With little fanfare, Bulrush opened its doors in November of last year on the site which once belonged to Juniper restaurant, in Cotham. Behind the unassuming exterior of white stucco and frosted glass, is a gem of a place. Owned and run by George Livesey and Katherine Craughwell, it is a neighbourhood restaurant with a fine pedigree, the likes of which Bristol seems to love.
Having trained at the Academy of Culinary Arts with Albert Roux as his sponsor, with stints at St John, L’Enclume and Fera at Claridges, George and his partner Katherine decided it was time to open a restaurant of their own. After a venture in Oxford fell through and whilst scouting for potential places in Cornwall, Bristol managed to turn their heads.
As would be expected, the menu is seasonal with produce locally sourced and, foraged ingredients which make an appearance in almost every course: pickled, steeped in alcohol, turned into syrups and vinegars or ferments. In the small courtyard out back, underneath the branches of a neighbourhood sycamore, they have also started growing edibles and less common varieties of herb to lend unusual flavours to their dishes, which continue to develop and evolve.
Enticed by a plump briny oyster, piled with white-currant granita and a drop of sake; I have eaten at Bulrush a handful of times now. A number of dishes stick in my mind: rich gelatinous mosaic of pig’s head with fragrant quince, lightly battered clams and a sharp, crunchy rainbow of pickles; pungent cubes of wobbly truffle custard, cauliflower, mushroom and pickled nasturtium buds; thin slices of seared ox heart with tempura oyster, oyster mayonnaise, sweet broad beans, radishes and crisp apple and, a recent dish of saltmarsh lamb, chicory, spring onion, wild garlic and nori wrapped faggot -a wonderful distillation of spring flavours.
Multilayered desserts are also a forte and some of the best I have eaten: pine yoghurt with poached quince and honeycomb, the right side of resinous and phenolic; dark chocolate delice with the lightest parsnip sponge, spiced with cardamom and nutmeg, parsnip puree, honeycomb and cleansing yoghurt sorbet; waffles with barbecued pear, gingery pear puree, Alexander (a type of wild celery brought over by the Romans) syrup and miso ice cream -more elegant and refined than salted caramel. Soft lozenges of intensely flavoured berry pate de fruit and chunks of peanut butter fudge, are also worth ordering coffee or tea alone, at the end of a meal.
Amongst all the exciting restaurant openings in Bristol last year, Bulrush stands out. Thoughtful, considered plates of food with exciting bursts of flavour and a relaxed, friendly front of house, make it a delight. An eight course tasting menu (£45) and four course set lunch (£20), are also great value for money, including vegetarian options that are beautifully constructed and clearly not an afterthought. Quietly, steadily, this is one neighbourhood restaurant that is going places. Go there, before word gets out.