Monday 2 March 2015

Wilks, Bristol.

If only Chorlton had a restaurant half as good as Wilks in Bristol, I'd be very happy indeed. Every neighbourhood should have a restaurant like this one in an ideal world. We don't even have an equivalent in the whole of Manchester either and are not likely to in the near future. Few independents can afford the exorbitant rents.
Restaurants like this one are as rare as hen's teeth, outside of London. Just take a look at chef James Wilkins’ CV. It's as long as your arm. There are photos of him on the wall in various restaurants, Gordon Ramsay, with the Galvin brothers, at Michel Bras' three star restaurant in Laguiole, France amongst many others all over the world, Japan too.
We find the bistro tucked away in a smart side street in Redland just outside of Bristol. There's a hushed silence, but we're the first there on this wet and miserable wintry Sunday.
We begin with bread, naturally. It's good but short of exceptional. Nonetheless, I have a very good feeling about this place. Some pre-starters arrive. Beautiful, Parmesan cream, smoked salmon & fennel crackers with a Jerusalem artichoke velouté with truffle butter. Who couldn't love such wonderful little morsels? Fewer things make me happier than the phrase 'a gift from the chef'.
Next, Lobster bisque, fresh lobster, langoustine tortellini, tarragon & star anise (£9). I hear the murmurs of appreciation from Mrs B and our friends whilst I'm taking photos. Indeed, it is just so lovely, rich, frothy and silky smooth. One of the best things I've eaten all year so far without doubt. 
So simple and yet so right. It's the un-showy nature and simplicity of this food, which I'm leaning towards more and more these days.
Then another classic, a deconstructed Beef Wellington, dry aged beef fillet, wild mushroom duxelle & puff pastry madeira & black truffle jus (£28). A big hunk of beef, with a little chew, a really lovely piece of rare meat though, perfectly handled. Food like this makes me very happy indeed. The potato purée alone is worth the journey.
Pre desserts arrive, a pretty little glass of Banana mousse, passion fruit jelly, mango & lime.
All four of us insist on the Wilks signature Cocoa meringue, coffee ice cream, almond & vanilla (£8). A work of art recently voted 10th best dessert in the UK by Sunday Times readers. It seems such a shame to break into the perfect meringue shell.
Finally, Petits fours, lemon grass ice cream, white chocolate, marshmallow, orange flower, praline, almond dark chocolate ganache, cardamon five spice financier.
Service is textbook at Wilks, led effortlessly by Christine Vayssade, James' partner. Although efficient in a reverential Michelin star way, because they are not native speakers (staff of this calibre are more often than not from abroad you literally can't get the staff here) it's not perhaps quite as warm as I personally prefer. Maybe a little bit of quiet jazz playing would help to break the silence as the restaurant starts to fills up.
Chef James Wilkins doesn't feel the need to try and show off with overly complex unnecessary flourishes, he lets his food do all the talking. A classic case of less is more. It's so deceptively simple yet the results are so effective. Quality ingredients treated with real respect by an extremely skilful chef. The people of Bristol are very lucky indeed.

See more photos high resolution here.
Wilks on Urbanspoon

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