It’s even harder when you’re a half-arsed blogger like me who doesn’t take any notes and gets quietly sozzled whilst “researching” the wine list.
Which brings me to Wilson's in Bristol’s Redland. This fiercely seasonal British restaurant serves beautiful food cooked by chef-owner Jan Ostle using a number of ingredients grown by partner Mary Wilson in their own organic smallholding.
Jay Rayner, Tim Hayward and Tom Parker-Bowles have all raved about the place. And a prolific Bristol food twitterer reckons it's the best cooking in a city of many Michelin stars.
As it was my birthday lunch, Mrs G and I opted for the tasting menu. £50 delivered us 12 courses; there really aren’t many places where you could have food this accomplished for such good value. Alternatively, there's a compact chalkboard menu featuring three starters, three mains and three puds.
To accompany lunch, we knocked back a couple of carafes of delicious and interesting wine. A Slovenian Simcic sauvignonasse (£13) had a slightly oxidative character and funk whilst a M&A Andorffer Gruner Veltlinner (£14.25) reminded us of cloudy apple juice.
Snacks all seriously impressed.
The finest of pastry cases was filled with sweet and earthy raw spider crab adorned with a miniature bouquet of edible flowers. If you'd told me this crustacean was cooked I'd have been none the wiser.
Oversized cleansing and peppery radishes (which would normally be rejected in the food supply chain) were lovely with salty and smokey whipped cod roe topped with umami rich scallop roe powder.
A cup of asparagus velouté wasn't overly rich and creamy as they so often are. Instead, it was given a vibrant herbal hit from fresh mint.
Warm bread had a brilliantly brittle crust and was dotted with a mix of interesting seeds.
The star of the snack lineup was nuggets of unfeasibly tender buttermilk fried rabbit with a lightly spiced crumb and a whopping flavoured tarragon mayo.
Our first course proper was up next.
Isle of Wight tomatoes, sweeter because of the extra sunlight they receive, were served in a fresh as you like raw tomato broth with a background floral note of rose. Creamy Westcombe ricotta sourced from down the road gave the dish a luxury dimension whilst chive oil delivered a herbal hit of allium.
One of the biggest flavoured lobster bisques we’ve ever eaten was dialled up even further by intense dill oil. It could have all been too much but it was balanced by an al dente hispi cabbage leaf filled with light and sweet set scallop mousse studded with meaty lobster pieces.
A sweetbread dish was the only plate which didn’t 100% hit the mark. The meaty sweetbreads were coated in an uber-crisp and flavoursome tapioca and onion crumb. But a jersey royal puree, although very nicely flavoured, had a slightly gummy quality, a bit like overworked mashed potato.
A light but flavoured-packed cod dish followed; the delicately cooked fillet of fish sat in a cod bone broth of intense savouriness. More of that punchy dill oil, crispy briny capers, al dente broad beans and punchy buttery turnip pieces completed the dish.
A side of breaded cod head was a nod to the fish and chip shop. The meaty fish was joined by more of that excellent tarragon mayonnaise which appeared earlier in the meal.
The final savoury course of suckling pig converted even Mrs G who usually finds it too rich. A super juicy and tender piece of leg, which tasted as much of pig as you can get, was joined by a spoonably rich piece of slow cooked shoulder. Zingy pickled mooli, buttery celeriac puree and a light yet intensely meaty and slightly sweet pork sauce were all first rate accompaniments.
A palate cleanser 100% fulfilled its purpose. A pink peppercorn and lemonade foam danced in the mouth with fresh citrus and warming notes whilst a floral elderflower granita perked up the palate even further.
I'm predisposed to loving a soufflé and Wilson’s rhubarb effort was a right bobby dazzler. Light and airy with a sweet fruit note, it was joined by tart and fragrant rhubarb sorbet which brought lightness to the dish. It was a nice change to ice cream which has the opposite effect.
Mrs G and I loved our lunch at Wilson’s. Their big-flavoured and technically-accomplished seasonal cooking is delicious, well-priced and served by a charming front of house team. I heartily recommend it.
Address - Wilson's Restaurant, 24 Chandos Rd, Bristol BS6 6PF
Telephone - 0117 973 4157