Food: 8 Drink: n/a Atmosphere: 8 Overall: 8
Walking away from a Bristol-bred burger brand growing in popularity to pursue one’s own culinary dream is a heroic feat. Leon Holland, the former sous chef at burger powerhouse Asado, has done just that. Leon is two months into his solo project: Salt Street, a Cuban-style sandwich pop-up, and has recently finished his first residency at Bristol Spirit in East Bristol. September has seen his move to the well-respected student boozer Steam on Whiteladies Road, where he will continue to follow his food-focused American dream.
Leon’s deep-rooted love of America and its cooking inspired a pursuit of bringing Cuban-influenced nosh to Bristolians. His menu is experimental and concise, with up to four mains and four sides to choose from.
The toasted Cuban rolls are jam-packed with numerous meats, cheeses and veg, harking to traditional Cuban grub which can be devoured with friends and washed down with a cold beer. The bread is both soft and perfectly crunchy on the outside, holding generous fillings and creating an incredibly satisfying marriage of texture and flavour. Mojo is a traditional Cuban spice mix used in a lot of this style of cooking, a zesty combination of salt, garlic, cumin, pepper, oregano, orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil. Avid meat-eaters would probably favour the signature ‘Cubano’ (£8.50): traditional mojo marinated pork using local beer, coupled with thick-cut ham, sweet pickles, Swiss cheese and homemade mustard mayo. There’s also the ‘Philly Cheesesteak’ (£7.50), comprising free-range seasoned beef steak with caramelized red onions, red peppers, green peppers, sautéed mushrooms, gooey American cheese, Swiss cheese, mustard, and garlic mayo (if you can handle it).
For any gluten-free diners or those avoiding bread, there’s the ‘Mojo Rice’ (£6.50): the same traditional-style Cuban mojo marinated pork in local beer, this time served on a bed of fluffy rice mixed with black beans, onion and peppers. The ‘Frickles and Fries’ (£4), are a different and interesting choice: handfuls of deep-fried, beer-battered pickle ‘spears’ are drizzled in sweet mustard mayo and sprinkled over skin-on, thin-cut fries. These were the ultimate guilty pleasure I never knew existed, packing a punch with every crunchy bite. I haven’t seen them on anyone else’s menu in Bristol, which frankly comes as a surprise given how amazingly moreish they are! This is a nod to Asado’s pledge to deep-frying, such as their wonderful courgette fritters with spicy lime mayo, however, the “frickles” I’m not afraid to say raise the bar and I’m sure will win you over too.
For their current vegetarian/vegan option (£6), seasoned deep-fried aubergine (or eggplant, as the Americanesque menu calls it) is compressed and drenched in marinara sauce and roasted red peppers, encased in a toasted Cuban roll. As a person with an unwavering love of aubergine I found it pretty pleasant, however some extra spice, sweet chilli, mustard or of-course sweet pickles, could give it a serious upgrade, putting it on a level with its meaty competitors (I’d be lying if a pang of food envy didn’t arise within me whilst gazing over at the unyielding layers of pickle and cheese squashed into the Cubano).
Salt Street will naturally be very successful at Steam given their influx of beer-eyed, empty-bellied punters who reliably turn up every Friday night. Leon, however, hopes Salt Street will attract its own loyal following, irrespective of Steam’s profitable location. What we do know is Salt Street will offer something new and unique to Bristol’s saturated fast food scene, introducing new flavours and deep-fried luxuries to students and locals alike.