After the Bristol branch switches up its dining experience, CHARLOTTE GALLAGHER
checks out the new offering for herself

Earlier this month, the popular Whiteladies Road restaurant – housed in a gorgeous grade-II, 19th-century former church building – unveiled its brand new open-plan kitchen as well as a revamped menu designed by head chef Charlie James and his brother, second-in-command Phil James.

“We’re putting the unsung heroes of our dishes on display,” explained Charlie. “I’m talking about both the seasonal, local vegetables and our talented chefs! Opening up our kitchen, and cooking on the new charcoal grill or wood-fired oven means guests can watch the chefs in action, adding a touch of theatre, and maybe even pick up tips and tricks they can use at home.”

It’s certainly a lovely addition to the eatery, we quite agree – and it’s already pretty easy on the eye thanks to its smart décor, gorgeous stained glass and huge floor-to-ceiling front windows that let the light flood in and illuminate the visually very appealing dishes before us.

Party at the River Cottage Canteen on Whiteladies Road, Bristol to celebrate the launch of their new menu. 14/07/2016 Photo by Dan Regan

Photo by Dan Regan

At the centre of the menu is a selection of veggie grazing dishes, which can be mixed and matched or, if you’ve cravings of the carnivorous variety, paired with one of the Dependably Meaty Mains. These include the mouth-watering likes of grilled cider brine organic chicken thighs, and honey-glazed Pipers Farm Saddleback sausage with sage, crispy shallots and English mustard. We opt for vibrant platefuls of broccoli with orange, tarragon and mustard leaves; and the grilled summer cabbage with steeped raisins, chilli and mint – marrying them with a golden hunk of grilled Somerset halloumi with crushed peas, radish and sunflower seeds. The consistency of the halloumi can only be described as darn dreamy, while the fresh radish offers a contrasting crunch, and the seeds, extra texture. From the Sustainably Fishy Mains, we also pick out the hake to share – simply roasted with rosemary and served up prettily in its pan with a little lemon and parsley. As we devour the delicate piscine delight in between mouthfuls of broccoli and orange, the restaurant fills up fast with Sunday lunchers like ourselves – the vibe laid-back and family friendly, and the staff equally relaxed and affable.

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Once our beaming waitress Mariona returns to jot down our dessert choices – with a chef’s recommendation of the salted chocolate mousse with honeycomb and double cream – we take heed and order this along with the almond and polenta cake with almond cream and orange sorbet. The latter is particularly beautifully plated, with edible heads of clover sitting among the delicious components, while the subtly salted mousse, with its gooey dollop of honeycomb, makes for a suitably indulgent conclusion to a thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommendable experience.

Party at the River Cottage Canteen on Whiteladies Road, Bristol to celebrate the launch of their new menu. 14/07/2016 Photo by Dan Regan

Photo by Dan Regan