Bulrush Restaurant looks like a small place from the outside but actually is surprisingly large, rambling back and to the side as well as having an upstairs room. Sparsely decorated with white walls and dark wood furniture, the emphasis (as it should be) is on the food.
The menu includes a variety of foraged ingredients from mushrooms to sea vegetables along with a whole bunch of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Downstairs there is a small bar with a simple list of cocktails. TripAdvisor reckons it’s the best restaurant in Bristol so when I heard they were happy to make a vegan taster menu I had to go and give it a try!
I was accompanied by a good friend and fellow vegan. We started with cocktails, my adventurous friend tried a matcha green tea gin and tonic while I stuck with an old favourite – Aperol spritz. The pea green G&T tasted grassy and fresh, my Aperol spritz was just the ticket.
First came the amuse-bouche – fresh shredded cauliflower, crispy capers and chicken of the woods ketchup (it’s a mushroom called Laetiporus sulphureus also known as sulphur shelf!) on thin, fried potato crisps. Crispy, crunchy and bursting with flavour. The taste was sensational, we oohed and aahed, and oohed again! I don’t think my bouche has ever been so amused!
Then the tofu beignets, oh my lordy! Creamy firm tofu and homemade miso, wrapped in nori and fried in the lightest batter, topped with a vibrant, green blob of watercress purée and served with a beautiful elderflower and vinegar dipping sauce. More oohing and aahing! I could have eaten these all night!
Next came the miso soup with smoked oil and onion ash… a light soup, full of flavour. It came with white bread but might have been better with soda bread or sough dough.
The next course included vegan witchety grubs! I’d never had them before; Crosenes (Chinese artichokes) small rhizomes or roots, rich in carbohydrates and apparently a good source of minerals – potassium, phosphorus and calcium! Just lightly cooked, they are delightfully crunchy. We had them with peppery nasturtium leaves, baby leeks wrapped in nori (which looked like liquorice allsorts!), white beetroot, soya sauce and blackcurrants. A brave mix that I liked a lot. The blackcurrants and nori battling it out for supremacy.
Next up we had barbequed celeriac, pickled crabapple, smoked pear purée and walnuts. Autumn on a plate! Wonderful woody flavours, just a delight.
Then we were given hen-of-the-woods (another foraged fungus – Grifola frondosa) with braised salsify, diced turnip risotto and a generous portion of truffle lightly grated over the top. The risotto was creamy and crunchy at the same time, this is posh comfort food that fills your heart with joy.
The last savoury dish was confit pink fir potatoes, heritage carrots, charred spring onions, chicken-of the-woods ketchup, yoghurt and an old vegan favourite – nutritional yeast! Another clever combination. I would be very happy with this for my dinner any night of the week!
Then the dessert; baked figs, honeycomb granola and yoghurt – more autumnal comfort food! The crunchy granola was perfect with the soft figs and cool yoghurt.
The last course was delicately thin slices of pear with shiso granita, blackberries and a blackcurrant sorbet that was almost jet black and packed a real punch! Shiso was new to me (also known as akajiso). It’s an Asian culinary herb used for colouring the pickled plum or umeboshi. A clean, fresh dessert with some sharpness.
We had coffee and some lovely little petit fours – small cubes of blackcurrant jellies, talk about a party in your mouth!! The tasting menu was £48 and the drinks were around £7 each. Not a cheap night out but given the wonderful ingredients, the time and effort involved, I reckon it’s very good value and if they get a Michelin star soon (as suggested by the Bristol Evening Post) it probably won’t be available at that price for much longer!
This food is exceptional, one of the best meals I’ve ever had in a restaurant! It’s clean food but still decadent; it doesn’t wear a hair shirt! There are no pretentious smears of sauce across the plate and no dry ice pouring out over the table. The food is explained and you are told what each dish comprises of but I wasn’t ‘introduced’ to any of it and I didn’t hear the word ‘jus’ and I was the only person dressed in black! It was just a wonderful celebration of flavour created by a chef not afraid to take a few risks. Nori and blackcurrant – who would have thought?!