The wine guy: fresh prince

Andy Clarke looks to a freshly reinvented restaurant, just-released wine and a new TV series to come up with this month’s up-to-the-minute food and drink match…

Ever wondered what I do in my day job that goes a little way towards making me qualified to chat about food and drink here in Crumbs? I’m a food, drink and travel TV producer. This allows me to meet and work with incredible teams of passionate foodies and drink-loving people, and fill myself up along the way. And now and then I get to put Bristol in the spotlight…

Last year I was approached by The British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust to devise a series for talented pro chef Scott Garthwaite, AKA Punk Chef. The man with the bright pink Mohican has been deaf since he was a toddler and happens to make luscious culinary creations for a living. Once Scott and I met, Punk Chef on the Road was born and I was keen to bring him to Bristol to film an episode and feature the city’s world-class vegan scene. In fact, the entire episode is vegan and celebrates some of the best Bristolian plant-based food pioneers.

With Bristol having recently been named by one study as the vegan capital of the world (judged on internet searches for vegan food), it’s sure got a wealth of offerings made purely from plants. This month, I am particularly keen to shout about the newest vegan-friendly restaurant in town.

Caper and Cure was recently unveiled on the busiest corner of Stokes Croft and is the brainchild of Giles Corum and Craig and Susie Summers. Having previously worked together at Wallfish Bistro in Clifton, Giles and Craig left the village and made the leap down the hill to the Croft in 2017 by taking over The Arts House Café.

Their continental coffee house and event space underwent a bit of a makeover last month – new look, new name, fresh menu – and has blossomed into a restaurant with an intimate and welcoming atmosphere, serving locally sourced food and offering a dedicated vegan menu. One of my favourite dishes there is Craig’s slow-roast pumpkin with coconut yoghurt, gremolata, lentils and girolles. It’s a massive nod to autumn and sums up the seasonal way that he likes to cook.

I can’t wait to try my hand at the recipe at home – but what shall I drink with it? This rustic hug of a dish needs to be matched with vegan wine, of course, so one that hasn’t been ‘finished’ with animal products, often used to remove organic impurities.

One great choice for this dish is the latest offering from Ingrid Bates and her team at Somerset-based Dunleavy Vineyards. It’s a sparkling red wine made from the Rondo grape. Red fizz might not be the first thing that springs to mind when dreaming up a match for this delightful plate, but it’s a striking autumnal sip and the gentle bubbles act like a crunch over the hearty lentils. Flavour-wise, the ruby-red wine is full of blackberries which complement the sweet roasted pumpkin, and it has a slightly savoury smokiness due to its 10-month ageing process, which is great with the girolles. The best fizzy red I’ve tasted in a long time.

But if bubbles aren’t your thing, pop up Gloucester Road to Grape and Grind to have a squiz at their wine selection. Amongst the fine bottles you’ll find an organic Sicilian corker, which will go a treat with Craig’s creation. Fabrizio Vella is a winemaker working with indigenous Sicilian grape varieties such as Catarratto. This natural wine has a slightly cloudy, golden look, not unlike a still cider. It has a nutty nose, which complements the lentils and girolles. It’s also hoppy on the palate with great texture and a saline finish, which is perfect with the pumpkin and gremolata. It’s not fruit-driven but has an intriguing streak of acidity which is like a lemon drop on top of that fresh coconut yoghurt.

So, as the nights draw in, and you’re looking to eat and drink vegan, there really is no better place to be plant-based than Bristol, I reckon.

Punk Chef on the Road: Bristol airs on Monday 4 November at 8am on Film4, or 7pm on Together, then again at 10pm. Also, catch it on the BSL Zone;;