Naming a restaurant after an obscure but entirely relevant line in a poem is an extremely clever thing to do. ‘The Runcible Spoon’…it’s just so perfect. (It’s from Edward Lear’s ‘The owl and the pussycat’, but then, you probably knew that already. I didn’t). Anyway, thank God I’ve never been asked to come up with anything along the same lines. After staring at the wall blankly for ten minutes, the only thing that popped into my luxuriously minimalist brain was ‘Hey diddle, diddle, my cat did a piddle’, which probably doesn’t project quite the image any dining establishment would be seeking. (In case I’m wrong, and you successfully open a restaurant called ‘Diddle My Cat’ or ‘Cat’s Piddle’ or any combination of the above, royalty cheques in the post please).
I’m going off on a tangent here. The Runcible Spoon is a modern British bistro situated in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, which you may recognise from recent news as the charmingly bohemian neighbourhood where they don’t like a Tesco much. (Despite this, Stokes Croft normally feels very relaxed and safe, the riots were definitely not the norm, so don’t be put off).
Interestingly, The Runcible Spoon is a co-operative (Which all sounds a bit “Wolfie” Smith, Tooting Popular Front, but as I’ve found out, is very Bristol, so bear with me and I’ll explain). The five owners (4 chefs and 1 gardener), own the restaurant jointly. It’s not run for profit in the way a normal restaurant is, but just to cover overheads and pay the owners a salary. Additionally their focus is on locally sourced, seasonal, foraged and homegrown produce. In fact, they own an allotment nearby and their goal is to eventually make the restaurant self-sufficient.
So less Wolfie Smith perhaps, and more ‘The Good Life’ then. Either way, it’s extremely admirable.
The restaurant opened earlier this year, and despite living a five-minute walk away in Montpelier, ‘E’ and myself have just been so manically busy, it wasn’t until the other week that we managed a visit.
From outside at night, the exterior looks warm and welcoming with a real neighbourhood bistro feel to the place. The interior is styled in a similar fashion, with a small dining room and bar upstairs, and a larger dining room downstairs.
Grabbing the upstairs corner table, the evening’s menu was handed to us, hand written on a piece of paper. A short selection is nearly always a good sign, it’s indicative of spankingly fresh ingredients and dishes made with care. With a choice of two starters, two mains and two desserts, I took it as a decent indicator. In fact, it was actually quite refreshing to relax and not agonise too much over the menu choices.
‘E’ ordered the gazpacho and basil sorbet. Chilled soup has to be a perfect choice for a warm summer evening. The gazpacho was nicely seasoned and was portioned correctly for greedy bastardos like us.. The accompanying basil sorbet was a superbly fresh addition and as you’d probably expect from a herb with such an affinity with tomato, it worked beautifully.
Pork rillettes & cornichon on toast were as good as I’ve had anywhere. Happily the portion was suitably massive. I liked the way it was presented, with the shredded pork heaped on the toasted bread rather than having to scrape through a fat covered pot myself.
Squid and chorizo stew main, piled up with a chunk of bread on the side looked suitably rustic and was pretty good. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of squid – call me a fishy philistine but I think it doesn’t actually taste of much and in addition it’s an horrendously ugly bugger…. I’m not sure anyone should be putting anything that looks like that in their mouth. That’s not to say this dish wasn’t good. It was. I stuffed the whole lot. I’m just having a general squiddy rant. I’ve never eaten a squid dish that’s truly impressed and would have probably been just as happy if the squid was left out altogether.
Meanwhile ‘E’ was admiring the beautiful presentation of her courgette and ricotta cheesecake, tomato & oregano salad, new potatoes and burnt butter. (Bit of a mouthful) It looked frigging awesome. I had a sneaky nibble, and yep – it was great. ‘E’ was absolutely chuffed with it.
A dessert of elderflower poached gooseberry crumble with clotted cream, was good, the flowery summer scent of the elderflower adding a nice sweet note to the tartness of the gooseberry.
The chocolate and raspberry truffle pot with soft caramels had ‘E’ cooing and ‘oh my God’ing’ appreciatively, so chalk that one up as a winner too, although to be honest the accompanying caramels were a bit on the hard side of ‘soft’. Happily our dentures were upto the task.
So, 3 courses, £16. That’s right, sixteen quid. In anyone’s book, that has to be a bargain.
The Runcible Spoon has a rough rustic charm all of it’s own. The food is good with touches of real flair, generously portioned and interesting with its admirable emphasis on seasonality and Britishness. That it’s all so fantastically cheap caps it off nicely.
Anyone who likes eating out would love to have this bistro in their neighbourhood, and I count myself lucky that it’s in my mine.
The Runcible Spoon
3 Nine Tree Hill
Telephone: 0117 329 7645