A couple of weekends ago I had the absolute delight of having a surprise evening at The Ethicurean. Tucked away in Barley Wood Walled Garden in the Mendip Hills just outside Bristol, its a little bit out of the way; however, it is very much worth the extra travel as this adorable little place is the home of some incredibly beautiful food and excitingly interesting drink options. Started up by four friends (Matthew, Jack, Paûla and Iain) in 2010, The Ethicurean has made quite the name for itself due to its focus on seasonality and ethical sourcing of ingredients, which has led to awards including the Observer Food Monthly Best Ethical Restaurant 2011 and a Michelin Bib Gourmand 2013.
A big shout out goes to Jack Bevan who went to my school and was once a friend of my brother (my mini claim to fame 😉 ) The mixologist of the group, his interest shows not only on one of the most intriguing cocktail menus I have seen in a restaurant, but also in the wide range of experiments in development on the shelves by the bar area. Labeled jars of different flavours and alcohol are currently infusing ready for new cocktail recipes. This since inspired my dinner date to experiment with some random flavours which I am a little scared to try in a few weeks :-S Showstopper of the evening for me was the sloe gin and tonic: the most adorable drink I have ever been served and a true demonstration of The Ethicurean’s attention to detail. The sloe gin and tonic (of the fever tree variety, of course) were mixed with ice in a beautiful metal tea pot, and set next to a fine china teacup for drinking and separate cup of ice cubes. Beautiful. The winter sherbet also seemed to be a massive hit, with one practically in front of every female in the room. This deliciously pink concoction was made up of gin, raspberry and elderflower sorbet, elderflower syrup and their very own raspberry and black pepper bitters. Just stunning. My dinner date’s choice of drink, the ‘chipotle old fashioned’ was a much more manly affair. The spiciness of Jack’s own chipotle tincture really packed a lovely punch with the bourbon.
With the drinks tasting so wonderful, luckily there was some mighty gorgeous food to soak it all up. The starters were a tough decision (my dinner date almost ended up having three rather than a main) but finally we settled on the west country cheddar and cider rarebit for him and the ‘goat violin’ with chicory and beetroot salad with apple balsamic for me. Already a massive cured meat, this goat option was incredible. The rarebit disappeared before I could get too much of a look in so we can assume this was delicious. 😉 The salad is all sourced from their garden, with the brightest red colour beetroot I have ever seen.
Neither of us could deal with the food envy potential of not ordering the pork belly so both went for the same main. Cooked for 12 hours, this pork belly really did melt in the mouth. With anise crackling covering the vegetables and making them taste like meat, the Ethicurean also succeeded in getting my dinner date to eat curly kale. The pickled apple and fondant potato finished the dish off beautifully. The food is also served on the most lovely plates with animal illustrations by Jessica Lennox, which I am now trying to source for myself!
We just managed to squeeze in pud. Just. My milk stout and chocolate pudding was surprisingly light and only needed a little of the small pot of cream that accompanied it. I still had slight food envy over the chocolate and salt caramel brownies that the dinner date had – which tasted AMAZING to my incredibly sweet tooth! 🙂
Wonderful evening. I will be one of the first to buy their cookbook coming out in May (which includes both food and drink recipes) and cannot wait for the Summer to go on a Saturday afternoon to see the Walled Garden in its full glory (and maybe work my way through the cocktail list…)