Bristol review: Second Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols
25 July 2017
"For £22, this has to be one of the best-value evening menus on the go in the city at the moment"
Jessica Carter vows to stop avoiding the city centre (well, at least sometimes), after visiting this joint...
For the most part, when we’re thinking of somewhere a bit spesh to go out in Bristol for a fancy feed, our mind doesn’t often wander to the centermost point of the city. Great-quality neighbourhood restaurants have boomed, leaving the city’s retail hub – with its constant crowds and parking annoyances – largely to chilled-out quick-fix restaurants designed to serve shoppers and local office workers.
That said, we’d hate to stroll too close to the dangerous territory of sweeping generalisations. Especially in a city like Bristol, which seems to thrive on proving lazy stereotypes to be, well, just that. And even more especially in this precise case, 'cause we'd be overlooking a pretty important factor – namely, the Second Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols.
The restaurant is found in the department store building, at the top of a short lift ride. All gold and peach, it's a bit reminiscent of a swanky, yuppie-frequented joint where business lunches would happen in ’80s films, but with modern and sleek style. A metallic pillar overflows with gold that spills across the ceiling, up to which the windows stretch from the floor. Furnishings are subtly retro in style, and tables are dressed classically with white linen and polished glassware that gleams in the light-filled space.
The chef here, Lousie McCimmon, is a Leiths School of Food and Wine alumnus, ans had been heading up the kitchen here since this branch of Harvey Nichols opened in 2008. As well as the a la carte (where starters range from about £8 to £9, and mains start at £23), there’s a set menu (available for lunch Monday and Tuesday, and dinner Tuesday to Friday) which at the minute offers three courses and a cocktail for £22. Pretty agreeable, no?
A concoction of Bombay Sapphire, tonic, ginger, mint and lime was the lubrication of choice (the alternative from the set menu was a Grey Goose vodka number, with soda and elderflower liqueur), and led into starters of cheese panna cotta, and courgette with pea and lemon.
The Stichelton panna cotta looked almost dessert-like, topped with a light raspberry dressing that spilled down the sides, and sat next to roasted slices of nectarine. The sweet, slightly tart dressing – which also gave the plate a punch of colour – cut through the luxuriously textured panna cotta, while the nectarines worked really nicely both with the creamy cheese and garnish of bitter leaves.
The courgette came in ribbons, both rolled up and stuffed with soft cheese, and lolling over bright green peas, dressed with lemon and mint. The summery flavours were fresh and delicate, with each component allowed to shine.
Next, strips of slow-cooked pork belly – crispy skinned but meltingly soft – were accompanied by curls of puffy cracking and green beans. A peach and radicchio salsa was spooned over the plate, and lifted the flavour and texture of the rich, lardy meat. Meanwhile, the aubergine salad was a great surprise, with the hero vegetable appearing in three guises; as soft, flavourful roasted flesh, lightly battered and fried slices, and deeply smoky babaganoush. Thin blocks of halloumi added salty kicks, while a sweet, earthy beetroot hummus lent itself as an accomplice to all it's plate fellows.
If you like, you can whack a cheese course in at this point for an extra four quid, but we ran head first into dessert. A blueberry and lemon curd roulade was far lighter than anticipated, with a crumbly meringue crust and the citrus bold enought to cut through the cream. The silky chocolate parfait was equally as delicate, and benefitted from a moreish apricot and jasmine compote.
The food showed real light-handedness and a confident knowledge of flavour, while avoiding that feeling of fussiness. For £22, and repping really great quality, this has to be one of the best-value evening menus on the go in the city at the moment. It's only sticking around until 31 August though. Just sayin'...
SECOND FLOOR RESTAURANT , Harvey Nichols, 27 Philadelphia Street, Quakers Friars, Cabot Circus, Bristol, BS1 3BZ; 0117 916 8898;