Here’s today’s public service announcement: if someone suggests a visit to Hari Krishnan’s, check the small print. Don’t jump online and waste time perving on the menu from Krishna’s Inn- also Keralan- rather than Krishnan’s Kitchen, which is where I ended up. With me? Good.
Perhaps it was wishful thinking: Clifton Triangle has always been somewhere with plenty of good eating. Grillstock had their first ‘proper’ place here, it’s close to brilliantly-named nocturnal legend Jason DonerVan, and I still miss Sands, the Lebanese grill just around the corner on Queens Road whose jawaneh bil toum I mainlined many a time, and which I have never quite found the equal of since.
Memories: I’ve had indelible times here- nights which will always stay with me. But all that’s moot today, because our lunch destination is Hari Krishnan’s Inn in Redland, a brief slither or lope over the road for the patients at Zetland Veterinary Hospital. ‘There’s many a slip ‘txixt na and nan‘, as the old saying goes, plenty of scope to confuse the unwary. Well, me, at any rate. What do you mean, ‘it’s easily done’? Still, I suppose it’s better than confusing yellow powders and serving the old apple crumble/mustard or pork pie/custard combo if it comes to that.
If you write a restaurant review blog, recommendations from friends are always appreciated, even if this involves perfecting a polite, glassy-eyed smile for those tumbleweed moments when someone tells me I should give Bella Italia a go. If I want the lowdown on where to eat in Bristol then I know I can’t go far wrong; I keep a shelf of specimen jars which hold the finest of local insiders’ brains for this kind of thing. It’s the beauty of social media: people who know their stuff and are happy to share. If you’re reading this, you know why you are. It’s an uneven reciprocal arrangement for their occasional forays into Cardiff, where I get to repay their multiple kindnesses with a nudge towards Milkwood or Heaney’s or Asador 44 or Paysan or Nook et al.
Not today, though: today, I am eating at Hari Krishnan’s because his namesake Pankaj Krishnan (of Cardiff’s Spiceberry, Keralan Karavan and Nomad) hasn’t stopped enthusing about how its menu of Southern Indian dishes keeps him coming back time and time again. Dev’s Kerala on Gloucester Road certainly has its admirers, and is up soon, but this is Krish’s top tip for Keralan home cooking in the city, and his recommendation deserves to be taken seriously.
It’s all very low-key, with paper tablecloths and hanging ornaments some of which I’m guessing have been selected with the the owner’s Chinese wife in mind, rather than his Indian roots. There’s a map of Kerala- “God’s Country”- painted on the wall, and an utter lack of formality or pretension. It could almost be a café.
Some interesting accompaniments as we fall on our poppadoms: injipuli (ginger, jaggery and tamarind) is new to me and goes down a treat. Grated spiced beetroot and a mango sauce which avoids over-sweetness are good, too, and a clearly home-made raita more than decent.
A rice and lentil batter is spun into a generously-proportioned dosa, delicately filigreed and stuffed with a superior comfort food mixture of spiced mashed potato and chicken pieces. The killer detail here is the sambar, a tangily sour-spicy think broth with root vegetables which is an instant hit of that distinctively sour-hot flavour.
Savoury doughnuts of lentil flour look solid, doughy, but manage to be much lighter than expected, and with a crisp bite to them.
Buttery handmade parathas to mop up the curries, and meat-filled parathas, rather than stuffed naan, are the order of the day here. The menu is quirky, not least in its pricing: portions are often small but so are prices: most mains coming in at around £7-9, though in many cases there is no big step up in price from starters.
Rice vermicelli, stewed with cashews and sweetened with sultanas, is delicate and soothing: I’m immediately impressed by an unfamiliar take on my usual thoran. Here it’s a belter, the coconut, mustard seed, chilli and curry leaf stir-fry bolstered with mushrooms.
Tamarind fish is a lovely thing, with more than just the sourness: this is subtly smoky from the sun-dried Malabar kudampuli they use- they bring some out and it’s compelling stuff, even if it’s never going to be a looker. It’s an essential component in Keralan fish curries (also known as ‘gambodge‘); not the most appetising looking fruit, but essential to this dish. It’s one of those things- think of the pungency of shrimp paste, the footsy stench of fish sauce- which redeems itself in a finished dish. King prawn curry hits the same notes, a reminder of just how strong the contribution of the sea is to Keralan cooking.
The eggs in the ‘Roast’ come lightly set, the texture closer to coddled than hardboiled, so with just a touch of the fork they ooze into a stew of onion and peppers, cooked patiently down until they collapse into each other, lennding sunshine yellow and richness.
Here’s a sentence I wasn’t expecting to write: Bristol has some way to go to catch Cardiff, and that’s not something you could claim with confidence about any other type of cooking. Thanks to the influence of Anand George, Pramod Nair and others, through the kitchens at places like Salkaara, Purple Popadon, Mint and Mustard and Keralan Karavan, Cardiff has become a centre of excellence for Keralan cooking. Whether we do that kind of food ‘better’ than Bristol is a discussion for another day, but there’s no denying how good it can be on the western side of the bridge.Y ou probably have an ever-growing number of Bristol restaurants on your wish lists: and while Hari Krishnan’s is not going to change your life, it will give you a very pleasant couple of hours with friends. This is a homely, welcoming little place where you’ll find some good hearty cooking at a good price.
31a Zetland Road
01179 42 22 99
Tuesdays-Fridays: Lunch 12:00 – 15:00 | Dinner 18:00 – 23:00
Weekends: Lunch 12:00 – 15:00 | Dinner 18:00 – 24:00
Closed: Every Monday; Christmas Day until New Year’s Eve
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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.