Myristica, 51 Welshback, Bristol. Tel: 0117 927 2277
What people are saying about us... Indian cuisine has come a long way since it was widely regarded as the afterthought to an evening defined by packs of blokes and pints of lager. Those pioneering dishes largely developed for a British market will always be with us, of course, but all the new kids on the block are attempting to do something with more of a contemporary edge.
Which brings us smoothly to Myristica, conveniently located in King Street on the site of the short-lived Brownstones nightclub almost directly opposite Renato’s, where Venue’s Mr Jazz is joining me for a small aperitif.
Naturally, he’s half-an-hour late and in unavoidably detained mode (for which, read: having a drink with someone else), but he’s finally spotted weaving through the early-evening revellers in suitably freeform fashion, as slick and improvisatory as any John Coltrane solo. He’s also a massive fan of Indian food (or any food, come to that), which is why I’ve invited him along for the Myristica experience.
It’s an experience Venue’s waited a long time for: the restaurant actually opened before Christmas, and the owners’ original idea was to install an open kitchen to showcase the drama and flair of the cooking, to give diners a bit of epicurean theatre to make their meal that much more memorable.
Planning regs put paid to that one, but at least I guess it means we won’t be distracted by watching people play with fire.
If you’re scared of straying into uncharted territory, you can pick a chicken tikka masala or vindaloo from the ’Old Favourites & English Dishes’ section of the menu here, but if you’re intending to do that, you may as well go somewhere else in the first place. Mr Jazz and I are committed to a freewheeling sense of adventure, though admittedly there’s nothing particularly exotic about pappodoms (£1.25pp) to kick the evening off.
Ah, but these are primary-coloured pappodoms that look like a cross between Quavers and Hula Hoops, and they come in a seemingly bottomless basket, served with a variety of selections from the pickle tray. We are still eating them when the starters (both £3.45) arrive 15 minutes later.
Mr Jazz has opted for a veritable smorgasbord of vegetarian delights: his bhel puri boasts chick peas, potatoes, puffed rice, sev (a kind of salty snack item), crushed puris and spicy peanuts, all topped off with a tamarind and chilli chutney.
The result is an exciting, complex blend of flavours that sharpen the senses and leave Mr Jazz looking positively hard bop.
My mogo shaslik is much more low-profile in terms of seasoning, dominated by cassava - a root crop that tastes like fried potato, but with an element of addictive intrigue - marinated in yogurt and fenugreek, peppers and onions countering the coolness.
It’s a great start, and the main courses are confirmation of the continuity: the kingfish moilee (£9.45) has a refreshing lightness of touch, our piscine pal having been curried in fresh limes, coconut, mild chillies and curry leaves. The chettinadu (£8.95), chunks of lamb cooked on the bone (removed at the point of serving), is a heartier prospect, but the tomato and pepper gravy is a pleasing explosion of full-blooded flavours that still allow you to savour the moment without having to call for another jug of water.
We shared a peshwari naan (£2.75), a helping of limbu pulao (£2.75) - basmati rice laced with lemon, saffron and nutmeg - and a side order of dari makhani (£3.50), nutty black lentils cooked in a tandoori oven and finished with a cream sauce. And it was all good, and memorable, and interesting.
Mr Jazz doesn’t actually like puddings, so I recommended the carrot halwa (£2.95), a deeply weird dessert involving grated carrots soaked in honey syrup, ground cardamom and nutmeg with a scoop of ice-cream.
It reminded me of Heston Blumenthal, but not in a good way; Mr Jazz, predictably, loved it, which is his prerogative.
Unless you’re as unusual as he is, I recommend you stick with the house speciality of shrikhand (£3.75). It’s like yogurt, but thicker and almost certainly unhealthier, and is laden with milk, cream, saffron, nutmeg and crushed pistachios.
Let’s face it, most Indian restaurants don’t even register on the pudding richter scale, but this one emitted a very pleasing tremor.
What with this place and Krishna’s Inn up there on the Triangle, it seems that Bristol is finally getting the Indian cuisine it deserves.
Mon-Friday Lunch 12.00 - 2.00pm | Mon - Saturday Dinner 6.00pm - 11.30pm (last Orders 11.00pm) | Sunday Dinner 6.00pm - 10.30pm (last Orders 10.00pm).
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