Food: 9 Atmosphere: 8 Drink: 8 Overall: 9
One of the most exciting restaurants in Bristol, Bravas brings out the best of tapas- simple, varied, delicious dishes served in the classically Spanish informal style.
Opened in 2012, it has taken Bravas a mere 5 years to become a central feature of the hub-a-bub buzz around Cotham Hill. Owned by English couple Kieran and Imogen White, this restaurant’s atmosphere makes it feel more like the pub next door rather than a seriously high-class restaurant. It has a busy yet laidback vibe that unassumingly welcomes you in, making it the perfect place to go with a group of mates but also for some more romantic meanderings. Tapas? Tap-ass.
The authenticity of the food Bravas serve is part of what gives it its charm and also its point of difference from other restaurants in the area. Their attention to detail throughout is second to none. The earliest example of this during our meal was the enormous olives they manage to source, quite literally three times the size of any olive I’d ever seen before. Along with the delicious bread and fresh anchovies, these are perfect to whet the appetite for the more fulsome dishes later on. The menu changes regularly with the seasonality of the ingredients Bravas can get their hands on. Wild venison sausage and chorizo in cider were particularly flavoursome meaty numbers, and filling beyond their size. On the fish front, if you’re lucky enough to find them still on the specials menu, the calamari fritas are a certain highlight- a pretty tried and tested number you’ve probably been disappointed by abroad, so how good can they really be? Light and crispy batter carefully wrapped around fresh squid, completed by the most delicious alioli that God put on this Earth. So yeah, pretty damn good.
The portions are all small starter size in keeping with their tapas style, so ordering a selection of veg dishes to go with the main dishes is a good idea. The roasted butternut squash was accompanied by cubes of creamy goats cheese and is certainly a top pick as more of a side. The perfectly cooked green broccoli was fresh and crunchy, but brought to life by shavings of manchego cut with an anchovy dressing that cut through the cheese with its saltiness. Beyond all of these was the tortilla with alioli. I’ve drooled over the alioli already so I’ll spare you more detail of that, but I really must ask you to try the tortilla. Not only would it be rude to go to a Spanish-styled restaurant, no scrap that, a Spanish restaurant, and not try their tortilla, it would be a massive waste to do so at Bravas too; they take this simple dish of egg, potato and onion far beyond humble expectations.
The drinks on offer here are interesting and refreshingly different, especially their fine gin selection. Although quite spenny pricing between £7 and £13 pounds a cocktail, these G&Ts all have cool twists to make them stand out. A Bombay Sapphire shaken up with orange and lemon zest, and flaked almonds; a Martin Millers gin spruced up with grapefruit; an exotic ‘Sacred’ with lemon and cardamom; and my favourite, a ‘6 o’clock’ twisted with rosemary, lemon zest and elderflower. If these cocktails sound too summery as we approach the dark months ahead, don’t despair. The rest of their drinks menu is filled with dry Sherries, sweet wines, Spanish whites and aged brandy, showcasing a similar attention to detail and imagination.
Bravas brings some of the sun-kissed Spanish lifestyle from Barcelona to Bristol with their laid-back yet busy atmosphere and authentic, tasty tapas. Book in advance if eating as a group as this place is always busy, a true reflection of what a success this restaurant has been, or back yourself as a pair to get in on the dozen or so seats they leave unreserved each night on the bar by the window.