Ahh Bristol. Bursting with choice when it comes to the independent food scene; I have to admit I’ve always found an appeal in spontaneous car journeys along the M4 to ‘eat out’. Now made all the more pleasurable by the fact that the non-discretionary £5.60 to re-enter my own country of residence, is no longer added to the overall bill .
Do I feel like I am cheating on Cardiff when I head over the bridge to dine out? A little. Ok, I’m in a different postcode – is that still a valid excuse? Probably not. After all it is an hour away, while it takes me just shy of 20 minutes to travel into Wales’ capital city centre. But when it comes to variety, and as a blogger who enjoys writing about and discovering unique restaurants, Bristol is the perfect place to start.
In view that I have no wish to offend a percentage of my readers – but taking into consideration that Wales had secured a win over England in the Six Nations, I had consumed a few pints of local cider to celebrate this feat, and as we sit down my opening sentence pays homage to a fictional superhero…cue the rising intonation – “I am Root?”; on reflection, this blog post probably shouldn’t have been a reality.
As it turns out, it’s amazing how much clarity you can gain from a dish of cauliflower.
Badged as a small plates restaurant that ensures vegetables receive star billing while serving meat on the side’, Root does exactly what it says on the tin, with the added bonus that the meat and fish courses are equally as delicious, and faultless to match. Sitting at the heart of the popular Cargo 1; unless you’re apparently after a flat screen to watch a rugby match, the converted shipping containers are an ideal place to while away the hours – eating, drinking and taking in the buzz of Bristol’s Wapping Wharf.
Root’s succinct menu is truly a showcase of the best in seasonal veg. Beetroot served with blueberries, Jerusalem artichoke accompanied with a rémoulade and potato gnocchi alongside pickled apple are a few of the eye-catchers that appeal from the single A5 sheet.
Cauliflower pakora, blood orange and cashew milk | £6
But it’s the cauliflower that wins, and we start with four gobi pakoras. Aromatic and with a heat that pleasantly builds, deep fried florets encased in a golden crispy batter are each topped with a segment of blood orange. As good, if not better, as any I have experienced in a curry house, these are offset with a rich and creamy base of cashew milk. Throw in a handful of citrus bitterness for good measure, and this is a dish that demands your attention.
As does the open kitchen, which for those of us with a tendency for inquisitiveness (read nosy) – provides sensory overload. From the three chefs that occupy the small space and who animatedly chat to the diners across the adjoined bar, to the aroma and precision of the dishes that they plate on the pass in front of us; subsequently leaving us craving the next.
Ox tongue with Swiss cheese sauerkraut flatbread
John Dory with smoked yoghurt and apple
And the two specials up next are certainly worth those pangs of selective hunger. Simple yet elegant, well balanced and flavour-packed combinations; both imaginative dishes deliver on texture and taste. From elegantly stacked layers of tender cubes of offal with Swiss cheese and fermented raw cabbage on flatbread, to the heat of the spice that builds from the delicate John Dory and then is subtly doused by the Yorkshire pud shaped dollop of smoked yoghurt and apple.
This is food that truly excites.
Mushroom risotto with fried enoki mushrooms | £9
And the final savoury dish of mushroom risotto topped with fried enoki mushrooms, doesn’t compromise on maintaining that buzz. It’s clear there is an innate understanding of texture and balance when it comes to this menu. Salty and more than a little addictive, the fried mushrooms provide the perfect crunch in an elegantly rich bowl of ingredients that you simply won’t want to share…with anyone.
Chocolate ganache with passion fruit
Yet if this meal wasn’t memorable enough, the dessert stands out for all the right reasons. A chocolate ganache hits the right note when it comes to bitterness. While the sweet cream that accompanies, topped with the tartness of the passion fruit, ensures that the only detail of this indulgent combination heading back to the kitchen is the plate, minus some of its glaze!
Bestowed with the position of 57th in the UK’s top 100 Estrella Damn National Restaurant Awards, Root was also awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin in 2018 and you can see why. Chef Rob Howell’s ethos and philosophy of producing delicious, yet simple, sustainable and affordable dishes appears more than deserving of this accolade. And this comes from someone who has mixed views on the small plate concept, and is an avid carnivore.
This is not a restaurant that offsets quantity with the promise of ‘quality local, seasonal produce’. Its focus remains with achieving both, and scrimping does not appear to feature in their vocab, unlike some others that opt for this approach to dining. All the above dishes were shared, and gratefully a late night kebab was not a requirement. Instead, Root truly celebrates the vegetable in all its glory.
“I am Root?”
“Yes, I am!”
Monday and Tuesday: 5.30 – 9pm
Wednesday – Saturday: 12-2pm and 5.3o-9pm
Address | CARGO, Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf, Bristol, BS1 6WP
Telephone | 0117 930 0260