This review also appears on Bristol Bites...
July saw the opening of the new WallfishBistro in Clifton located on the site of Keith Floyd’s fist restaurant. The new owners have an impressive CV having worked for Mark Hix, Rowley Leigh and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall so expectations were high.
My friend, Naomi and I booked in for a fairly early dinner after work and while we started off in an empty restaurant, that certainly wasn’t the case come the end of our meal when every table (including the room downstairs) was occupied.
It’s a cosy space, there’s no getting over that but the greeting is friendly, warm and genuine and the ambient atmosphere tranquil and timeless – no overly twee ‘Nautique’ theme in sight except for our very cute pitcher of water in the shape of a fish that gave a satisfying ‘glug’ as we poured from it – in fact, it’s known as a gluggle jug (Christmas list, here I come!).
We were then presented with our menus that change daily depending on what might be available. Although we had both come for the fish, the vegetarian and meat options were also mouth wateringly tempting serving dishes such as patridge, grouse and Creedy Carver duck.
Naomi and I are both lovers of roasted pork and decided to share the pork crackling appetizer egged on by the enthusiastic sounds of our waitress and the promise of ‘epic crackling’. It came in a ramekin with an accompanying side of gooseberry sauce that was tart and delicious. The crackling itself was epic - seriously crunchy and we had trouble hearing each other as we made our way through the generous portion but it was well done, appropriately salty and whetted our appetites for the main event.
I am an absolute sucker for a whole crab with oodles of mayonnaise to dip the flesh into but I always make a ridiculous mess – last time I had crab in Weymouth it ended up in my hair, across the room, in my handbag… I felt I couldn’t subject fellow diners to a crab shell shower so I went for the lemon sole with beurre noisette and potatoes.
Naomi went for fillet of bream with cockles, clams and samphire. Both dishes were cooked beautifully – the delicate flavor of the lemon sole wasn’t at all overpowered by the beurre noisette and it was truly a joy to eat. Sometimes the best dishes are the most simple and it was definitely the case here. Naomi’s dish looked spectacular and the flavours complimented each other beautifully. The clams were sweet against the salty samphire and the fish firm and meaty. I think we could have happily eaten both dishes over again.
Absolutely stuffed from our main course, we were determined to not have pudding but the dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel caught both our eyes and we had to go for it. I do love dark chocolate and this was gorgeous. Bitter and rich, the crème fraiche served with it really cut through it but neither of us could taste the salted caramel. Until we got to the bottom of the glass. The caramel existed as it’s own entity in the bottom of the martini glass, not swirled through as I thought it might be and unfortunately it was so salty that it had both of us reaching for our drinks after one mouthful. It was less saucy than solid. More like a softened Toffee Penny from a box of Quality Street dropped into a bowl of Cornish sea salt and was deeply unpleasant. It was such a shame that this was the climax to an otherwise scrumptious meal.
I would definitely go back – there is no doubt that the chef has a very good knowledge of how to cook fish and I’ve eaten enough bad fish dishes in my time to know but I would suggest that the taste of the sea need not be in all of his food…