Chin! Chin! Bar & Kitchen: 2014 Review

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Says reviewer Louis Hessey-Antell, “Food and drink can save the world. It probably won’t, but I’m willing to give it the old college try.” Find more of Louis’ reviews for Bristol Bites here. He also writes for simplelampoon.com.

 

The enthusiastically named Chin! Chin! is surrounded by fine places to drink, so the pressure’s on for it to be a fine place to eat. Owner Darren is certainly not one to back down from such a task; this year’s summer menu has been diligently promoted and delivered, resulting in full tables and even recognition from the Bristol Good Food Awards.

My girlfriend and I settle into our seats and peruse the menu, as well as a flyer advertising various offers and events. Turns out there was a charity gin tasting a couple of weeks ago, so the restaurant must be doing pretty well to be in a position to start giving something back to society.

Talking of generosity, Darren delivers us several slices of bread that wouldn’t look out of place alongside Fred Flintstone’s dinosaur ribs. It’s good stuff, too, and it’s more than I can do to stop myself hoovering it all up with equally excessive spreadings of butter.

The menu is arranged in three categories of tapas: Farm, Veg Patch, Sea. I won’t patronise you by explaining that any further, but I can tell you that we were advised to select two plates from each, in order to guarantee diversity and full stomachs. Not ones to ignore the people in the know, we order along those lines.

Yet more bread arrives at the table, although this time it’s toasted, smaller, and accompanied by a well balanced mackerel pate (£4.50). Darren proudly informs us that all the hot­ smoking, including that of the salmon, is done in house, explaining why the flavour in this pate is so freshly robust.

The Garam Masala squid (£4.50) is well done, too, with crisp edges and tender meat. For whatever reason, our two vegetable dishes both utilise the substantial power of the chickpea: Squash, Cheddar, and Chickpea Fritters (£4.50), and Sweet Potato with Chickpea, Chilli and Lime (£3.90). The latter is quite possibly my favourite dish of the evening; strongly flavoured, refreshing, with sharp lime building on comfortingly benign sweet potato; it’s incredibly moreish. The fritters, despite being billed as ‘Australian Style’, share a lot of DNA with the more familiar Glamorgan sausage. The cheese inside is gooey and well matched by tangy tomato salsa.

Hong Kong­-style Pulled Crispy Duck (£6.50) comes in the form of a brittle ball, atop citrus segments and spiced dressing. It’s deeply meaty, and might have been a tad dry if it weren’t for the juice oozing from the orange. The pork belly (£5.90) doesn’t have any dryness issues, however; the crackling shatters to reveal beautifully yielding meat; a lengthy stay in a low oven has clearly been had. There is an issue with the seasoning on the skin, though. I’m not sure whether a heavy­handed commis, or a panicking chef faced with the prospect of flabby crackling is to blame, but it’s too salty. It doesn’t cause too much damage; it’s a very small part of large meal, but it’s always a shame to encounter slip­ ups with your scratchings.

I know I said, before that the sweet potato and chickpea was my favourite dish of the night, but I may have to give into the child in me and allow the Double Chocolate Brownie to pip it at the post. The crust is thick and crumby, and houses the richest of fondanty fillings. It works perfectly with the similarly playful popcorn ice cream, allowing the warmth in the brownie to drop the iciness to delectable levels. My parter Helen sips the last sip of her wine -­ I forget the name (of the wine), but it was a good white­ and it really is time to stop eating.

I wish I could have tried more of the dishes, particularly the house­smoked salmon and perhaps the Caribbean chicken, but there are no real regrets. It’s rare that I make it all the way through to dessert, so I think it’s safe to say that I like the place. It’s just a shame I’ve only just heard about it; I would have jumped at the chance to quaff gin and give to charity simultaneously.

 

Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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