Bambalan has fun emanating from its very core, writes Sammy Milton
With the weather having been so unseasonably nice for this time of year, thoughts turn to summer. Long, warm evenings, accompanied by some deliciously light and fun food, accompanied by a cold drink, preferably al fresco. Bristol certainly has plenty of places that can offer all of these things, but perhaps one of the best is Bambalan.
Perched in an ideal city centre location, this bar and restaurant offers a huge inside dining space twinned with a sprawling outdoor terrace, that offers panoramic views over the fountains and Bristol’s harbourside. It offers amazing cocktails, but it’s not just a summer spot, it also offers cosy indoor dining, which was exactly what we were after when we visited on a chilly Wednesday evening. After all, we’ve had a taste of things to come, but we’re not there just yet.
Myself and my dining partner were seated in a comfortable booth with a lovely view over Colston Hall, and got down to the serious business of ordering food. Bambalan offers a range of culinary delights, including mezze, grilled meat and vegetable dishes, burgers and their famous babs – meat or veg served on flatbreads with all the trimmings. Having heard about the hearty portion sizes, we decided to order a dip platter to start – warm pitta served with hummus, guacamole and sour crème, onion and chive dips.
Two piping hot pitta breads came alongside three large bowls of dips, and we dug in. Our favourite was the sour crème, onion and chive dip – velvety smooth with a savoury kick, it didn’t last long. All of the dips are homemade, and this was especially apparent in the guacamole – it was thick and chunky, just how I like it, with chunks of red onion and a hint of chilli. We kept them all on the table long after we finished our bread, you know, just in case.
We were so torn with our mains. There’s a lot to choose from, and it all looked very appetising. Finally, after some deliberation, we made our choice – a po boy bab for me, and the half rotisserie chicken with Caesar salad and fries for my friend. We also opted for another portion of the house-seasoned fries and some grilled halloumi for good measure.
The rumours about the portion sizes are true – you get a lot for your money here! My po boy bab arrived open on a large plate – a flatbread topped with deep-fried king prawns, avocado, smoked chilli mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Kebabs, when done well, are one of my favourite things to eat, and this one did not disappoint. The prawns were huge and juicy, blisteringly hot in a crispy batter, and mingled beautifully with the heat of the chilli and the soothing avocado. The salad added a nice crunch, and all in all, it was a thing of beauty. If this sounds like too much for you, you can always remove the bread from any of their babs and have it as a salad, but I’m not one to refuse carbs.
My friend’s chicken dish was also excellent. Succulent and juicy, it had been cooked in their in-house charcoal rotisserie, and still carried that deep, charred flavour beautifully. It worked perfectly alongside the creamy and smooth Caesar salad and the fries were crisp and fluffy. The house seasoning was pretty special too – as was the grilled halloumi. If there’s a better side dish, I’m yet to have it.
Suffice to say, we were far too full for desserts, but they have a lovely selection on offer. There’s a crumble, a brownie and a range of ice creams and sorbets – but if you have room, I’ll be impressed.
Bambalan offers fairly healthy, very reasonably priced and incredibly tasty food in an in-your-face city centre location, so what’s not to love? When the sun next makes an appearance, make sure you’re here with rest of them, eating babs and drinking cocktails.
Podium Level, Colston Tower, Colston Avenue
0117 922 1880