February 2018 marks the 7th anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Runcible Spoon, Nine Tree Hill – Bristol

With a degree in English Literature, (albeit achieved a good seven years previously) it is admittedly a rather poor show that I required the use of Wikipedia to familiarise myself with the term 'runcible' and the fact that this nonsense word, invented by English author and poet, Edward Lear, is used in some of his greatest works – most memorably; The Owl and the Pussy-cat...I respect a little originality when it comes to naming an establishment, especially when the elements within reflect its intended appeal. I'd heard that The Runcible Spoon had this in the bag and thus, it's fair to say that I jumped at the chance to join a friend who had chosen this venue as the starting point for her birthday celebrations...

Date and Time: Saturday 14th January 2012, 20:30
Name of Establishment: The Runcible Spoon*
Location: 3 Nine Tree Hill, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Invitation to participate in the foodie-focused birthday celebrations of a friend

Described as a workers' owned establishment as well as the product of a glorious union between three Bristol-based chefs and one dedicated gardener, The Runcible Spoon is certainly not to be criticised for lacking character – on the contrary, this is a space crammed with curiosities. As a result, mis-matched cutlery, randomly placed ornamental objects, sporadic candlelight and napkins that, in a former life, probably constituted somebody's Grandma's tea-towel collection all feature beneath an over-arching theme of offbeat charm! This also extended to a soundtrack of Christmas Carols, (time to change the CD perhaps!) and an overall ambiance which leaned towards being ever-so-slightly sweaty; the condensation created by the high-energy kitchen steaming up its surroundings and impregnating one's clothes with the smell of home-cooking! And so, descending the rickety wooden staircase to the rabbit's-warren of intimately-arranged furniture below, our party of eight attempted to shoe-horn ourselves around our table – yes, this is not the place to bring the extended family and certainly not ideal if you're looking for a night out with your rugby team! Using the facilities brought about an equally tentative ascent back up to the ground floor; to a tiny room behind a creaky door which, containing a single toilet and sink ensemble, had been wall-papered in its entirety with maps of the UK...random yes, but where else could you trace the route from Bristol to Sheffield whilst spending a penny?!
Moving on to the menu which, facilitating wild and often foraged foods as well as sourcing the best from local, small-scale growers, encompasses a firm focus on seasonal produce and offers a select, ever-changing line-up of well-balanced and healthy dishes. And, reasonably priced at £15 for two courses and £20 for three, (payable in cash only you may wish to note), it gave us all the more reason to indulge – for, as the only venue in town to actually reduce its prices after the festive season yet remain loyal to the concept of quality over quantity, it would have been silly not to make the most of it! Speaking of which, first up came thick slices of home-made bread alongside a complimentary starter of creamy celeriac soup. The latter had been expertly-seasoned and, served in a dainty teacups, proved a nice touch; amply whetting our appetites for the courses ahead. Due to this pre-starter starter, I opted to launch straight into the main event, but of the dishes that others had chosen, the Pork Rillette seemed unanimously well-received given its attractive presentation and tasty accompaniments of crackling and kohlrabi remoulade. On to main courses and it transpired that our entire company had chosen the carnivorous option as opposed to the Portobello Mushroom and Garlic Tart. And so, eight (thoughtfully plated) portions of Braised Salt Marsh Lamb later, our verdicts were articulated and, on my part, noted. Sat on a medley of cannellini beans, diced vegetables and (disappointingly soggy) greens, the lamb was topped with a flavoursome salsa verde which, for me, was the only redeeming factor of this dish; its fresh, palate-cleansing quality offsetting the fatty tendencies of the lamb (which I’m afraid to say was ever-present in my particular cut) and lending to the overall arrangement a little light-relief given its otherwise bland and rather heavy attributes.
Whilst we’re exploring negatives, I feel that I must address the service, (or lack of it). Although I understand the concept of a co-op arrangement whereby perhaps front-of-house duties are not integral to the collective skill-set of the workforce, I thought that the customer service left little to be desired. Our particular server conveyed an uninterested and increasingly aloof presence, barely cracking a smile and, as well as ignoring certain requests that we made, failing entirely to check whether the dishes we had ordered had been received to our satisfaction – a real shame.

That said, dessert was a triumph! The choice of either a mincemeat and almond tart or cherry trifle divided the group somewhat and both, it seemed, were equally enjoyed! I opted for the tart which had caught my eye as soon as I walked through the door – quite literally given that it sat steaming on a work surface just inside, having been recently removed from the oven. Although the crust was arguably a little dense, I was impressed with its subtle spiciness as well as the wonderfully fruity aromas that came through in bursts; further enhanced by the warmth it had retained having been freshly-baked. The creamy custard, flavoured with vanilla pod, finished what I considered an immensely enjoyable pud; reminiscent of the festive season and perfect for a frosty winter's evening – yum! Furthermore, drinks were incredibly reasonable and although vino had been decanted into small tumblers (which although suitably unconventional is, for me, a real pet-hate...yes yes, I'm considering applying for the 'grumpy old' series any day now!) was well-sourced and of a good quality. Local beers and ciders matched the intended identity of the establishment and constituted a refreshing change from the usual bottled imports so readily available elsewhere! However, the highlight was indubitably the three-pound price tag of a G&T – just marvellous!
In conclusion, my experience of The Runcible Spoon was a little hit and miss – I’m not sure that my dining companions were quite as disappointed but I certainly will not be rushing back. For whilst I admire the ethos of this establishment and appreciate its position and appeal amongst Bristol’s cosmopolitan community, I’m afraid, for me, it lacked the finesse to warrant a return visit. The intrigue of the Runcible Spoon analogy is all very well but I think that, given the choice, I prefer the gleam of a polished knife and fork!

And now for the second opinion...
A fellow diner gave The Runcible Spoon a rating of 7/10 and described the experience as 'shambolic but atmospheric!'


1 comment:

  1. unfortunately most co-ops use their hippy ethic as a reason to be completely un professional which is why I avoid them. Mis matched charity shop fittings were ironically cool once when The Eagle in Farringdon pioneered it in the 80's. But now it just irritates me. Bad service and a lack of warmth and genuine caring for customers is unforgivable. The absence of professionalism renders the shabby-chic merely shabby. I've sen it so many times before. (including the canteen and poco). Shame.