The small restaurant with a big sustainable heart
Poco Tapas from the front looks incomprehensibly tiny – muy poco tapas, I think to myself – with just a few pairs of people filling the window seats. Then you walk through the door to discover table after table stretching way back into a cavernous restaurant; a magical candlelit food grotto decorated by hanging herbs, its walls lined with jars of oils and fermenting goods.
Wooden crates of authentic-looking fruit and veg are stacked up by the open kitchen where the chefs are at work, frying over fires and adding final touches, and the November menu is writ large on a massive blackboard on the rear wall.
It’s hard to know where to start with a restaurant that not only serves up a fantasically wide-ranging menu of exquisite-tasting dishes, but is also founded upon sustainable principles as strong as its hardwood flooring.
Poco Tapas chef and founder Tom Hunt writes Guardian’s weekly Waste Not column, which instructs ethically-minded readers to try everything from cooking with onion skins, to boiling old and withered mushrooms with spices and mustard into a homemade ketchup.
He lives and breathes sustainable attitudes and the restaurant is evidence that he practices what he preaches – it was the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s Business of the Year in both 2016 and 2018, and won Best Ethical Restaurant at the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2013, to name just a couple of achievements.
Our plates arrive when they’re ready, and each one is beautifully crafted with delicate garnishes and served on rustic ceramic crockery. The smoked squash and paprika dip is the standout dish – it’s deliciously sweet and smoked, and the leek top pesto is a savoury contrast. Each helping scooped up with sourdough is more delectable than the last.
Portugese ‘punched’ potatoes are another favourite; what punched means I’m none the wiser about, but the chunks of potato seemed to have been fried, roasted, or battered, or possibly all three, with garlic and rosemary. Crispy, fatty, heaven.
The pheasant is soft and gamey, served with swede puree and blackberry red wine jus, while the heritage beetroot is juicy and meaty in texture topped with aerated quinoa crackers so lightweight they look like they might blow away.
Ploughing through this platter of mostly British and European flavours, the kid goat and Caribbean-spiced dahl offers a gear change, taking us to a different continent entirely. Poco Tapas can master just about any cuisine, it seems.
We opted for mocktails – my dining companion’s virgin G&T tastes, to her delight, just like a G&T and my carrot and fruit concoction is the perfect partner to these tapas.
Poco Tapas are now taking Christmas reservations – visit the website to find out more about their bespoke sharing banquets featuring the ‘very best of the winter’s bounty’.
Poco Tapas Bar, 45 Jamaica Street, Bristol BS2 8JP / www.pocotapasbar.com
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram