Lord above, it has been blustery in Bristol recently. So blustery, in fact, that when we arrived for a sneaky weeknight supper at Bristol’s newest veggie restaurant, we were neither surprised nor alarmed to find 1847 rather quiet – who else would choose to be out in weather that forces you to walk, head bowed, at a 45-degree angle?
The promise of the UK’s ‘Best Vegetarian Restaurant outside London’ setting camp in Bristol was too tempting to miss. Already established in hipster hubs like Brighton, Manchester and Birmingham, 1847 was named in honour of the Vegetarian Society’s year of origin. Promising ‘modern, innovative vegetarian food’ for all, I had to investigate.
Having spent many happy years sans meat, I was excited to revisit this chapter of my culinary life. And, before you ask, no it wasn’t bacon that broke me. It was a deliciously tender medium-rare steak. But, that’s neither here, nor there. We’re here to talk about meat-free fare, and fair it was.
After readjusting our windswept hair (thanks Storm Barney), we soon adjusted to our calmer surroundings. The well-lit, minimal white space had appeared a little stark through the sheet glass windows. However, once inside, it quickly identified as an endearing take on Scandi-chic. If you’re unfamiliar with this design, it’s a trend currently sweeping Pinterest boards across the world. Copper pendant lamps hovered above cool marble tables, rough-wood panelling was accented by angular matt-black chairs, and a verdant wall of succulents added life to the scene. It’s the kind of place that feels special enough for a birthday or a date! Yet, it’s still not so overblown that you need to wear heels – a double win in my book.
Once welcomed by the lovely Roberto, we set about choosing our wine, opting for a reasonably priced Picpoul de Pinet. If you like dry Sauvignon, give it a whirl.
Then it was time for the menu; a creative mix of international influences and reworked classics. I say the latter with due trepidation, as it’s often the case that veggie impersonations of meaty favourites disappoint, but 1847 has taken on the challenge with gusto. I skipped some of the more obvious options – mushroom pate, puy lentil sausage and mash – but a couple were too intriguing to miss.
First, a divine ‘crispy egg’ – think top-quality Scotch egg minus the pork and you’re pretty much there – cooked to runny perfection and rolled in a crunchy golden-brown jacket. (I assume rolled, I’ve no idea how they made it.) The accompanying pearl barley risotto was a little under-seasoned, but I hardly noticed; the lava flow of sunshine yolk was more than enough to keep me happy.
But it was the main that I was really curious about. A modern, vegetarian spin on fish & chips, a dish loved nationwide for its simple presentation of the ocean’s bounty. No pressure then.
I remember those underwhelming fish-free chippy trips all too well, “Oh… um… I’ll just have a pea fritter… yum.” But, the chefs at 1847 have engineered the perfect solution: rounded, fleshy balls of halloumi (less salty than you might expect) encased in a thick, crispy ginger ale batter, prettily presented atop a lively pea puree (with added basil) and zesty dollops of lemon curd. And don’t worry, the chips are no afterthought: chunky, steaming soft inside and genuinely triple-cooked. Needless to say, the thought of requesting tartar sauce didn’t even cross my mind.
We finished by sharing crumbled oats atop a squintingly sour cranberry compote (breakfast anyone?) with deliciously creamy yoghurt and white chocolate truffle while revelling in our first taste of edible flowers. Yes, I know, we’re late to the party. It’s fine though, I’ve been extremely busy with the Nutribullet, so we’re all good.
Was it worth braving the 83mph winds outside (ok that was technically Wales, but close enough)? Well, yes, I’d say it was.
Vegetarian or not, 1847 serves up a creative menu, cutting-edge surroundings, slick service (glasses remained seamlessly filled with lemon-garnished water throughout), and the chance to enjoy a very satisfying 3-course meal at reasonable price. We barely finished our shared pudding, and are already planning to return for the arrival of Roberto’s new cocktail menu