An Indian feast awaits those who across the threshold to The Mint Room. Our reviewer left on a cloud powered by tandoori monkfish and spiced lamb
Review by Marc Stickley
Nestled in a prestigious Clifton location, just off the main thoroughfare from Bristol’s busy Park Street to Clifton Village, The Mint Room is one of Bristol’s newer Indian restaurants. It’s resided here for a little over two years and has a sister Mint Room in Bath. But if you’re thinking three pints of Cobra and a chicken vindaloo, think again…
You’ll be greeted by the friendly staff, and have the option of pre-diner drinks in the bar or lounge. You might also be lucky enough, (as we were), to be mixed a house special by Alex, the cocktail maestro. There is an extensive list from which to choose, but we went with Alex’s recommendation and tried the Twinkle (vodka, elderflower and champagne) and Dead Goldfish (passion fruit, chilli and vodka). Both delicious and leaving just enough sobriety to review the menu and extensive wine list which included £16 – 80 Whites, £16 – 200 Reds (a 2008 Chateau Lynch Bages Bordeaux), Rosés and Sparkling wines to peruse while you wait for your table.
But it really is all about the food at The Mint Room…
The menu feels fresh, yet recognisable and gives diners a broad range of options. Choose from the à la carte menu, with mains reasonably priced at £10 – 20 or perhaps the seven course tasting menu? If you don’t fancy a full feast, there is a regularly changing lounge menu, including the £12 mixed platter of four items of your choice. And if you’re not sure, the well versed waiting staff are on hand to assist. We plumped for the tasting menu, to get a flavour of the many dishes on offer.
The first course – a refined Indian classic of Poppadoms and accompaniments. However, with mango chutney, mint raita and lime pickle nowhere in sight, it was the accompaniments that set the gastric scene of the evening. Apple and raisin chutney and tomato and cumin dip. There’s more heat than you’d expect, but combined with the bite sized poppadom crisps, the spicy heat was lingering, but not overpowering. The chef knows his stuff! We accompanied this dish with a selected Chilean red – mellow but deep – and Sauvignon blanc – with grapefruit overtones. Perfect wines to kick off the forthcoming feast.
Swiftly on to the second course, which began with an amuse bouche of Cumin and curry leaf tomato soup, coconut foam and a potato dumpling. On the face of it, tomato soup sounds less than exciting, but the reality is this soup is a sensation. Sweet and delicately spiced, the coconut foam cuts through, retaining its flavour and adding a different dimension to the dish. The potato dumpling, was light and fluffy – almost like puff pastry, giving texture and substance to this light and flavoursome soup.
There then followed cured fillet of Cornish lemon sole with malt vinegar dipped in spicy batter and deep fried. This is a light and delicate dish, and to be honest, lost with the soup and monkfish served either side of it. The batter suits the less flavoursome fillet of sole and the accompanying sauces. In isolation, this makes for an enjoyable dish, but on the taster menu, is somewhat overshadowed.
The final amuse bouche was tandoori grilled monkfish tail fillet in a cashew nut, almond and hung yoghurt marinade. This is a truly spectacular dish and the monkfish is the stand out feature – such a delicate and signature flavour, it could stand alone from the sole and the marinade as a main course.
On to course number three and the lemon sorbet palette cleanser. This delivered fresh lemon taste – not sugary, just clean and sharp. It really cut through the delicate spicing of the amuse bouche and left us ready for the next course.
And so on to the main event – truly a treat! A double main course (number four on the taster menu) of deliciously moreish chicken dish and a slow cooked melt in your mouth lamb, with rich tomato sauce, both served with lentils, rice and fluffy, light naan. The main courses were fantastic – succulent chicken, with delicate but powerful spices and the lamb was incredible. A Reisling was selected to accompany the chicken and a Pinotage to compliment the lamb. These main course dishes, together with the well advised wines represented the finest Indian cuisine spectacularly and packed an abundance of flavour.
The fifth course, dessert was a Tandoori honey glazed pineapple – sweet and strong – served with rose ice cream. The ice cream was delicate, and eaten in isolation felt vague and without purpose. But when you mix the two, it all makes sense. The tangy pineapple calmed by the rose ice cream elevated this dessert with the flavours truly lifting each other.
Courses six and seven – coffee, fresh mint tea (of which there is a selection to choose from!) and petit fours. At this point, there is no doubt that you will feel extremely satisfied – smiles are guaranteed.
The whole meal was incredible, and credit must go to Murthy, our floor manager who expertly selected the perfect wines to accompany our dishes. Experiencing this cuisine is a must, however, weekend sittings get very busy. Despite the high volume of diners, the staff remained attentive throughout, from arriving in the bar and lounge area, through to the tables. There’s little wonder the food is so good though – head chef Saravanan Nambirajan was classically trained, then working in 5-star hotels in India, before spending five years in the Michelin starred Tamarind in Mayfair.
Don’t just take my word for it – the day after our visit, The Mint Room Clifton was awarded “Best Indian Restaurant” in the 2016 Bristol Good Food Awards – well deserved for this exemplary culinary experience.
Enquiries: The Mint Room, 12 – 16 Clifton Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1AF / 01173 291300 / www.themintroom.co.uk/bristol/