by Jess Carter
07 January 2019
Jessica Carter checks out the third restaurant from this South West group, which opened in Bristol last summer
If long winter nights are good for one thing, it’s ducking into cosy candlelit restaurants from dark streets for a good feed. And to those who are now thinking, ‘but you can do that in the summer, too’, you can’t if you like to eat at 6pm. À la me. Daylight kind of kills that vibe.
Pintxo on Whiteladies Road has the ingredients for great atmosphere – it’s all dark moody blues, bare brick and rustic Mediterranean feels. One side of the dining area is covered in vintage-look ceramic tiles, inherited from Venetian restaurant Polpo, which vacated last January, and is lined with tufted banquette seating. A blackboard above is chalked with a guide to sherry styles.
Speaking of which, the sherries here are plentiful, this being a Spanish Basque-inspired joint an’ all. Although, you’re not expected to be as up on your shez as our Mediterranean cousins; on the drinks list they’re helpfully accompanied by tasting notes and suggested food matches.
Despite the stylish set up inside, there’s an underlying homely, comforting feel when it comes to the food – which is served in those classic terracotta tapas dishes with matching earthenware cups and jugs for water.
Marinated olives (£2.50) come with tiny pearl onions and cornichons, and the pan con tomate (£3.50) involves a basket of several round slices of lightly toasted, garlic-smeared bread and a bowl of tomato sauce, of course spiked with plenty more of the pungent bulb.
This is rustic Spanish food as we’ve come to know and love it on these shores – hearty and big on flavour. Think bold seasoning, richness and, of course, a whole load o’ garlic. It’s the kind of place you just have to go all in at, no polite avoidance of breath-spoiling ingredients or using cutlery for what could better be eaten with fingers. This is social food that comes without the constraints of standard etiquette.
Chestnut mushrooms cooked with yet more garlic and white wine (alright, perhaps waking up breathing fumes that could wilt a daisy was partly our own fault following all these menu choices) were pungent and peppery. Albóndigas (£6), or meatballs in tomato sauce, came on the recommendation of our waitress and were lean and juicy, slathered in a rich, gently spicy tomato sauce that had been reduced to concentrate its flavour and make it thick enough to really cling to the meat.
‘Pintxo’ (pronounced pin-cho, just in case the question was in your mind) is the name that’s given to the little snacks that are served in bars in parts of Spain (or sometimes as mini appetisers, to ease you into a meal proper). But, to be fit for purpose here, they’re portioned up, usually into bite-sized pieces that can be eaten with your fingers. The pintxo de alcachofa (£6) were of this ilk. Little mouthfuls of soft artichoke were wrapped in ribbons of courgette and arrived sat on a bed of olive tapenade, the whole lot drizzled with good olive oil.
The croquetas came in three forms: cauliflower, jamón (listed among the specials) and spider crab with saffron. We chose the latter (£7) and were served five crunchy, crumbed parcels, which contained a loose, silky filling of cheese and sweet crab.
We’d stuck with the sherry throughout dinner – choosing our lubricants from the specialist menu of varieties sourced from a local importer. Working our way from dry (a light Manzanilla, which had subtle whispers of saltiness that made it a great companion to those olives especially) to slightly sweeter, heavier varieties, we hung onto the recommendations of the team, who seemed to really know their fortifieds.
We’d been going for comfort tonight, and weren’t about to swivel from those principles for dessert. Warm churros (£5.50) were coated in a heavy dusting of cinnamon sugar and came with a terracotta pot of chocolate sauce for a-dunkin’. I’m not the biggest fan of churros – too many over-fried, slickly sweet incarnations at fairgrounds and festivals – but polished these ones off willingly.
Punters are encouraged to swing by (no booking needed) as they would in the slow-paced, laid-back kind of joints on the Continent that this place is inspired by. It was a little quiet for a Friday, perhaps – there’s no shortage of Spanish-focused competition in this end of town, after all – but, nonetheless, it’s a really good shout for a relaxed drink with a bar snack or a full-on dinner session.
Pintxo, 50 Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2NH; 0117 973 1535;