It is rare that I would look forward to a new restaurant opening but having watched the growing number of closing shops along Whiteladies Road over the past years, the sight of River Cottage Canteen Bristol opening is a indeed a welcoming sight to the neighbourhood.
Situated at the Grade-II listed 19th Century church building of St John’s Court Hall on Whiteladies Road, River Cottage Canteen Bristol located in an area where local organic food is recognised and available from a number of local shops and restaurants. There is even a Whiteladies Road local farmers market which is held twice a month in the area. With this established presence, I suppose this makes sense to open the restaurant here. As with the previous River Cottage Canteens that opened in Axminster and Plymouth; the emphasis of the food here is about freshly prepared seasonal, local, organic and wild food, served a relaxed restaurant ambience.
I was fortunate to have chosen a sunny day for my lunch which allowed me to really appreciate the bright and refreshing décor, although the seating space between tables felt a bit too close. The restaurant has a daily changing menu and takes pride to letting guests know where the ingredients are sourced from with its farm partners around the South West. The menu choices are a little less than you would expect and the description of dishes is kept to a minimal.
We ordered the West Country meat board as a sharing starter which consisted of River Cottage pork terrine, cider chutney & toast; Smoke venison loin, caper, shallot & parsley salad; and Potted Portland crab, dressed leeks – all of which were also available to order as individual starters. The sharing starter was beautifully presented to showcase a colourful display of fresh foods that looked much like a cookbook cover. In particular, the smoked venison loin was very flavoursome and tasted quite amazing with its combination of accompaniments; whilst the pork terrine and potted Portland Crab was overall good but they did not deliver any fireworks.
As main courses, we ordered the Glazed ham, mash, braised red cabbage; and the Pollack, bacon & cannelloni bean stew, green sauce. The glazed ham was recommended by our waitress and the dish was generously sized. The ham was simple, healthy and together with the red cabbage made a tasty match of flavours. It was perhaps unfortunate that the mash was unavailable at the last minute and was replaced by chips, which did not help its presentation following the impressive starter plate we had. Similar to the glazed ham, the Pollack was also large in serving and its colourful display is consistent. Given the starters were well paired and matched in taste, it was unfortunate that the Pollack lacked its fresh seafood taste and its accompaniments tasted slightly misaligned.
For desserts, we chose the Poached pear & frangipane tart, clotted cream; and the Praline parfait, coffee syrup, shortbread. The tart was a pleasant conclusion to the meal. The Praline parfait tasted very smooth and its coffee syrup balances the sweetness of the parfait with coffee aroma and rich shortbread makes this an excellent finish to have on a sunny day’s lunch.
The River Cottage Canteen Bristol is an appealing restaurant with polite and attentive service. As a dedicated advocate of fresh local produce makes this venue well worth a visit in sampling some of the best ingredients the South West has to offer.
River Cottage Canteen
http://www.rivercottage.net/canteens/bristol (0117) 973 2458
St. John’s Court, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2QY