Knocking through partition walls and pulling up floor boards; it is rare that you get to see behind the scenes as a restaurant is put together. Having watched, via Twitter, the hard work Beccy Massey and Sam Leach have put into converting a former neighbourhood Tandoori, a stone’s throw from the Tobacco Factory; it was a real pleasure to step into the finished restaurant ready for diners. White walled, light filled with spartan mismatched furniture; the name Birch had conjured Scandinavian influenced, wild food heavy dishes in my mind’s eye. At the corner of Rayleigh Road and Birch, its name stems from its location and the food is seasonal and British.
Starting out by throwing supper clubs under the guise of Stargazey and Hare; the two of them upped sticks and moved to London to gain more experience. Beccy front of house at places such as Hawksmoor and Quality Chop House and Sam at the stove of St John Hotel and latterly, underneath the arches of 40 Maltby Street, before returning to Bristol to open their own place. A relaxed, friendly, atmosphere with an unpretentious approach to cooking; the influences of each of these places seemed to have seeped into the fabric of their restaurant.
We started with buttery anchovy and Parmesan biscuits and a bite of sweet, tender ox cheek and onion pasty. Brawn spiked with peppercorns and sharp capers with thin sourdough toasts and mustard followed. M ate tender asparagus with cider butter and hazelnuts. The cider butter was very subtle, but the nuts added a beautiful texture with their toasted crunch.
Plaice with sweet, cooked to a wobble cockles, softened leeks and new potatoes that soaked up the flavours of the sea was wonderful. Whilst M’s duck, slow roasted to perfection was served with creamy bitter-sweet turnips, braised lettuce and red currant jelly.
For dessert I ate crisp, perfumed elderflower fritters -cooked to order, with whipped cream and strawberries. Apart from a rogue sour berry, it was a lovely way to end the meal. Meanwhile M tucked into his favourite, treacle tart. Sticky, marmalade-y and regularly topped up with cream, M seemed pretty happy with it.
A concise menu with a sensible portion size, means that you can comfortably indulge in each course, should you so wish. The drinks list is similarly well chosen, with home bottled liqueurs soon to arrive. Aiming for their nearby plot to eventually provide much of the ingredients for their daily changing menu and, with an excellent no nonsense approach to cooking, Birch is exactly the sort of place that should flourish and thrive. The perfect neighbourhood location, I believe its popularity will be city wide.