Occasionally you have a meal that restores your faith in humanity. That for all the UKIP by-elections and depressing global statistics gives you that warm fuzzing feeling inside. Someone who loves what they do has really thought about this, carefully prepared it, and presented it for my enjoyment. It’s the best kind of comfort food and it’s available at Bell’s Diner.
In the back streets of Bristol it’s an utter gem: a rambling assortment of quirky rooms and mismatched furniture. There’s a real charm which extends to the menu tucked inside an LP cover. The menu is as eclectic as the decor – british, european, mediterranean and thoroughly modern. Most are small plates, but a few come in larger sizes. The wine list is the same – quirky and dangerously tempting.
On prior advice we order the Jamon Butter and Salt Cod Croquettes while we salivate furiously over the menu. The butter is rich and porky, served with some lovely bread while the croquettes are the ultimate beer food – fried, fiercely salty and strangely addictive. In a complete failing of self-restraint we order half the menu and a little parade of dishes start spinning out of the lovely open kitchen towards our table.
Babaganoush is rich and smokey, falafel are pert and crunchy and the simple chorizo/morcilla stacks are gorgeously oily. Spiced lentils with yoghurt are the perfect antidote to a freezing November evening and the perfectly seared scallops bring a little waft of sophistication.
The main events are a stunning little quail, blushing pink on a heavenly autumnal salad followed by a barely cooked onglet – it’s rich minerality bursting through a deep, smokey char. There’s a Big Green Egg in the kitchen – the professional barbecue beloved of Great British Menu and Neil Rankin. Like the similar Josper grill, in the right hands it does wonderful things to meat.
The dessert menu is short but very comforting – a treacle tart is just as it should be while the chocolate torte comes laden with figs and a boozey marsala hit. Some dangrously rich salted caramel truffles keep us company while we wait for the bill and resist the urge to do it all again.
It’s gorgeous food – wide-ranging, comforting and confidently cooked. They don’t limit themselves to one cuisine, but manage to create a menu that doesn’t feel disjointed or scatter-gun. It’s exactly what I want on a cold, dark evening and it’s exactly what a local restaurant should be. I’m a little sad I live so far away from it.