I couldn’t believe that it had been three whole Months since the last meet-up of the collective inhabitants from my former workplace; three months in which I was supposed to be locating an appropriate outlet for our next foodie foray. You may recall my anxiety at having to cater for a large party of varying tastes and juxtaposed preferences and as such, I again leant towards ‘the safe bet’; booking a table at ZERODEGREES Microbrewery; a venue which not only offers a contemporary line-up of hand-crafted beers but also an extensive menu of pizzas, pastas and grills that I’d envisaged were bound to hit the spot...
Date and Time: Wednesday 13th June 2012, 19:30
Name of Establishment: ZERODEGREES Microbrewery*
Location: 53 Colston Street, Bristol
Reason for visit: Co-worker chow-down
As the flagship branch of a four-part franchise, Bristol's version of ZEROZEGREES is described as a pairing of 'substance and style', effectively shaping the functionality of its large and lofty space to create an edgy, almost futuristic feel. Here, pipelines gleam overhead and sizeable steel vats facilitate an intriguing focal point whilst encompassing the USP of the venue itself. Channelling a sense of factory finesse, this is an establishment that embodies its surroundings and in fact, I'd noted how the mechanics of the brewery had been incorporated within the historic presence of Bristol’s Christmas Steps whilst climbing towards the neon blue wording above the main entrance from the back-streets below. It also lends to the area, a example of sustainability; its wooden-cladding and mish-mash of building materials providing a notable contrast to the drab concrete that is commonplace within its proximity. Plus, perhaps reflecting its somewhat detached existence, as well as the cool ambiance of its interior, service is really rather aloof. Yes, although our table awaited us, we were not rushed to take our seats, (despite how busy the restaurant had become) – in fact, we ended up asking when it was appropriate to do so, thinking that we’d perhaps been forgotten altogether. This seemed to set a precedent for the remainder of the evening whereby the blurred line between laid-back and just plain slack meant having to campaign for attention and thus, enduring an excruciating wait between courses. Furthermore, we found that high ceilings and a well-attended space equalled a distinct imbalance in terms of the acoustics – in short, there were moments when we couldn't hear ourselves think!
When it came to the menu, the premise of modern European favourites transcended to four main sections; pizza, pasta, mussels and grills. I opted for the Sweet and Spicy Italian Sausage pizza (£9.25) which I'm afraid to say appeared rather lacking upon first look; the roasted mixed peppers proving the prominent feature and the meat content, distinctively sparse. Having been cooked in a traditional stone-hearth oven, I was expecting a little more from the base which was decidedly average to say the least – comprising the likes of an unsuitably soggy centre and edges that bordered on charred! Others were rather more impressed with the dishes they had chosen, the mussels in particular (at £14.50 a kilo), were reportedly fresh, generously portioned and intricately flavoured; in this case with lemongrass, ginger, coconut milk, coriander and green curry paste – yum! Now, when it comes to dessert, I'm a person who likes to consider one's options prior to the onset of the visit at hand – subsequently, I was relatively miffed at the distinct lack of an online dessert menu; especially as, for me, this can function as the ‘make-or-break’ course – not to mention determine whether I indulge in a starter. As a result, I held out for what constituted a rather mediocre chocolate fudge cake which, although was rather prettily plated - sporting a latticed, spun-sugar style crown - was disappointingly dry; the microwaved middle layer of frosting not quite saving its unpleasantly heavy composition. Other dishes were perhaps rather better received, an eton mess type ensemble proving the star of the show with its well-executed balance of sweet versus tart.
As a microbrewery, it seemed almost customary to accompany our dinnertime decadences with one of the venue’s indigenous beers and with so many to choose from, (from black lager to wheat ale and fruit beers), it is easy to complement each and every dish with a suitable brew. And, what better to cut through a (supposedly) meaty pizza than the crisp zest of the house Pilsner with its fruity lime notes and 100% Czech Saaz content. Not only that, ZERODEGREES' Pilsner is without doubt a personal favourite be it reminiscent of the great British Summertime and the festivals that grace our fair city when the sun opts to make an entrance. Yes, although I’ll never completely abandon my 'Pinot' habit, there’s potential to make a beer-drinker of me yet!
In conclusion, a reasonably-priced and enjoyable evening within an addictively buzzy atmosphere – although the cuisine didn’t wow me, I would certainly return for drinks; perhaps even frequent the outside space, weather permitting! As a brewery, it’s unsurprising that the quality of the beverages take centre stage and yet, the fresh, innovative content of the menu seemed to promise rather more than it fared in the flesh - if we return to the initial description of ‘substance and style’, I'd suggest that just as the latter has been achieved and then some, there are leaps and bounds required for the substance element to function on a comparable level...something, I'm sure, that isn't beyond the capabilities of the brains behind what is an otherwise appealing venue.
And now for the second opinion…
One of my dining companions gave ZERODEGREES a rating of 7/10 and in three words, suggested that it, ‘could’ve been better!’