The best and worst Bristol food reviews so far in 2019

New restaurants and cafes are throwing open their doors almost every month in our city.

Bristol Live’s culinary expert Mark Taylor is lucky enough to go and sample almost all of the new eateries dishes and report back to diners his views.

2019 has set off to a flying start, with scores of plant-based restaurants arriving in the city. There’s also been new curry houses making a move for a Bristol-based home.

To help you decide where to eat next, we’ve put together a review of some of the best and most scathing reviews Mark has written so far this year.

The Rest Café

What he said

The menu is far more comprehensive than you might expect to find in a small café with one person in the kitchen.

I ordered the £3.20 b acon sandwich and a mug of tea (£1.70) and it was as good a café breakfast as I’ve had for under a fiver.

The tea was piping hot, strong and the colour of rust. The three rashers of crisp, hot bacon were cradled within two thick doorstep slices of soft white bread (it’s from Anstee’s Bakery of Fishponds apparently) which soaked up the fat from the bacon and the splodge of ketchup I added.

It might have one of the highest footfalls of any café in the city, but The Rest just may be the best value pitstop you’ve never been to and it serves one of the best bacon sandwiches in Bristol.

Woky Ko Kaiju

What he said

It’s not a looker but the tantanmen ramen might be the best dish I have eaten in more than 20 years of reviewing restaurants.

A deep bowl of brownness served with a huge wooden spoon, it’s not a dish that gives too much away when it arrives at the table but after one mouthful, fireworks go off, music starts playing and the world suddenly turns from black and white to glorious technicolour in the same way it did for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the deep-flavoured, tonsil-numbing tantanmen ramen (£12.95) is one of those memorable dishes you occasionally encounter in certain restaurants

Masa + Mezcal

What he said

Based around tapas-style small plates, the menu is divided into sections for ‘botanas’ (small snacks), ‘masa’ (tacos, tostados and quesadillas), raw ‘crudo’ dishes and larger ‘asado’ dishes from the charcoal grill. There are also a number of side dishes including rice, beans, salads and, of course, guacamole and chilli.

Plundering each section of the menu, we kicked off with the botanas. From the main menu, there was a plate of crunchy strips of pig’s ears with mild and creamy habanero alioli (£5.50) with a gentle kiss of chilli heat.

We also had the crispy pork belly (£4.20) – properly meaty cubes of pig served with the same spicy emulsion.

Authentic and modern Mexican food with a real freshness and vibrancy, backed up by a phenomenal range of mescals and tequilas, the latest opening from Kieran and Imogen Waite i s the most exciting new Bristol restaurant so far this year.

And now for the worst

The Coconut Tree

What he said

I’m not aware of anybody slipping a similar invisibility serum into my ginger beer at The Coconut Tree but there were certainly times when I felt like The Invisible Man.

Once my food order had been taken and delivered, not one person came back to check if the food was OK or if I needed anything else. It was simply as if I had suddenly become invisible, but then perhaps the restaurant is geared more towards large groups of revellers than grumpy forty-something solo diners.

I may have felt like The Invisible Man but the food and vibe was intoxicating and it’s a brand that seems to have a clear identity and a growing following.

Steakhouse Graze

What he said

It was a decent piece of tender meat, carefully cooked, and the metal tumbler of fat, salty chips were fine whether not they were cut fresh on the premises or from the freezer.

Which is more than can be said about the stainless steel gravy boat of peppercorn sauce, which was remarkable in that it managed to resemble a bland, watered down tin of Heinz mushroom soup where every speck of mushroom had been removed.

On second thoughts, I think I would have preferred to dip my chips in a bowl of Heinz mushroom soup.

Thin and milky, it was as far removed from a proper peppercorn sauce as possible.

I have no idea if it was made from scratch or knocked up from a packet or jar, but it was the worst of its type I’ve encountered.

It wasn’t the only culinary offender of the evening.

A starter of salt and pepper squid (£7.50) was described on the menu as having been ‘marinated in chilli and garlic’ but it might take a team of police forensic scientists to prove that claim.

The lightly battered strips of squid were impressively greaseless but tasted of old oil rather than salt or pepper. The squid itself was chewy, rubbery and a reminder that I had to buy some new Converse trainers.

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