Many of you will know The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer, a pub on King Street which serves some of the best craft beer around. However you may not know that its manager Alex Major has taken on a new venue in Clifton (previously known as The Hophouse) and turned it into a freehouse and casual fine dining restaurant called Nettle and Rye.
Based in Clifton Village, the décor at Nettle and Rye does hint to its TFRNV predecessor. The familiar cream coloured walls enclose the large seating area which is populated by smooth wooden-topped tables with upholstered chairs. Towards the bar at the back, there are eight hand pumps visible with a further twelve taps on the wall behind. The list of available craft beers are listed on the wall nearby, they come as a pint, half or third.
Last Thursday, at the expense of one severely disfigured brolly, we battled through the rain to visit Nettle and Rye for their restaurant launch night and were led upstairs. Our table was positioned opposite the semi-open kitchen which proved to be an amazing distraction as we watched the chefs cook our next course while we tucked into former.
The first of our seven course taster menu began with a surprise; an allergic reaction to the raw radish which left me itching my nose excessively for the rest of the evening (my companion Jordana found it hilarious)! However, the tarragon mayonnaise and the ramekin of pumpkin soup were lovely, the soup was deliciously creamy and I could happily have had a bowl of it.
Up next was the carrot, ewe’s curd, caraway, pumpkin seeds and prunes starter. Although we were only two courses in, this was Jordie’s favourite of the seven and a close second place for me. Consisting of carrots which were cooked in three ways, the array of different flavours and textures on the plate complimented each other well. The presentation was spot on.
The third course of mackerel, buttermilk, rye, apple and cucumber, I was slightly
hesitant to try. After a traumatising experience from my teen years when my Mum put a mackerel in my hair, I’ve always had a slight phobia of them but I decided to try it anyway! The oiliness and potent taste of the mackerel (cured in dill and juniper) was not to my personal taste but it was good to see the sweetness of the apple and the sour undertones of the buttermilk were not lost on the palate. The addition of the rye crisp was also a positive one and ensured each bite had a gratifying crunch to it.
Moving to the main dishes of the evening, the Pollack, cauliflower, mussels, hay, red watercress and brown butter formed my favourite dish of the night and I’m not usually a fish person. With a delicate flavour and flesh which fell away on the fork, the Pollack was a joy to eat, particularly when paired with the rich saltiness of the mussels.
When our waiter placed the Roe deer loin main on the table, he mentioned that it was one of the most popular dishes of the evening and it wasn’t hard to see why. A fusion of vibrant reds and purples, the plate was a splash of colour and the food proved to be just as good as it looked; the tender medium-rare cooked meat invigorated by the slight tanginess of the beetroot and the strong aniseed flavour of the fennel.
Before the desserts came, we were brought a crab apple, Psychopomp Woden gin and buttermilk palate cleanser. I love gin so the idea of gin in a ‘refresher’ dish sounded like a fabulous idea to me! Served in ceramic bowls, the few mouthfuls did their job well and cleansed the palate nicely with a welcome chill which readied us for course number five.
A combination of hazelnuts, rapeseed oil, sea buckthorn and white chocolate yoghurt was the main event for the dessert. The surprising sharpness of the yoghurt helped lift the dish as the square of cake was relatively bland, it was also great to hear that the delicious sea buckthorn had been sourced from nearby Weston (it’s packed full of vitamins apparently). We both detected a distinct peanut flavour to the dessert which did override some of the other ingredients but we didn’t really mind, did I mention I’m obsessed with peanuts?
To end our feast, a bowl of pine and rosemary snaps were brought out. Though they were very sweet, we loved the use of rosemary and salt and they were a delightful way to end the meal as we snapped off pieces to munch on whilst we finished the last of our rosé wine in the candlelit dining room.
The Nettle and Rye has certainly got off to a good start in my books, I love the idea of a casual fine dining experience and the talents of head chef Felix Rayment show much promise for the future of the restaurant. The food was very good but there is still some room for improvement.
16 King’s Road, Bristol, BS8 4AB
Please note: Whilst I was invited to review this restaurant and our meals were (for the most part) complimentary, all opinions given are my own. Photography rights belong to me, do not reuse without permission.