“I thought that if I can get a business working in a relatively rural setting such as Thornbury, imagine what we can do in a thriving city hub like Clifton”, says ex-Anton Mosimann chef Ron Faulkner. Having run Ronnie’s with a great deal of success in Thornbury for the past four years, Faulkner has always wanted a site in Bristol, and jumped at the chance to turn The Muset into his second restaurant when it closed down after 30 years of trading…
Seating 72 diners, The Muset By Ronnie is a modern European restaurant, which will feature a number of dishes from the Thornbury restaurant as well as some new creations. Faulkner’s aim is for the menu to be more contemporary than that of his existing site, and has created a number of dishes with newly appointed head chef David Underwood (Alimentum, Arbutus, Ransome’s Dock) to achieve this aim.
The front of house is run by the charming Biagio Iacono, whose CV features the likes of the Hotel du Vin and Bristol Marriott.
With starters ranging from £6.50-£11 and mains from £15.50-£20.50, Faulkner makes good use of West Country produce: the menu includes the likes of Badminton Estate venison and Lyme Bay scallops. The wine expert that I was dining with on the evening was also impressed with the extensive wine list, which features a wide range of price points and grape varieties, and around 20 wines available by the glass.
The old Muset was a BYO restaurant, and Faulkner is paying tribute to his predecessor by offering a BYO option on the special chef’s table. The eight diners (maximum) eating at the chef’s table will not be offered the a la carte menu: instead they will be served a six course tasting menu at around the £45 mark. Although not in or next to the kitchen, the table is surrounded by four TV screens, each broadcasting footage of the chefs at work from the kitchen downstairs.
We dined at Ronnie’s on the opening night of the pre-launch trial (eat until the end of February, and receive 25% off your bill). For this reason, the restaurant was not yet operating a full menu, with five options available for each course – the aim being to increase this to eight by the end of the week, and to launch the full menu by the official opening date of March 1st.
The bar area is more of a focal point in the Clifton restaurant than in Thornbury, and is large enough to accommodate several diners for a pre-meal drink…which is what we opted to do on the night. Biagio’s Sicilian charm persuaded us to let him concoct pre-dinner cocktails for us, and a very good job he did too!
After the entertainment of the cocktail making, we were shown through to the far end of the restaurant, where we were seated next to one of our favourite features of the restaurant: floor to ceiling bottle racks which are serving as an open wine cellar. Despite the lack of publicity, we were one of around five or six tables dining in the restaurant that evening, the relaxed chatter creating a lovely informal atmosphere.
Impressively, the three of us at our table managed to order completely different choices as our starters, mains and desserts. I began with a starter of smoked aubergine, goats cheese, squash and PX sherry (£7.50). The smoky, slightly earthy aubergines combined fantastically with the creamy goats cheese, and the addition of the squash freshened the whole dish up. My one issue with the dish was that it could possibly have done with a little more variety in terms of texture – the whole thing was a little too smooth.
My main of Badminton Estate Venison, swede, prune and chocolate (£20) was sublime. Large chunks of meaty venison were served on a bed of swede puree, prunes and crumbled dark chocolate – the slight bitterness of the chocolate the perfect foil for the richness of the venison. Mains of Cornish bass with a bean stew, mussels and rouille and a canon of lamb with leek fondue were quickly polished off by my fellow diners…the near-silence while we were eating says it all with regards the quality of the meal!
For dessert, I shunned the cheeseboard (I’m starting to surprise myself now!) and opted for the unusual-sounding Tea Brulee (£7). This dish consisted of three separate brulee varieties: Earl Grey, Matcha and Rooibos. These more than made up for some disappointing brulees I’ve had recently: the topping perfectly crisp and the tea flavours strong but not overpowering – definitely recommended in my book.
“I want the Muset by Ronnie to be an environment which is fun, friendly, informal and somewhere you can be relaxed but also somewhere you can celebrate, somewhere that looks and feels special without it being rammed down people’s throats”, says Faulkner. If the opening night is anything to go by, he’ll succeed with no problems. Service was relaxed and informal, with friendly banter and joking between us and the restaurant’s staff. The decor, menu and presentation of the food do indeed make a meal at The Muset feel like an appropriate choice for a special occasion…but without the atmosphere of stuffiness and constraint that many “decent” restaurants have.
All in all, a fantastic evening, and I honestly can’t believe that finishing touches were still being added to the venue on the day of opening. Many thanks to Ron, Biagio and the team for a great night – we’ll definitely be back to test out the chef’s table and the full a la carte menu in the near future.
The Muset by Ronnie
Website: currently via http://www.ronnies-restaurant.co.uk/
Address: 12-16 Clifton Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1AF
Telephone: before Feb 28th: 0800 849 4411, after Feb 28th, 0117 973 7248