We’ve dreamed about going to The Ethicurean for a while. Not really because of the raving reviews & tweets, but because we’ve been salivating over the luscious pages of their book for quite some time.
To put in context, the Ethicurean is a lovely homey restaurant tucked away in the bucolic country-side in Somerset, not far from Bristol. Although ease of access is not a defining characteristic when you’re relying on public transportation (=us), it’s absolutely worth a trip. Yet, this place is not just a country-side restaurant, but the real-world embodiment of a lifestyle and philosophy we entirely embrace.
In their own words:
The Ethicurean Restaurant is founded on ‘a sense of place’. This is the idea of having a connection with the native land, the community who grow seasonal food upon it, preparations with harmonious flavours and the understanding of its history. In our kitchen garden restaurant we give respect to the local produce grown here and sourced locally by using flavour combinations that have been partners for centuries. We look for ways to update and innovate historical recipes that highlight the bounteous nature of our land.
It opened a few years back on the grounds of the Barley Wood Walled Garden, a Victorian garden built in 1901 for the director of the Imperial Tobacco Company (see history). It provides an incredibly relaxing atmosphere with postcard-like vistas on this beautiful region.
Since their opening, the garden became the cradle where a young gang of ambitious chefs, mixologists, and overall bon vivants could let their imagination go wild and push the boundaries of what modern British food is. And we’re not talking about “hype” food, but honest and delightful culinary creations.
Most of the produce they use comes either from their own garden or nearby farmers, cheese-makers, hunters, gatherers, or brewers. They make their own cider and apple juice on the premisses. Jars filled with pickles, essences, spices, and other concoctions are scattered opportunistically every where you look. Their dishes audaciously combine traditional recipes and cooking techniques, with lots of exciting flavours – often forgotten spices, seeds, plants.
To be honest, we didn’t like the food. We absolutely LOVED it! Every bit of meat, cabbage leaf, or sauce drop had a unique story to tell, and we licked our (many) plates clean. Everything was utterly delicious and exciting.
Excellent homemade bread to start. Real, tasty bread.
The smoked halibut was excellent. With amazing purple eggs, fermented for a few months with beetroot and fresh fennel seeds, this was an explosion of flavours & textures.
The macerated strawberry salad was remarkable. The sweet & sour fruits were getting along perfectly with an onctuous labneh and perfectly crisp chicory.
Then we had a lovely dashi with hake. The delicate fish was sitting on a bed of carrots, and fresh coriander seeds. A lovely and very exciting dish.
The other main was an exceptional pork belly – super crispy skin with spicy crackling. The meat was incredibly moist and succulent, we had to fight over it.
The first desert was a sublime rhubarb tart with fresh fennel and clotted cream ice cream. Definitely one of the best tarts I’ve ever had, perfectly crumbling yet an incredible texture, and an unforgettable flavour combination. A real treat!! To top it all, we had the steamed pudding with milk stout, perfectly moist and intensely tasty, a dream come true!
If you have the chance to go there, you simply cannot afford to miss it. But until then, grab a copy of their book – which is one of our all-time favourites. Packed with stories and beautiful pictures, amazing dishes, and tons of interesting anecdotes about this and that ingredient, technique, or dish – this book is bound to become an essential companion for your late-night foodie reads or tea in the garden.See the review written by Marina O’Loughlin on the Guardian.
The Ethicurean, Barley Wood Walled Garden
Long Lane, Wrington
Bristol, BS40 5SA