An Evening With The Chefs, Casamia, March 9th

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Wednesday, March 9th was the final installments of a series of events hosted during February and March at four Bristol restaurants. The premise was simple: the venues (Casamia, The New Inn, The Pump House and The Pony & Trap) each hosted an evening at their premises, with each making a different course of the specially-created menu…

A fellow food blogger had managed to book a table for two…but unfortunately was unable to make it on the night, so I took my good friend Laura along with me. I think we’d both agree that it was an interesting evening and that we’d definitely do the same again, given the chance.

While the differing styles of the individual restaurants were clear in the dishes that we were served, it was very obviously Casamia’s night. On sitting at our table, we were handed a copy of the menu in a black envelope, and asked to review it and let them know of any changes we wanted them to make on dietary grounds, while we tucked into our pre-dinner nibbles: star anise grissini, green olives, macadamias and almonds, and a truffle butter. Having had these the last time we visited Casamia, we knew that this was the boys putting their stamp on the evening.

The same was true of the pre-starter that we were served: scrambled duck egg with cured pig and thyme: both in the egg, and in the foam topping the dish. Delicious again, but I think I preferred the version we had on our initial visit, which featured cardamom leaf instead of thyme.

Our starter of “cured mackerel wrapped in Serrano ham, rhubarb and watercress” was the creation of The Pump House‘s Toby Gritten. A lovely, firm piece of mackerel that worked surprisingly well with the sweet, tart poached rhubarb – a combination I’ve never considered! The dish also included a mackerel tartare with capers, lime and dill which was delicious, but possibly a little too overpowering on the lime front.

Next up, Nathan Muir of The New Inn, Backwell, with his “turmeric cured sea bass, frittata of Cornish crab with sorrel”. A very pretty plate. I’ve never had cured sea bass, so this was a first – similar in texture to smoked salmon. The slight kick of the turmeric was the perfect foil to the sweetness of the fish. The frittata consisted of white crab meat wrapped in a very thin omelette…enjoyable enough, but it was the sea bass that made this dish for me.

Our main course from Casamia was billed as “beef cheeks, baked potatoes, pickled onion, horseradish, puffed corn”. However…after our starter, we were told that the chefs weren’t happy with the beef cheeks that they had left, and that we would be served a different main course. After checking that we were happy with pork as an alternative, we had to wait longer than most for our mains…hardly surprising, as they were creating a new main from scratch.

What we were presented with was sirloin of Iberico pork, with bulghur wheat, apple and celeriac. I was seriously impressed – especially considering this was pulled together at the last minute. The pork was beautifully tender and nice and salty on the outside, with the fat cooked perfectly so that it melted in the mouth. The celeriac puree was smooth and sweet, and the bulghur added a nice variety in texture.

Onto dessert, and the turn of Josh Eggleton of the newly Michelin-starred Pony & Trap to impress. We weren’t quite sure what to expect when we read the menu: “cornflakes pannacotta, cereal bar and banana”…we thought we’d overslept and moved straight onto breakfast! It was a beautifully presented plate, though, with three main components: a sweet pannacotta with a fairly subtle cornflake flavour, a banana parfait with a slice of caramelised banana, and the best cereal bar I have ever tasted – incredibly sweet, chewy and full of pistachios.

The Casamia touch then came into play again with coffee, served with two chocolates each (one dark with single malt whisky, one milk with pear and star anise), and raspberry and rose Turkish delight. And finally…the fantastic post-meal chocolate biscuits with a twist that Casamia offer, which I refused to describe on my last review, and I won’t describe on this, as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for those who haven’t yet been!

At £45 per head (excluding drinks), this was a very reasonably-priced way of experiencing the food of four reputed local chefs in one evening. I’m really hoping that something similar is organised again in the future, and highly recommend that others try it if this is indeed the case. Many thanks to Jonray, Peter, Josh, Toby and Nathan for a fantastic evening!

 

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