Stacey Black heads to Birch to try out one of Southville’s most beloved neighbourhood restaurants
Nestled on the corner of a residential street close to The Tobacco Factory is Birch, a little gem of a restaurant that has been filling the bellies of the area’s inhabitants since 2014. Having been taken over last summer by restaurant manager Tom Masters and twin brother Ali, along with chef Lee Bloomfield, I was intrigued to see if the standard of food was still as high as it was in its previous incarnation.
We visited the restaurant on a lovely hazy spring evening, and were met with a smart and welcoming dining room which filled up swiftly with other hungry diners. The simple space is populated with bright white tables, neat wooden chairs and a vibrant green banquette which runs the length of the room. Seated by the large windows which bathed the room in a pink glow from the last of the evening sunshine, my dining partner and I looked forward to reading through the menu. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
The carefully curated menu is made up of a selection of fish, meat and vegetables and each offering is as exciting as the next. The aim is to use local and seasonal produce to create stunning small plates, to be enjoyed in a relaxed environment. With an impressive list of past achievements between them, including stints at The Albion in Clifton and The Seymour Arms, the Birch team certainly know what they’re doing.
After ordering a glass of a delicious Tempranillo and a refreshing gin and tonic, we tucked into the home-baked rosemary bread and salted butter that landed on our table. Soft and savoury, it lasted approximately 12 seconds before it was reduced to crumbs. Owner Tom arrived to recommend a selection of plates, and very kindly offered to veganise the vegetarian dishes.
Cubes of caramelised squash drizzled in a creamy romesco sauce and bejewelled with cashews – minus the goat’s cheese – was first to arrive. Arranged on a beautiful glazed dish with a tangle of cavolo nero salad, I entered into a fork fight to get the first bite. The braised artichoke hearts with chilli olive oil served as a nice little livener, and were pleasingly yielding. Alongside these, we enjoyed a pot of braised puy lentils with salsa verde. These were meaty, comforting and packed with flavour. Easily my favourite dish of the evening, I was heartbroken when they were gone. Tom told me he often manages to sneak a portion to take home on a Sunday. The lucky thing.
Next up was the crushed new potatoes and red pepper sauce, usually served with shaved Grana Padano for all you cheese enthusiasts. Crispy-skinned and fluffy-centred, these beautifully roasted little nuggets were seasoned to perfection, and smothered in a mellow red pepper sauce that really complemented the starchy goodness. The roasted Cornish plaice was another stand-out dish. The rolls of expertly cooked fish were placed delicately atop more of those crushed potatoes, swimming in a tangy salsify, caper, lemon and parsley butter. The salsify, with its oyster-ish taste, worked harmoniously alongside the creamy white flesh of the plaice.
My choice of dessert was the lightest poached pear I’ve ever tasted, and the delicate slivers practically disintegrated on my tongue. The saffron and cinnamon flavours were divine. Having a ravenous sweet tooth, my dining partner opted for the richer of desserts – the chestnut and chocolate fondant served with Earl Grey ice cream. The complete silence as he tucked in told me that it was equally as delectable.
Birch is a place to visit time and time again, and with a regularly changing menu, diners are encouraged to do just that. Whether you’re in the mood for a chatty dinner with friends, or a romantic evening with a significant other, this super-chilled corner of Bristol is the perfect spot.
An elegant setting, delicious food and great wine, Birch continues to be one of Southville’s finest assets.
47 Raleigh Road
0117 902 8326