just stopped serving food. We decide to try out El Puerto, a tapas bar opposite the Arnolfini, for some food although some friends have just gone for dinner at Graze. The Spanish restaurant is too full to even wait around for a table and we watch the couple in front of us get turned away. We pass by the helium balloons of the leaving party next to the door and head out and back to Queen Square to join the friends.

The time is after 10 by now and the group we join has just ordered but the staff at Graze are more than accommodating. They immediately move us all to a bigger table, ask if we all want to eat at the same time and with a slight encouragement for us to order soon they adjust and it all flows smoothly. Out of habit I order the house red and it turns out to be a light though not too mellow grenache, it was a nice selection. As a Bath Ale gastropub it seemed only suitable that three of the guys ordered the Gem Wild Hare (green label). The table was by the window and easily seated seven of us. The atmosphere was pleasant and even though Graze was nearly full there was no distraction from other noises.

Four sirloin steaks (£15.95) were ordered and there are six choices of sauce such as green peppercorns and brandy, port and Stilton, and a type of mustard sauce. I chose the Cornish Pollock (12.95) which came with curly leaf kale and some other red bits of salad.

One person ordered the duck breast and was very complimentary. The steaks were quite thick and cooked to personal taste and were served with a side of triple cooked chips.

I ordered some of the chips as well and they were very tasty. Not sure what the triple cooked part means but the chips have a thick crust and while they looked overdone they didn’t taste it.

Since we were so late to dinner we didn’t order a starter but I wasn’t willing to skip dessert. I don’t consider it a proper meal without at least two courses, preferably three. The last time I was at Graze it was for four hours on Christmas eve and my meal at that time was finished off with an amazing crème brulee. Surprisingly,the creamy custard part was slightly chilled and with a layer of mixed berries at the bottom. I wasn’t sure if I should be affronted at being tricked out of my usual favourite dessert but it was delicious. I hate to give away such an intriguing little surprise but it would be a shame to keep it secret.

Last night’s intriguing little version of the creme brulee was a banoffee one and it was served in a little pot with a smokier than usual burnt sugar crust. The delicious and delicate tasting toffee cream part sat on top of a layer of banana sweetness which was more fruit puree than syrupy goo. That is definitely going on my list of favourite desserts.

The cheese board that some friends ordered was incredibly varied, not only in terms of cheese but also a fun selection of bread and crackers.

Graze may not be the culinary extraordinary experience of places like Flinty Red or the Glassboat but it’s comfy and relaxing and the food tastes good. I think of it as a lovely choice right in the city centre and next to the beautiful Queen Square.

Graze, 63 Queen Square, Bristol BS1 4JZ, 0117 927 6706,

Flinty Red, an adventure

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:,

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