Some meals you remember fondly. Some you recall suffused with some soft golden glow, because somehow you felt a connection with the place and you just fell for it: an infectious sense of being in the right place at the right time.
That’s the best of eating out isn’t it?
Incongruously, the elegant dark blue and gold frontage of Caper and Cure is fenced off and the pavements are being dug up, with deep trenches outside this former chemist and café. I’m reduced to prowling impatiently like some well-fed grey wolf (other animals are available) until my friend arrives, pacing the cage ready for feeding time.
Inside, order is restored. It’s cosy, and there’s a strong Spanish element here, though influences come from far further too. The menu leads with padrón peppers and boquerones, gordal olives and jamón butter, Valencian almonds and Galician octopus. A European produce map takes up a stretch of wall.
Four slices of bread- other restaurants, please take note- and that jamón butter. It’s not what you might expect: this stuff probably deserves another name. It’s definitely more jamón than butter: it’s jamón crema, offcuts of salty ham whipped with the bare minimum of fat to bind it and render it spreadable in lavishly meaty swathes. Rather lovely it us, too: I find myself fantasising about Asador 44 using this to baste monkfish on their wood-fired parilla.
There are little slices of thick-cut, peppery smoked trout cured with lime and lemon and a rather lovely Monastrell, but I have sweetbreads on my mind.
It’s a small but tempting menu, with a specials chalkboard from which I can’t resist the turbot. The lamb tempts but I had had it for lunch nearby, not that doubling up stops me from ordering sweetbreads again. I’m very glad I did because they are impeccable. That lustrous chicken butter sauce has a thick, sticky, lip-smacking intensity from diligent reduction, and is loaded with smoky nubbles of pancetta and the sweetness of peas. It’s superb. The memory nags at me for days, undiminished by excellent subsequent meals.
There’s monkfish in a robust butter curry sauce, topped with a snappy salad of carrot, lime and sesame, and if it’s the teensiest bit over I’d still order it every day. It’s a rustic, home style finish rather than an overly gussied-up restaurant version, for a fish which always stands up to assertive spicing.
A plump tranche of turbot with a tarragon hollandaise- effectively a béarnaise, further enriched with crab- is a treat. It is desperate to release those juices- still bubbling away just under that taut, crisp skin- as the knife bites. It’s impeccably cooked, a memorable dish: and if their renowned truffled chips aren’t on tonight, then dredging skinny, salty fries through that rich smack-of-the-sea sauce is no hardship at all.
A salted caramel tart is so glossy I could shave in its sheen, though even in Stokes Croft that might get you a sideways glance. It’s a lovely thing, some impressively refined pastry work , served at room temperature with a tart yoghurt sorbet. It’s all so beautifully balanced, the salt and the sweet, and one of the finest desserts I’ve had in many months. My friend, a regular here and a pudding stalwart, says it’s one of the best he can remember anywhere, and this is a man who appreciates a good tart. Hearing that exemplary base was from the youngest member of the team just makes you grin about how good this place is.
A short love letter then to somewhere special. Service from Giles is faultless; this is unpretentious but satisfying dining. Caper and Cure is one of those places you ease into, letting yourself fall for its obvious charms. I ate very well this week, cherry-picking some of Bristol’s best and brightest. And I’ll tell you about those soon. And yet…this is the one that lingers. This is the sort of place you want to bring your favourite people to, safe in the knowledge they’ll love it too and leave happy.
0117 923 2858
The Old Chemist
108a Stokes Croft
Bristol, BS1 3RU
Monday & Tuesday Closed
Wednesday & Thursday 6 – 11
Friday & Saturday 10-4 / 6-11
Sunday 12 – 5
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.