This feels like the right place to be as you walk in, the air heady with good things which happen here, in this small but high-ceilinged room, and from that tiny kitchen which is essentially an extension of the bar.
I sit t at the bar in those tall windows, the light courses in and I’m entertained by the flora and fauna of Baldwin St, an excellent Negroni under way.
The menu is brief. Keep it short, keep it focused. Although they do not typically have any vegan dishes on the menu, they will look after you with a few days’ notice.
Order the gnocco, I’m told by someone who knows these things. One bite and I’m undone. Resistance is futile. Draped casually over those pale, just-blistered parcels, the delicately pink salame rosa is pure seduction: barely warmed by the puffed dough, the fat is primed to melt on your lips and coat your tongue in all its delicate, aromatic beauty. It’s one of the simplest things you’ll eat this year. I promise you’ll remember it.
Now, wouldn’t this be a convenient place to work in some sub-Proustian, self-indulgent drivel like…Suddenly, sat at that window, looking out on to Baldwin St, I swear I can smell cigars. Not the smoke, but that heady waft as you trim the cap and prepare to savour. After a few moments the memory makes perfect sense: these mouldering synapses have remembered Bird’s of Baldwin Street, just out of sight around the corner, a place which years ago kept me in robustos and coronas. A link between places where simple pleasures are indulged and celebrated… This is, simply, the good stuff.
The thing is, that’swhat happened. Across the decades, some kind of remote synaesthesia? I don’t know, I’m not a brainologist. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous. Let’s never speak of it again: but in mitigation, I could have given you an über or an unctuous or- gods help us- a peruse. Oh and remember, kids- smoking is bad for you, OK?
Where were we… ah yes. Marmo. Dinner. There’s lovely simplicity in the next plate, too. It’s a tumble of leaves with thin shavings of artichoke fried to crisp woodiness, spiked with the bright acidity of pink grapefruit. The base is inspired: a thick daub of hazelnut butter. It’s pure indulgence and something to be savoured. A very chic lady on a nearby table is clearly wrestling with the impulse to abandon decorum and salvage every last scrap and smear. We exchange a brief, knowing look and bend to our task. This stuff is far too good to waste.
And as much as the previous plate wears its flavours lightly, the conchiglie is all about richness. ‘It’s a substantial portion’, warns my Italian server, who is utterly charming and knowledgeable throughout. She is of course right. That sauce has balance and heft, yet another seemingly simple thing done with polish, with thick knots of meat in that sauce. Not a bland mince, but the kind of thing you get when you braise a whole shoulder of pork for long, patient hours and then break it down by hand. There’s wild garlic, stems and all, just wilted into the heat, and a blizzard of cheese, and it’s all wrapped in a tomato sauce which lubricates but doesn’t swamp.
To end, it could only be chocolate mousse. It’s light, not too sweet, and nestled under a thick, luscious plug of cream. Because why wouldn’t you?
Half way through my meal I message Chris: ‘OK, I get it.’ If I still lived down the road, this would be somewhere I’d keep coming back to. The kind you want to tell people about, dragging them along too, anticipating that moment when they ‘get it’ too.
Marmo is the kind of restaurant Bristol always seems to do so well. Go. You deserve a treat. The lunch deal offers two courses for £17, three for £21. Clearly, this is a misprint for cooking this accomplished and you should take advantage of their mistake. Book a day off, take the train and have lunch here, though they now do Saturday lunch from 12:30 – 2:45pm. Have several of their excellent Negronis. While away the day, and in the evening, go to one of the places I recommend in the city and thank me when you recover from your spell of self-indulgence. It’ll be one of your better decisions.
Marmo, 31 Baldwin St, Bristol
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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.