Bristol's reigning tapas champions continue to offer exciting plates with an atmosphere to match, writes James Howells
'Authenticity' is a bit of a buzz word in food at the moment. Much like ‘sustainable’ or ‘local’, it’s something that food lovers will actively seek out. One will search for the most ‘authentic’ restaurant so they can have one-up over the bottom feeders who will eat whatever they’re given.
People like to believe that they are paying money to be eating the real McCoy, or as Anthony Bourdain says, “eating like a local”, but the fact is that if somewhere is claiming to be authentic, then it really isn't. Authenticity doesn’t come from serving an obscure rural stew in a bowl carved by indigenous grandmothers, or ceremonial chanting whenever a drink is poured, authenticity comes from the Greek word ‘authentikos’ literally meaning ‘genuine’, and genuine food is made by people who care and love their craft. People who want to share their food from genuine memories or experiences they’ve had. It's food made by people who have a story to share.
Bravas does exactly this. Husband and wife owners Kieran and Imogen Waite show immense love for their food in everything they do. With regular visits to Spain (which are detailed on their blog) with their team in order to research dishes and ingredients, it is clear that this is a labour they care about passionately and want to share with the lucky locals of Bristol. Their forte is undoubtedly tapas, which they do perfectly, and in a world where Wetherspoons are offering small plates, it’s good to remember who the originators are. Although it is a cliché, it is very much like stepping into a bustling tapas bar in Spain when you enter—the ambience is eclectic, the food, even more so. The daily changing menu features a wine of the month as well as specials explained by the extremely knowledgeable front of house. The meal began with our server explaining their plans to offer a sherry pairing with their food. An amazingly unique idea to Bristol, we sampled Valencia almonds and some incredible jamon, which were matched perfectly with their respective sherries.
They say the mark of a good tapas joint is the tortilla, and their tortilla de papayas with aioli (£3.90) is up there with the best. Spanish tomato with cumin and garlic (£3.00), was made with firm yet sweet green tomatoes and worked incredibly well. Torta de camarones (£4.90) is deep fried baby squid — perfect to drink with.
The chorizo cooked in cider (£6.50) was an excellent choice; perfectly spiced meat in a sweet cider reduction that was great to mop up with bread. We had a special of mackerel a la plancha (£6.95), simply yet perfectly cooked on a flat grill. We ended the meal with salt grilled wild red prawn (£2.20), which had all the sweet meatiness that you look for in the delectable crustacean.
It is clear to see that it’s not just Kieran and Imogen that love Bravas. Every member of staff from the kitchen to the front of house, is talented, knowledgeable and genuinely proud of the food they are serving. And because of this, I believe that Bravas is a truly authentic restaurant.
7 COTHAM HILL
0117 329 6887