Expect toothsome East Asian-inspired bar snacks and a quality boozy offer that comes as standard with Hyde & Co, at this popular, prettily packaged izakaya. Words by Amanda Nicholls
Every time we visit this bijou yet beautifully formed Tokyo-style bar and restaurant, opened this summer on the top deck of Cargo 2 in Wapping Wharf, we order the Dignity – and every time we leave with none. It’s one of the seven cocktails on the drinks menu, each of which is named after a different god of fortune from Japanese mythology, and it’s so pleasantly sharp and mouth-wateringly delectable – Mount Gay’s gently sweet Barbadian rum tartened by kumquat liqueur, passionfruit, lime and Campari – that we’re powerless to resist returning to the bar for more (*drink responsibly).
Naturally there are other libations to choose from, with several different sorts of sake, sumptuous softies such as spiced orange ginger ale and raspberry lemonade kombucha, plus your ciders, IPAs, wines and spirits. It makes for an encouraging start as you turn your attention to the accompanying grub.
We’re perched outside on the decking, catching the very last of the late-summer rays and running our eyes over the robata charcoal grill section which includes the Marmitesque option of chicken heart yakitori – lovely, we hear, but today we’re too chicken-hearted ourselves to find out. From the sushi and sashimi varieties it’s tempting to opt for tasty-sounding torched tuna nigiri or beef tataki but eventually we go with tempura softshell crab futomaki stuffed with avocado and cucumber. Each thick cylinder delivers a virtuous mouthfeel characterised by fresh veggie crunch, offset by the lightest batter around the crab and complementing the creaminess of the avo and marine flavour of the seafood. The salmon and prawn dragon roll is equally satisfying, and photo-friendly – the bright tangerine of the decorative tobiko (flying fish roe) standing out against the ink-black serving slate, ensuring we rush to brandish our cameras before anyone can ruin the scene by diving in with greedy outstretched digits.
The rise of the izakaya – the name given to the informal Japanese sake joint – occurred in a similar way to that in which so many British taverns and taprooms became gastropubs and it certainly makes sense to soak up the booze when it’s as moreish as it is here. The perfect foodie pick for this purpose is found in the form of Seven Lucky Gods’ curry fries. These are another thing altogether – a 3am street snack undergoes major glow-up kind of story. They arrive with a generous covering of sesame seeds, curry sauce and kewpie – Google will tell you this is a type of doll with a large head, big eyes, chubby cheeks and a curl on its head, and this doll has lent its name to a kind of luxe mayonnaise that’s become a staple in East Asian households.
The spicy Korean fried chicken with finely sliced green onion, glistening red in its rich, sticky sauce, speaks of quality poultry and provides just the right amount of kick; but it’s the chicken katsu curry arancini with aged parmesan that really does it for us. These must stay on the menu forever or we’ll be forced to revolt.
“Baby, this is what you came for,” comes the slightly strangled singing voice of my Sunday night companion across the table as she cuts into the crisp spheres to reveal their softly spiced, ambrosial innards – the second glass of Dignity clearly kicking in and the surprise Calvin Harris cover encapsulating our feelings about this star snack.
She and I set about putting the world to rights in order to ensure enough digesting time to make the idea of dessert feel feasible – despite being recommended three to five dishes per person, the decent portions mean we’re stuffed after five between us. To finish, we sink our cutlery into a milk chocolate ice cream sando with hazelnut in purée and praline form – there’s a subtle nuttiness to the ‘bread’ of the sandwich too, made from macaron to give a toothsome nougat texture. Neither of us can normally finish a chocolate pud so the final forkful feels like a conquest.
Learning that Hyde & Co was to have a Cargo presence was happy news – as one of the most successful and popular restaurant groups in Bristol it made total sense – and we’re chuffed that just as much thought has gone into this concept and creating a unique identity as it has with Pata Negra, Bambalan and the rest of Seven Lucky Gods’ siblings. Here’s to Hyde, and another strong string in its hefty bow.