Reviewed by Rachel Cassey-Holland
The Mint Room is a contemporary Indian restaurant pitching itself at the fine dining end of the scale. As well as the restaurant we visited, located in the midst of well-heeled Clifton in Bristol (12-16 Clifton Road, Bristol BS8 1AF), Mint Room also has three sister restaurants – the original Mint Room in Bath as well as the more affordable street style Bandook at the Whapping Wharf in Bristol and newly opened at Milsom Place in Bath.
We arrived at Mint Room on a busy Saturday night and were immediately greeted by the waiting staff in the lounge area where we grabbed a couple of stools at the bar. The lounge is at the front of the restaurant and is a cosy space with a warm and welcoming atmosphere; the lounge itself was full of people waiting for tables, which is always a good sign.
Whilst we were waiting for our table, we took a look at the drinks menu. After a few minutes of trying to decide what to choose our host took our order. We decided upon two Gin & Tonic cocktails. The cocktails were a simple, yet elegant and delicious way to start our evening. While we sipped and chatted we had time to take in the sophisticated lounge with its dark walls and floors dressed with unique Indian ornaments.
After a few minutes we were shown to our table and were given our menus. The menu is clear and well laid out, but with everything sounding so good it made choosing what to eat a tougher task than usual. What surprised us was how different the menu was to all other Indian restaurants we have been to. There are no numbers on this menu but rather an intriguing selection of ingredients and styles from across India using a fusion of British fresh ingredients all enhanced with unique Indian flavours and spices. For meat eaters the variety of choice is incredible, ranging from free-range Wiltshire lamb chops to Scottish scallops for starters. For vegetarians and those following a gluten free diet there is a separate menu.
After taking our time to study the options we decided to choose the 7 course Tasting Menu for 2 people. With a set price of £55 per person it promised to offer a culinary tour of tastes and flavours from across the whole of the subcontinent. We decided not to have the accompanying wine flight (£25 per person) as we were enjoying our G&T cocktails too much. The restaurant was full and there was a great atmosphere as people were clearly enjoying their food.
As we finished our cocktails the first dish of the first course called Indian Street Chat arrived, a Wheat puff-pastry stuffed with spiced sweetcorn and tamarind jus. Presentation was stylish and modern, with a nice touch of theatre as you had to pour the tamarind jus into the puff pastry and pop the whole ball into your mouth to unleash clean fresh flavours with just enough spice to lend warmth.
The next course came quickly and for us was one of the stars of the evening. A spiced mixed lentils Vada with a tomato and basil shorba served in a small espresso style cup. The rich velvety flavours of the shorba (which is like a soup) were sensational, with the savoury vada balancing the acidity of the tomato perfectly. Truly delicious.
This was followed by the second course called Tikki where we were served a Sago crust with spiced purple potato, carrot mash and citrus confit. This was both savoury, sweet and spicy at the same time and was almost as delicious as the previous course. Three courses in and we had experienced Indian food like never before, so far so good.
The third course was Rabbit Varuval – wild rabbit with curry leaves and peppercorns, served with crispy rice pancake. Not being a fan of eating rabbit I had asked if I could have something else instead, this was not a problem and I was offered chicken as a substitute. My husband had the rabbit and loved it, even if it was the dish with the most spice of the night.
Drinks were replenished at this stage and I opted to have another Gin & Tonic cocktail, as the first one was so moreish. As my cocktail arrived we were served the next course, Dhuva Machli – tandoori grilled monkfish with black salt, raw mango crab salad, caviar, smoked with cedar wood. This was another course with theatre, the dish arriving with a large glass dome covering it which was filled with oak wood smoke. The flavours from the smoke balancing the delicacy and freshness of the monkfish.
By now we were beginning to wonder if we would be able to manage the remaining courses so we welcomed the next course which was a palate cleanser called Kuchi Ice which was a Lemon & Orange blossom ice-pop served in a shot glass with a fruit jus to dip it in. Palate cleansed we were ready for the main course.
Called Lucknowi Duck, the main course was an impressive feast of free-range duck breast with caramelised onion, tomato, saffron, cream and cashews, served with Aloo jeera, Tomato pappu, Coconut rice and speciality Indian breads. The duck was lovely and pink and perfectly cooked, the accompaniments adding real punches of flavour to the duck. Special mention to the breads which were pillowy smooth and light in texture.
Having had more than we could eat at this stage the final course was beckoning, a white chocolate mousse with coconut bafti. This was absolutely delicious and was a perfect way to round off an altogether perfect experience.
Throughout the evening from when we walked in to leaving the whole staff at The Mint Room were very warm and friendly, especially the wonderful Mohan, who is the General Manager and who looked after us exceptionally well.
We enjoyed every last thing about our experience at The Mint Room; the welcome we received, the cocktails, the food and the restaurant itself. Even the music was perfect setting just the right tone and ambiance for a most fabulous evening. I shall be sure to recommend The Mint Room to anyone and everyone, with a solid 5 stars for excellence. All that’s left for us is to dream about when we can come back and do it all again. Thank you so much for such a fantastic experience.
For more information, to view menus (including the Christmas menu), or to book a table visit mintroombristol.co.uk.
The Mint Room, 12-16 Clifton Road, Bristol,BS8 1AF | 0117 3291300