Food: 9.5 Atmosphere: 8.5 Drink: 9.5 Overall: 9
With pretty much no excuse but some cravings to satisfy, I decided to ditch Deliveroo and explore what Bristol has to offer by means of cheesy pizza goodness. Unsurprisingly, the sourdough pizza sector on the Bristol food scene is crowded with some serious competition: Bertha’s Pizza, Pizzarova and G Brothers Pizza are all very fine choices, so what makes Flour & Ash stand out from the crowd? Steve Gale’s minute, independent pizzeria is worthy of its award-winning status, with every item on the menu bursting at the seams with character and flavour. Their marriage of baked-to-perfection sourdough crusts and ingenious mouth-watering topping combinations pushes this charming eatery to next-level notability.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were struck by its semi-industrial feel and décor. With metal-topped picnic benches running down the centre of the room, and - mildly interrogatory - spotlights hanging from the ceiling, somehow Flour & Ash still feels cosy and welcoming, with logs for the wood-fired oven haphazardly stacked under the bar and shelves of books and candles artistically arranged along the walls. The huge pizza oven was visible beyond the bar, where I could glimpse the chefs working their culinary magic. What had initially given us a kind of spaceship vibe, now felt more space-chic… with a dash of chilled, homely comfort.
A jug of fresh lemon water upon being seated was an excellent start and our waiter, Max, was delightful. Admittedly, it helped that he was an attractive, bearded man with tortoise-shell glasses, but he immediately put us at ease with his casual yet professional service. Nina Simone’s earthy tones serenaded us through our first round of drinks. I was impressed with my perfectly-spiced, lemony Bloody Mary (£6.50) – a cocktail that is easily massacred - whilst the others were equally satisfied with their classics: an Old Fashioned (£7) and a Negroni (£7). Max had drawn our attention to his cocktail skills so we thought we would test his expertise. Upon request, he rustled up a round of phenomenal Piña Coladas (£7) complete with Flour & Ash's homemade coconut ice-cream. A very nice touch.
The beauty of Flour & Ash’s menu is that they are not afraid to take you beyond the comfort of your Domino’s Texas BBQ 12 Incher. There was not one section of the menu where I did not have to ask our waiter to explain something (I am going to put this down to the chefs’ imagination and not my lack of culinary knowledge). Impressively, Max really knew his stuff. For our starters, he recommended the Argentinian tiger prawns (£7.50) and the Crispy Bath chap (£7). Half expecting a slightly crusty old bloke from Bath to arrive with our prawns, we were thrilled when instead we were handed the juiciest cut of meat from a pig’s cheek, coated in golden, crunchy breadcrumbs. SO good. Be prepared to dismantle your own prawn but be equally prepared for some incredible garlicky goodness.
Disappointingly, the kitchen had run out of various options for main courses. Instead, we opted for their rich, Béchamel-based Guanciale (cured ham) pizza with parmesan, truffle oil and a cracked egg (£14), and their hugely popular Chorizo pizza with mozzarella, chilli and rocket (£13.50) – this was a pizza deserving of its reputation. I was pleasantly surprised with the Lamb Offal Ragu pizza (£14) from their seasonal selection, not usually being an advocate for eating a sheep’s insides… however while hearty, this was subtly and well-spiced. Every pizza had perfectly chewy crusts, dotted with charred bubbles where the dough had caught on the stone; this was sourdough with style. Shared between the three of us, there was not a scrap left on our plates. To top it all off, we indulged in wonderful, buttery Truffle polenta chips with parmesan (£3.50) which frankly stole the show. Side note: these are made from polenta and not placenta - my culinary-challenged friend could not seem to make this distinction.
Max seemed shocked when in response to his throw-away ‘Any room for dessert?’ line, I responded with an enthusiastic nod. I was grateful for the small-ish portions of Rhubarb and Custard and Redcurrant Ripple ice-cream, which were incidentally a perfect balance of sharpness to cut through the equally delightful creaminess. Flour & Ash does both the Italian classics of pizza and ice-cream true justice.
This crusty, cheesy, wood-fired haven might seem too good to be true… but honestly, there was very little to criticise about this meal. With most pizzas hitting the £13-14 mark, it is a bit pricey for a student budget, but there is a solution: go along to Flour & Ash any day between 12-6pm to bag yourself any pizza for just £9. And it gets better. Within a minute’s walk from their front door, you'll find yourself on Gloucester Road, known for its fine array of fiercely independent cafés and bars. Room for a pint? Try Blue Lagoon or The Urban Standard for some quirky beverages and live music.
Flour & Ash has struck the perfect balance between chilled vibes and impressive attention to detail. How have they done it? Certainly, Max was a contributing factor to my thoroughly enjoyable evening, but it could not all be down to him. I guess you will have to head down there and find out for yourself. Give Max my love.