Food Review: Lunch at The Dining Rooms at The Regency Bristol in St Paul's Road, Clifton, Bristol
So, who is the mystery chef at The Dining Rooms? A pre-launch advertising campaign at this new restaurant at The Regency Bristol hotel simply shows a black silhouette of the chef in question and when I asked the staff to reveal all, they were tight-tipped and straight-faced.
Short of hanging around the fire exit of the kitchen and waiting to catch a glimpse of the mystery chef, I may never know the identity of the person who cooked my lunch, but whoever it was is clearly no amateur, for the food was hard to fault.
Eagle-eyed readers may note that this is the second time I have visited this hotel in less than a year, but the last time I dined here it was the bizarre Taste of Transylvania, a Romanian restaurant offering meat-heavy dishes such as The Wolves Tray and The Dracula Skillet. There were only two other people eating when I visited for lunch this time, but that's two more than were present during my last visit.
The Dining Rooms is a much more appropriate choice for this refurbished hotel and the new team has done well to transform the intimate restaurant into a far more welcoming place with colourful striped silk curtains and artwork from a local gallery.
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In the evening there's an a la carte menu, but lunchtime is a simpler affair, with a risotto of the day, a daily pasta dish and a fish option alongside lighter choices of Caesar salad for £6 and a soup for just £3.
I started with the goats' cheese beignets, beetroot, pickled walnuts and basil oil (£6), which would have been substantial enough as a light lunch in itself. The three crisp batter-coated parcels were firm and boasted a tangy goats' cheese flavour. Discs of warm beetroot added an earthiness and the pickled walnuts provided a contrasting crunch.
To follow, the fish of the day option was sea bass, with crisp potatoes, Kalamata olives, tomatoes and basil (£14). It was an attractively presented and well-balanced dish that had clearly been cooked with care. The two sea bass fillets were precisely timed and tasted very fresh, while the diced potatoes crisp and grease-free. A few glossy olives, warm cherry tomatoes and tiny basil leaves added a Mediterranean edge.
From a short dessert selection, a slice of chocolate tart (£5) was rich, intense and well made, with crisp, thin pastry. The accompanying candied hazelnuts and chewy orange caramel were perfect bedfellows for the chocolate.