by Jess Carter

24 November 2017

This canteen-cum-restaurant has hit the nail on the head when it comes to chilled-out, social dining...

At the beginning of this year, the spot that Dela now occupies was a pretty blank canvas – one of the many spaces inside the red-brick Victorian factory building that’s now Mivart Studios. Used by a heap of Bristol creatives – from designers to musicians – the building has been in need of a good canteen for some time, but it’s got way more than that in this cool, relaxe, social venue.

It’s the creation of mates Lara Lindsay and Mike Orme – who both have backgrounds in the food industry – and has been in the making for a good couple of years. During that time, the pair hosted several popular pop-up events at Hart’s Bakery, and spent months transforming the empty space into a dining area and commercial kitchen.

Dela is Swedish for ‘share’ – and from that information you can probably make a decent few assumptions about the restaurant. Firstly, of course, that the dishes are made for sharing: think mixed boards and bowls of food to pass around the table. Secondly, that there’s some proper Scandi influence going on. And that’s not just in the sharing style of the dishes, but also in the ingredients themselves. The menu is packed with veg (there was only one meat and a couple of fish options when we went); you’ll notice a few pickled offerings; and there’s a clear waste-not-want-not mentality, with dishes such as top-to-tail cauliflower on offer.

The décor, too, is classic Scandinavian in style, but with a bit of a Bristolian edge. The minimalist canteen-like space has white painted brick walls, lots of natural wood and plenty of greenery. Far from feeling a bit cavernous and cold, though, which venues in these kinds of buildings often can, the dining area has a softer, warmer edge.

The wine list focuses on organic, natural and biodynamic varieties, with a handful each of whites and reds, while beers come from local breweries – Arbor, Wiper and True, and Good Chemistry, for instance.

A board of sourdough and rye breads (£8) arrives with warm, thick cauliflower purée, and claret-coloured beetroot and butterbean hummus, and is followed closely by a bowl of tempura cauliflower stems with aioli (£4). The latter is especially good, with the light, super-crisp, and very well seasoned batter making it a particularly moreish snack – and one that doesn’t stick around for long.

No matter, though, as tempura leaves arrive with the top-to-tail cauliflower board, which also includes charred steak and smooth purée. Each part of the vegetable, including the usually disposed-of trimmings, earns its place at the table  through its flavour, as opposed to novelty.

Next come the hasselback potatoes (£14). These baby spuds – which wear tasty, seasoned, golden jackets around their soft, silky insides – share a bowl with slices of griddled green and yellow courgette, generous dollops of creamy, mild goats’ curd, and a good peppering of earthy seeds.

Wafts of pungent Ogleshield make their way down the table in waves as the charred hispi cabbage (£4.50) arrives, steeped in a cheesy, buttery sauce, greasy in the most satisfying way.

The slow roast pig’s cheek (£5.50) is the sole meat dish on the menu – although we only notice the fact in passing, and don’t want for more. The soft, pulled meat is coated in thick, rich, tomatoiness – making it rather like a ragu – that’s eagerly scooped up with fresh bread and shovelled into busy gobs. Really great stuff.

I only manage to grab a spoonful of the belting fig frangipane tart and plum compote (£5) before it’s all gone, but make sure I do better with the tarragon-poached pear (£5), which comes surrounded by gently spiced ricotta and a pleasantly contrasting white wine reduction.

Confession time: I actually went here two nights in a row (an example of my terrible planning skills, but in this case one that had a happy result), of which this was the second. My initial visit made me a fan – the concept of the menu and the style of the food really did it for me – and the second reassured me of Dela’s consistency and quality. I really like this place, and won’t pretend not to be envious of the Easton locals who live right near it.

(photos by Ben Pryor)