It’s hard to write a dispassionate account of a restaurant that’s five minutes walk away unless it’s a total car crash and you never want to go there again.
Happily Wallfish is a great addition to the local Bristol dining scene, even judging on the slender basis of the opening night (I've now been back - see below*)
It has a pretty good pedigree, mind you . . .
Seldon Curry and Liberty Wenham (yes, those are their names) have worked for some hot shots including Mark Hix, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Rowley Leigh and at the fashionable Soho joint, Duck Soup and have opened on the site of Keith Floyd’s first bistro.
We were put in the right mood by an excellent peach bellini which I hope they were only giving away to celebrate opening otherwise they’ll out of business in no time. It’s only £5 though which is a steal.
The menu read temptingly and by and large lived up to expectations. We pitched into some on-trend nibbles of charred padron peppers and some really crunchy fresh radishes with celery salt and mayo while we agonised about what to order.
That turned out to be a plaice ceviche with lime, chilli and radishes (super-fresh, spot on), some rather fierce cuttlefish croquettes with saffron mayo (delicious but not sure Clifton is quite ready for squid ink) and a really well-seasoned chopped hanger steak tartare which I also had as a main course. I’m a bit of a steak tartare fascist and this was a class act with perfectly chopped, well-flavoured meat.
Other mains were a socking great Lundy island crab with mayo, steak, bearnaise and chips and roast duck with confit leg, summer veg and chips - all solidly satisfying.
There were other tempting dishes: I’ll definitely go back to try the onion squash with braised lentils, ricotta and sourdough crumbs, the mussels with spring cabbage, scrumpy and caraway and the lemon sole with cockles, mussels and sea greens though possibly not, in the 29°C heat forecast today, the oxtail ragu. And maybe the snails - I imagine a tribute to Floyd.
Only the desserts were a let-down. Being well-stuffed, we restricted ourselves to two between the four of us, a summer berry Eton mess and a dark chocolate mousse with salt caramel, both of which - and I’m choosing my words carefully - tasted better than they looked. I mean, I want to be allowed through the doors again but they could do with a bit more work on the presentation front, chaps. I won’t post the photos. (See below for significant improvement on this front!)
The wine list’s short but interesting with some off-the-wall choices such as a wild ferment assyrtiko from Greece, a Lebanese red and an Argentinian malbec called ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’. We had a very well-priced, fresh Portuguese white, Fontanario de Pegoes at £17 and a lovely Barbera d’Asti ‘le Orme’ from Michele Chiarlo for £26 so mark-ups are fair. There’s also a decent choice of beers (hooray!)
We spent around £40 a head which was great value for food that wouldn’t have disgraced one of Mark Hix’s own establishments. Clifton is a Bristol neighbourhood that we’ve always felt ought to have more interesting restaurants than it does. Now it has.
* I went back a couple of weeks after this and had another very good meal including a superb sole dish with some airy little dumplings and oyster fritters. Presentation of the chocolate mousse was also much improved - it now comes in a martini glass!
Wallfish Bistro is at 112 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4DB (the suspension bridge end) and opens from Wednesday to Saturday. Tel: 01179 735435.