Food: 9 Drink: 8 Atmosphere: 8 Overall: 8.5
With the impressive accolade of a ‘National Sandwich Award’ under its belt, expectations were set high when I visited Park Street’s Pinkmans, one of Bristol’s most revered eateries, and voted one of The Sunday Times’ best 25 bakeries in the UK. Having said that, attributing the modest name ‘bakery’ to Pinkmans seems a little restrictive - they really go above and beyond what you’d expect from the term. You could watch the entire day go by, from dawn ‘til dusk, sipping on chocolate-dusted cappuccino, after creamy flat white, followed by a wood-fired pizza… and so on…
Strolling past Pinkmans in the morning, you’ll see plenty of people reading a paper in the window, sinking their teeth into one of the infamous Sourdoughnuts, artfully decorated with chunks of homemade honeycomb, bursting with custard and lightly dusted with icing sugar. Pinkmans bread is renowned for a reason, and there are few better starts to the day than a slice of their Bristol Brown loaf (£3), washed down with a freshly brewed coffee - or even a zesty morning cocktail. From warming Shakshuka, to posh fry-ups and “Instagram-able” breakfast bowls, they’ve got your best weekend brunch sorted too. From about midday onwards, the heady, charcoal smell of freshly-baked pizza starts to waft through the café from the wood oven in the kitchen, and lunch is on the table before you know it. Choose a pizza oozing with gooey ricotta, pesto and confit garlic, or for something a little lighter, their salad plates are super fresh and change every day. If you’re feeling generous, invite a mate to join you and fill up on their impressive cheese, veggie and charcuterie platter - but we’d hazard a guess you won’t want to share.
Having eaten at Pinkmans countless times for a spot of brunch or a quick croissant alongside my laptop, I was well aware of their morning rituals, but this time I set out to see how they’d tackle dinner service. Gone were the loud rumbles of coffee machines and teacup clinking amid a sea of MacBooks, to be replaced by a much calmer, trendy yet tranquil scene. Dimly glowing pendant lights, hushed chatting and vibey restaurant music summarises Pinkmans in the PM. Somehow, they manage to play the role of cozy café by day, and sophisticated supper-joint by night, with a menu that retains a well-balanced combination of diversity and simplicity. Their supper menu is relatively small (with nine different pizzas, four small plates, three platters and a few bakes), but interesting and varied enough to spoil anyone for choice.
For drinks, Pinkmans offer a wide array of fabulously different cocktails, local craft beers and ciders, as well as fresh cold-press juices for those of you who are virtuously giving dry January a go. The Grapefruit Mimosa and Watermelon Bellini (£6 each) are quite special, though if you’re watching your wallet in the New Year, you can grab a glass of wine for a reasonable £3.50, or a Czech-style lager for £4. Our dinner actually started with a palette cleanser, (something unheard of in the student realm), but naturally welcomed with open arms (or mouths). Somewhat rhubarb and custard themed, this was a small bowl of vanilla gelato, topped with pieces of caramelised rhubarb - absolutely delicious, though perhaps a touch strange to start dinner with a dessert? A couple of their small plates will only set you back a fiver - our top pick being the chickpea and white bean falafel, accompanied by dressed chicory leaves and a tahini dip. Crunchy, golden balls with warm, fluffy centres, these guys certainly give Eat A Pitta’s pride and joy a run for their money, especially when smothered in that cooling, delicately spiced sauce. By the same mark, their bruschetta (made from their infamous Sourdough of-course), spread with fresh olive tapenade and topped with anchovies is elegantly simple, bringing the sunshine of Italy to a drizzly January evening.
Moving onto mains, Pinkmans Sourdough pizzas steal the show, which is no mean feat in Bristol when you’re competing with the likes of Flour and Ash, Pizzarova, Bertha’s Pizza… the list goes on. It’s safe to say that they do it justice, achieving that much-adored crisp base, topped with rich tomato sauce and doused in mozzarella or ricotta. Starting from the humble Margarita, you can steer down all sorts of topping avenues. For meat eaters I’d recommend the chicken variety - a Sourdough base, scattered with pieces of harissa-roasted shredded chicken and dolloped with homemade pesto. Even more impressive, Pinkmans have kept up-to-date with “Veganuary” resolutions - on the pizzas too - with a show-stopping dairy-free version topped with charred squash, vegan ricotta, spinach, and tangy romesco (in fact you can tailor any pizza on the menu to make it vegan). Ranging from £7 to £10.50, all of them are - would you believe - the same price as a Dominoes. That’s pretty amazing considering the difference in the quality of ingredients, originality, and - shock - the décor.
Don’t get us wrong, the pizzas are good, but Pinkmans aren’t shy of mixing it up. Their sharing platters (£8) cater for everyone’s needs - from sheets of artisan Italian charcuterie, coupled with cornichons and caper berries, to a spread of colourful stuffed pequillo peppers, preserved artichokes and lashings of hummus (naturally accompanied by hunks of crusty Sourdough). They also offer warming, hearty bakes (Sourdough-side again out in full force), ranging from £7 to £9 - in my view, their aubergine and tomato parmigiana may even give their pizzas a run for their money. Served in a cast iron bowl, this is a gratin of smoky, roasted aubergine and rich tomato passata, bound together by melting mozzarella, and finished with that moreish cheesy top which will have you scraping the last crispy remains off with your knife. It’s a pretty beautiful thing, and only sets you back £7.50. Positively stuffed with doughy goodness by the end of our dining experience, there was little room for sweet treats, but one particular outrageous option did catch my eye as it left the kitchen: a hot chocolate brownie sundae with pecan brownie pieces, blueberry compote and raspberry sauce - it’s always good to leave something to come back for.
Pinkmans boasts a strong sense of craftsmanship, showcased by its open kitchen where you can watch loaves of Sourdough and French baguettes being made at lightning speed from scratch. This place embodies how a modern bakery should be run - adopting an old-fashioned approach to the mastery of artisan bread making, whilst managing to be contemporary in its décor and menu. The trio behind Pinkmans, Steven, Troels Bendix and Michael Engler, has mastered the delivery of proper, fresh, beautifully finished produce to the masses, and we’re so glad it’s received some recognition for it. Although I wasn’t a new visitor to Pinkmans, this time around was a sweet surprise. This bakery has proven to be just as good at night as it is during the day, and we should all feel pretty fortunate that these guys chose to set up shop in our city.