Dinner for grown-ups review: Source, St Nicholas Market, Bristol, reviewed by Mark taylor.
By day, Source is a bustling food hall and café in the heart of St Nicholas Market, a place where you can order one of the best cooked breakfasts in the city or a decent lunch and then stock up on the freshest fish from the south coast, meats from local farms and artisan cheeses from across the South West.
At night – or at least on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings – the lights are dimmed, the candles are lit and the café is transformed into an intimate restaurant with the gentle sounds of Van Morrison and Neil Young drifting around a high-ceilinged room bathed in the orange glow of a much-needed electric heater.
After dark, when the market is closed and the stalls are boarded up, Source may not be the most obvious place for people to look for dinner unless they are taking a shortcut between the throbbing bars and restaurants of Corn Street and Baldwin Street.
But then its tucked away position is part of its charm and the reason why it feels such a find when you do stumble upon it.
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As the name suggests, Source is all about provenance, seasonality, local food and all the things that chain restaurants can never be.
Chef and co-owner Ross Wills used to work at riverstation and he is a safe pair of hands when it comes to no-nonsense food that puts flavour first rather than faffing around making pictures on plates.
There wasn't a dish on the evening menu that didn't catch my eye – fish soup with rouille; 8oz Hereford bavette steak; rare roast Devon duck breast with noodles and spiced broth and coriander; warm pistachio tart with rhubarb and rose ice cream. It was one of those short menus where a blindfold and pin was all that was really required when making the right choices.
I started with black pudding crusted pig's cheek, smoked garlic potato purée and apple dressing (£7). OK, I didn't really detect much smokiness in the silky mash, but the crumbly black pudding was full-flavoured, slightly spicy and the pig's cheek tender, juicy and unctuous. The cubes of apple were tart enough to slice through the richness of the dish.
A roast lemon sole (£18) was beautifully cooked and presented – the whole fish taking up most of the plate and surrounded by saffron-flavoured potatoes, spinach and a tantalising mixture of really fresh, almost sweet, crabmeat, shrimps and mussels.
The in-season blood orange made numerous appearances on the menu and why not? These fabulous fruits have a very short season and you have to make the most of them.
A perfectly wobbly blood orange jelly with a layer of creamy, milky blancmange (£5) was delicate and comforting, with a cordon of blood orange segments adding a sharp edge.