New Michelin starred addition for 2019 in Bristol
Bulrush is Bristol’s fourth Michelin starred restaurant to join its ranks following its award in the 2019 guide. It has an unconventional layout and non-stuffy at the same time. The menu options range from a la carte at an average of approx £40 for 3 courses or two tasting menus: 8 courses for £55 and 9 courses for £60 which, is very good value comparatively. The style of the food was certainly creative but sadly this did not always triumph as much as it could have as dishes. The design of the dishes will certainly please the eyes and whilst the hospitality was caring, the service could have done with a bit more polish. Not a wasted journey at all, but of the four Michelin starred restaurants in Bristol, I’m more tempted to go back to Paco Tapas and sit at the counter for nibbles for all-round return when reflecting on all of them.
We opted for the tasting menu, mainly influenced by the value for money and allowing to experience more dishes on this occasion. An array of interesting canapes arrived first in a different order from the menu but, no matter, you just need to listen carefully to what is actually being described. In a box was pig’s trotter cake with walnut ketchup and yolk shavings which, have been placed in 50/50 salt and sugar, rinsed and then dehydrated to leave a rubbery feel. Duck liver parfait with pink peppercorns were lovely and the hollandaise tarts with carrot ‘tartare’ were melt in the mouth and over in literally two seconds (very good contrast of sweet and richness). Off menu were tapioca crackers with butternut squash jam and pecorino cheese as well as golden beetroot mouse port gels with mushroom powder with pumpkin seeds; extremely enjoyable as canapes very often are.
Purple sprouting broccoli with roasted garlic flakes and hibiscus was a good contrast of colours and textures but the hibiscus doing far more for the eyes than the palate meaning not as advanced as a dish for what it appeared as was essentially garlic influenced broccoli as the main walk away.
Next up, a colourful bowl of cured seabream, salt-baked mooli (white radish), rhubarb dashi and kohlrabi was an unusual mix of tartness and I was beginning to see at this stage why the tasting menu was such good value, owing to the portion size of this course being almost a morsel. BBQ stone bass, king oyster mushroom puree and monkfish liver brought things back to good level with the bass being cooked well and the accompanying elements working nicely. Again, this was over in a matter of seconds.
Badger Farce lamb, sweetbread, whey and Roscoff onions formed the meat course. This came with wild rocket puree and whilst the lamb was cooked beautifully, it was surprisingly flat in flavour and with a huge amount of fat that was simply too much for the meat. The pre-dessert was a carefully presented ice cream made out of gooseberries with Jerusalem artichoke custard, little brioche croutons and apple marigold (leaves that have a potent taste of apple and citrus). Whilst I really enjoyed the light but naughty brioche bits which would probably enhance almost any dessert, I have to say the artichoke custard really did not work for me with the rest of the parts. I understand the concept of the crossover to have savoury and sweet and would certainly not be the first time I have had this equation, but this just wasn’t a very pleasant combination for me and I felt would have been significantly better with the artichoke custard removed.
Caramel chocolate, bay leaf ice cream and earl grey shards was another new type of dessert for me alas, with the non-sweet components being a little too powerful for a dessert which should have a dominant theme of sweetness. So sadly, this did not work hugely for me either. What was very good however, was off menu and a trial dessert offered to the table of apple with croissant cream and broken brandy snap bits. These were classic flavour combinations with superb textures and a first for me having croissant cream which was a total success. If only that were the actual dessert replacing all others, it would have completely changed the meal.
Overall, this definitely gets a prize for pushing boundaries and being innovative, but when this doesn’t all come together, it deflates the experience. Service was a little forgetful on occasion albeit friendly, but it was also a long meal for lunch taking nearly 3 hours which, in all fairness, we probably checked on at the beginning more. On a separate note, I wouldn’t say the chairs, acoustics and loo are the most comfortable (rickety chairs and tables with a loo you can only close the door after moving in into yoga position as it is that tight a squeeze).
On the food front (which, as a refresher, my grade is purely based on) I gather that the menu changes regularly (a good thing) and I can only keep fingers crossed that other variants of the menu are more successful based on this visit. I can also only deduce that the Michelin inspectors clearly though they caught it at brilliant on every one of their visits when deciding whether or not to award the star.
Food Grade: 63%
Location (Click google logo for directions)