Recently I was discussing whether ratings helped when choosing restaurants. Reviewing is such a subjective thing. You are there one night, does it adequately reflect what the restaurant is always like? What makes a perfect night out might not be the same for you as it is for me.
I know people who dislike the descriptions delivered by staff of every dish – me I love this. Especially when the menu only hints to what that course will actually be.
Others consider that tasting menus are a waste of time, the portions are too small. Savouring the flavours and not feeling too full at the end is perfect for me.
Are you the person who likes choice, and prefers not to be told what they are going to eat with a set menu?
So no matter which kind of restaurant I review, it might not be your kind of restaurant
I am lucky enough to have been to Casamia in Bristol a few times now. From its name alone, you might think it is an Italian restaurant. The family might have Italian roots, but it certainly is not. It has a Michelin star and 5 AA rosettes and is headed up by Peter Sanchez.
Fellow diner Sophie, particularly loves that the kitchen is open. I agree. It’s an ocean of calm, a ballet even as the chefs complete the dishes. There’s the flare of a blow torch, smoke from charcoal and precise placing of tiny elements. It’s fascinating.
Dishes are delivered by one of the chefs who describes the elements. I love asking them how a particular part is created. We learn that preparation starts two days before the restaurant opens (Wednesdays to Saturdays). A leaf had fallen out of place, the chef whipped out tweezers and deftly replaced it.
For me, the food has to be very good, but other aspects make an evening special. I’ve mentioned the benefit of a good sound track before and here it is mellow and unobtrusive. The room is warm but not too warm. Staff are all friendly and if you’ve been before you are greeted genuine pleasure that you’ve returned.
We start with “snacks” – parmesan tartlet, carabineros with seaweed, and scallop and scrumps. They arrive quickly, I almost want to say – slow down! Caribineros are a type of prawn, scrumps are crispy batter bits. Each snack is has different textures and is full of flavour.
A winter salad provides a light, tasty transition to the main courses -some leaves have been dehydrated for added crunch matched by soft goats cheese.
Beetroot risotto proves to be one of those dishes that I could go on eating for ever – the flavours are so intense.
Wine flights are available, matching each course with a glass of wine. That’s too much for me, but the sommelier chooses me a couple of glasses. A white Côte du Rhone is exceptional.
We discuss later our stand out dish of the evening. We are split between our next course, brown trout, crab and kombu and the pork truffle and potato. The first is a dish in two halves. The trout sits in an amazingly intense crab bisque, whilst to the side, is the savoury kombu. The second, the pork is so, so soft topped with fresh truffle providing texture and more intense flavour.
Whilst the food is modern, the classic courses of a menu are followed. The fish course is a take on the classic Sole Veronique which has a wine and grape sauce. Served on whipped Sabayon sauce with crispy fish skin – delicious.
Fallow deer follows. Perhaps our least favourite of the night, this is a celebration of mushrooms, but not so much the meat.
The menu at Casamia always includes a transition dish, half savoury, half sweet – this time butternut squash with caramel, a segue into the desserts. Passion fruit with tarragon and collection of apples. Rightly, passion fruit should not go with tarragon, but of course it does beautifully – the teeny tiny meringues pop on the tongue. For the apple, think of textures from jelly to crisp. Delightful.
The meal ends with coffees and Turkish delight and fudge made from mushroom – very moreish. Three hours of heaven.
Definitely my kind of restaurant. The elusive “wow factor” is there. That almost indefinable thing that is so special. It need not be at a top end restaurant, it’s that certain something that you remember for months if not years afterwards. We’ll be back!
Find out More
Casamia, The General,
Lower Guinea Street, Bristol BS16SY
Tel: 0117 959 2884
Book well in advance. Parking is challenging.
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