Food 9.5 Drink 9 Atmosphere 10 Overall 9.5
Packed with flavour and bursting with love, Birch is a true gem in Bristol’s foodie scene. Over the Avon in sleepy Bedminster, this restaurant seems like the younger, unassuming brother of the louder and slightly self-important joints of Clifton and Redlands. Understated, warm, and quietly brilliant, Birch will have you wiping up every last morsel with a hunk of their warm and buttery sourdough bread.
No one can deny that we are spoilt for choice with restaurants in Bristol. We’re incredibly lucky to live in a city with such a diverse and dynamic food culture, and yes there are plenty of fantastic places to eat here, but among all of the Michelin guides, the bigged-up brunches and the artisanal flat white-serving cafés, a few stand out. You could never call Birch a diamond in the rough, because Bristol’s restaurants aren’t exactly rough… it’s more like nabbing the Malteser in the box of celebrations: they’re all delicious, it’s chocolate… but it’s your favourite and it always puts a big ol’ smile on your face.
Having failed to reserve a table at Birch for a Saturday evening –be more organised than me and book a couple of weeks’ in advance- we wandered through Whapping Wharf on a rare sunny Saturday afternoon to sample Birch’s lunch menu. I’m quite an annoying person to eat out with. I’m not a big plate o’ meat n veg kinda gal, I basically want a forkful of every dish on the menu. Birch’s British tapas-style menu gives irritating power-orderers like me the opportunity to fulfil all our greedy desires. With 9 sumptuous plates to choose from, ranging from £3 to £10, the mixture of starters and mains give you a perfect insight into Birch’s food ideology: seasonal, perfectly-cooked, exciting -yet comforting- nosh to fill your belly and leave a great big buttery smile on your face. Dishes change daily, depending on the season and what the chefs get in that day: a concept which immediately makes you feel comforted that these people know what they’re doing with the ingredients they’re given. With roasted Kid (that’s baby goat) and goats’ cheese from the same local farm on Bristol’s outskirts, as well as heaps of veg from their own fields and patches nearby, their menu is a stunningly-curated mixture of bright and vibrant flavours, contrasting rich, earthy notes such as the Jerusalem artichoke and poached egg, with fresh, zingy morsels of dishes like the roast carrots with yoghurt, toasted oats and Cornish Gouda. Every element of the menu we sampled tasted home-grown. From the air-dried Lop belly –a salty, chewy, Brit-ified Parma ham- to the glazed beets from their own produce field, Birch gives a lasting impression of the importance of their field-to-mouth ideology.
Birch’s kitchen is commandeered by two brothers who live locally in Bristol, which, combined with the tiny and simply-decorated seating area, really makes you feel like you’re enjoying a long, lazy lunch at a friend’s house, albeit a friend who’s been to culinary school and has about 25 different ciders in their fridge… The waitresses are some of the loveliest and friendliest I’ve come across. Immediately welcoming yet anything but patronising, they are incredibly knowledgeable about the fare on offer and are happy to talk you through the reams of delicious elements of every dish. The cider menu is extensive, and after enquiring about the lengthy list, we chose two interestingly different bottles which went fantastically with the food. Of-course they also offer a great wine list, but the variations of cider add yet another stand-out and original quality to this restaurant, promoting local produce at reasonable prices.
It would be frankly rude not to give a special mention to the pumpkin tart that was on offer for pudding during our lunch service at Birch. Only one pudding on the menu. For me – carrying the nickname The Pudding Fairy in my family – this is a pretty bold claim. No chocolate? Even bolder. However… Picture this: crisp, buttery pastry of the thinnest, gingerbread-snappin’ kind encasing a velvety, smooth, perfectly spiced filling… coupled with a thick dollop of fresh natural yoghurt, we soon found ourselves in what can only be described as a spoon duel as we battled for the last morsel.
It’s a real pleasure to eat at Birch, and even more so given that this summer they’re shutting up shop to pursue what has become their most lucrative area – growing British produce and their own cider. While this is obviously a massive shame and we’ll sorely miss the Birch team, all the more reason to get down there ASAP and sample their stunning grub.
http://birchbristol.co/ 47 Raleigh Rd, BS3 1QS
Pictures: Bea Hughes-Morgan