Review: Suncraft

by Jess Carter

21 December 2018

We find an antidote to even the greyest of days in this little Gloucester Road diner

A long weekend in Ireland had left me with a bit of a hangover. Not a boozy one, mind – more of a culinary one. See, I’d spent the whole trip comfort eating carbs in temperatures which were brisk, to say the least. And if any of said carbs just so happened to be deep-fried then, well, all the better. By day two, I noticed a bit of a racing heart, and by day three I’d ascertained that my heightened BPM wasn’t, in fact, down to the rugged, beardy fiddle player I’d been watching go full throttle. 

Lucky, then, that it was Suncraft I was heading to for lunch the day after I touched back down in Bristol. Having opened at the end of September, this is sister venue to The Gallimaufry, which sits on the opposite side of the road. It was opened with the intention of creating an ethically minded, plant-based offering that promises all the speed and convenience of more traditional fast food – and a whole lot more nutritional value. Meals start at around £6, making them just as affordable, too. 

The sunshine-yellow exterior, with its colourful, hand-painted signage and large windows, will be just as magnetising on a bright summer’s day as it was against the drab backdrop of a late-November, yellow-weather-warning-bestowed afternoon, I’d imagine. 

Inside you’ll find more of the same cheeriness. Plants hang on walls that show off raw stone, rustic reclaimed-wood panelling and pastel green paint. Pendant lights with yellow shades hang above the two largest light-wood tables, while smaller tables for two – made from recycled yoghurt pots – line the bench seating down one side of the restaurant. There’s in-house hydroponics on show too, which was set up with Grow Bristol to allow the kitchen to produce some of its own edible greenery. 

Service is relaxed and unfussy – it’s an order-at-the-bar kind of affair. So we did just that, and grabbed a bottle of cold pressed Korean pear, apple and raspberry juice (which comes in reusable glass bottles), and a nicely light, fruity and smoky-tasting kombucha to drink while we were at it. 

Heading up the kitchen is Jilisa Barnaby – formerly of vegetarian restaurant 1847 – and she’s curated an offering that’s globally diverse and happily wallet-friendly. The Caribbean ital stew (£7.50) was thick and creamy with coconut milk, and contained a jumble of chunky vegetables. On top was crunchy battered okra, and a mound of plump, almost sticky rice poked out from beneath. 

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian lentil stew with chilli jam and pepper salsa (£7.50) was topped with rings of mellow-tasting pickled red onion, whose sweet and sour characteristics made it the perfect buddy to the earthy lentils, lifting them really nicely without being too sharp. An injera crowned the lot – this is a traditional pancake of sorts, which is made with teff flour and fermented (a bit like sourdough), to give it an almost spongy texture and slight tang. 

A gochujang stew (£6.50) was hot with spice and topped with cucumber namul. Hiding in the orange sauce were Korean rice cakes (plump and glutinous but still light), tofu and kimchi. That heat, along with the rice, made it nice and filling, and its fiery poke was extinguished well by the fresh and fruity kohlrabi, carrot and green mango salad (£4). 

Yes, there are plant-based desserts here; they’re a lot lighter and more savoury than your average dairy-aided puds, but manage to detour around Naff City – home to many of the plant-based puds I’ve had. A pecan and cinnamon stuffed pancake with gooey black sesame ice cream (£4.50) was packed with comforting toasted flavours, and a carrot kheer (a bit like a rice pudding) was topped with fresh-tasting coconut yoghurt and slivers of pistachio and almond (£3.50). 

The food here really feels nourishing, without being preachy. It’s wholesome – although not in an eye-roll-inducing, sweet-potato-brownie, clean-eating-circa-2015 kind of way – and really satisfying. And there’s plenty of beer and wine (the latter from award-winning local natural wine specialist Billings and Briggs) on the go as well. So don’t feel like you need to polish that halo or dig out the hessian before swinging by for a quick lunch or drawn-out dinner. Come as you are – carnivores and all. 

Quote 'Crumbs' and save 20% off your takeaway order when you collect. Valid Jan and Feb 2019 only. The venue retain the right to remove or amend the promotion at their discretion.  

Main photo by Hattie Ellis