Restaurant review | Rock Salt – "Dahl and dim sum"

BPL447 16 January 2020

Rock Salt’s double menu serves up twice the joy

It’s hard to know what to expect from Rock Salt, the restaurant that serves Indian and Chinese cuisine ‘under one roof’. Who hasn’t been to fusion eatery where an overexcited kitchen and management got a little too hopeful about the legitimate potential of Moroccan grill stroke NYC diner grub, or French peasant tradition slash Japanese street food? These can be car crashes witnessed by 35 seated bystanders at a time.

But reader, relax, because that piddly fusion place you went to in Reading circa. 2005 walked so that Rock Salt could run. And to be fair, at Rock Salt the cuisines aren’t exactly ‘fused’, instead they sit quite amicably side by side, behaving well and accommodating each other’s differences.

A bit like a parent with two children, Rock Salt is utterly devoted to both cuisines equally and neither is given care and attention at the expense at the other.

Rock Salt replaces tapas restaurant Bellini on Cotham Hill, an area well-known for its excellent eating out options (Pasta Loco, The Cowshed, The Grace) and is Harris Massey and Kedar Subedi’s ‘dream project’ where they use local suppliers and curate their own menus. The two chefs have a shared 40 years of wide-ranging experience, thanks to upbringings in India and Nepal, and stints at Bristol’s marvellous Dhamaka on Clare St and the well-loved Dishoom in London.

BPL447 16 January 2020

The cocktail menu is curated by manager Ed Sargent, formerly of Nutmeg in Clifton Village, and the ingredients list is shot through with spices; there’s cinnamon, ginger, even chai. The mango and ginger mojito and elderflower Collins are lovely. 

Facing the food menu consisting of 10 Chinese starters, seven Chinese main courses and 24 Indian mains, we pick dishes from both sides though I still have mixed feelings about crossing culinary boundaries in one sitting. Perhaps though, it’s a non-issue when the food is this tasty.

The vegetable dim sum is gentle and quietly delicious, served with chilli and soy sauces for dipping. After deliberating whether  the lamb chops would be too heavy as a starter, their arrival assuaged our fears – the two chops sat alone, sauceless, yet fabulously spiced, having been soaked in a heady ginger marinade and cooked till soft and charcoaly. 

Though we order separately, we end up sharing mains as they arrive in their own bowls alongside separate plates to eat off. The slow-cooked khadai duck is juicy and served in slices with tomatoes, onions, peppers, green chillies, fenugreek and cinnamon; the sweet pepper counteracts the darker, piquant flavours, though it is a mild dish. A super sweet and oily peshwari naan is doughy and divine.

The lahsooni dahl is simply gorgeous, incredibly rich and thick in texture with well-balanced spices – it’s the dish you want to go on eating forever. The korri gassi chicken is a similar experience, made even creamier by the addition of coconut milk.

Rock Salt is now open at weekends for lunch as well as evenings Tuesday through Sunday.

Caitlin Bowring

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34 Cotham Hill, Bristol BS6 6LA / www.rocksaltbristol.co.uk / 0117 330 0700

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