Restaurant review | Bocabar at Finzels Reach – "Organic veg and plenty of pudding"

BPL 446 2020

The new opening inn the city centre feels like home

Restaurant Bocabar is a proper people’s favourite and part of Bristol’s fabric. For the past 15 years the Paintworks branch in Arno’s Vale has been hosting south and central Bristolians for Saturday bunches and Sunday roasts, and has become a very handy EOP drinks destination for those in offices nearby; its massive sofas and wide oak tables conducive to post-work mingling.

With another Bocabar already in Glastonbury, Mel and Paul Eavis weren’t particular looking to open a third but after being approached by the those behind the Finzels Reach development, negotiations started in January last year and 10 months later, a new Boca opened in the red brick ground floor of a once-upon-a-time fermentation building.

At Bocabar Paintworks there’s greenery for sale from Old Market Plants which decorates the interior, regular art exhibitions, live music, Saturday night DJs and a kitchen supplied by dozens of local food and drink producers.

The Boca spirit is alive and well at Finzels repurposed industrial quarters – the walls display work by artist Julian Quay, and what’s served at the tables is as local, sustainable and plastic-free as possible.

We book our table on election night, and after passing the festoon-strung, heated terrace, I walk through the doors into a crush of people. The bar area is packed with patrons – whether they’re starting celebrations early or drinking to distraction, my guess is as good as yours.

BPL447 2020

The drinks choice is expansive; there’s beer, cider and wine, and Bristol Dry Gin and Vodka on tap, which is delivered to the restaurant in refillable containers. We zero in on the cocktails and pick a fresh, ginger-tinged Thai Daquiri and a Bahama Drama, a silky, desserty concoction that is no less exciting for being a mocktail.

Our plates span a wide range of categories and cuisines – overseeing the kitchen is Boca Paintworks’ head chef Jason McNeilly, whose menu is inspired by French country food, Indian spices and Asian flavours. Vegetables are supplied by organic veg box ‘not for profit’ company, Root Connections, because they ‘taste better’, says Mel Eavis. It’s no surprise that Bocabar recently received the Bristol Eating Better Gold award, as well as the Taste of the West Gold in 2015 and TripAdvisor Award of Excellence 2013.

BPL446 2020

Blue cheese croquettes are nicely offset by red onion marmalade and are exactly what you’d hope from deep-fried cheese balls. Salt and pepper squid is perfectly soft and not at all rubbery. Cavolo nero is served soaked in honey, soy and ginger, and we order thick-cut chips to mop up the remainder. Crab beignets with bloody mary coulis are crunchy and spicy, and chorizo sausages in red wine are hot, smoky and Spanish.

How we fit in a ‘knickerbocaglory’ and a fudgy chocolate sauce-covered brownie after all that I don’t know, but I’m glad we did.

As of January this year, Finzels’ head chef Jacob Norris (The Spotted Cow in Bedminster, the Sheppy Inn in Godney) will be taking over menu duties – no doubt I’ll be heading back soon to check out the new plates.

Caitlin Bowring


Fermentation 1, Hawkins Lane, Finzels Reach, Bristol BS1 6JQ / / 0117 374 1898

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