Dinner for grown-ups Top-notch restaurant
It was a case of third time lucky for Toby Bywater when he opened Zazu's Kitchen on the Gloucester Road.
Bywater's all-day café and restaurant had spent the previous two years moving around, from Stokes Croft to Clifton Village, but despite a growing following, neither location really worked for various reasons.
For the ongoing expansion of Zazu's Kitchen, Bywater (who learnt his trade working for Raymond Blanc) has joined forces with James Savage, one of the co-owners of The Spotted Cow in Bedminster and The Lido Kitchen in Portishead.
The next location in their sights is Southville, with a second Zazu's Kitchen due to open there next month.
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This talented team has done a good job in transforming the former Bistro La Barrique, with retro artwork on the white walls, enamel factory lamps, reclaimed 1950s Ercol wooden furniture and rug-strewn wooden floors.
Open for brunch, lunch or simply as a place to pop in for a post school-run coffee and slice of lemon and polenta cake, the candles come out at night as it morphs into a relaxed neighbourhood restaurant.
Head chef Chris Gumbleton's rolling, all-day menus appeal to a wide cross-section of customers, from those in search of a mid-morning plate of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, through to after-dark diners homing in on the 8oz rib-eye of beef with port and stilton butter and frites.
From the early bird menu (excellent value at £11.50 for two courses), a starter of dressed crab, spring onion and chive salsa with miso dressing was light, fragrant and positively summery for a late February evening.
It was followed by a perfectly cooked fillet of sea bass with purple sprouting broccoli and a silky lemon sauce.
From the a la carte dinner menu, a starter described as "shredded" belly of pork with avocado mousse and smoked chilli relish (£6.25) was more like a rillette in its smoothness but it was certainly not lacking in the flavour department.
The accompanying mousse was cool and soothing in comparison to the smoky, fiery relish but both worked well with the pork.
A main course of pink and tender slices of Welsh lamb rump (£16.95) arrived with a spicy Merguez sausage, sautéed new potatoes and a show-stealing peperonata – the sweet, slow-cooked Italian dish of peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and herbs.
A surprise addition of fresh mint to the peperonata lifted the dish to even greater heights.
To finish, a shared dessert of zingy lemon curd tart with vanilla-flecked chantilly cream (£6.50) was perhaps a touch ambitious in its pricing but not enough to prevent a clash of spoons and an empty plate.