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!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Juniper Restaurant - Cotham Road South, Bristol

Embracing the final year of my twenties was always going to be difficult to swallow and thus, an appropriately edible birthday gift from the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) had been thoughtfully designed to sweeten the otherwise bitter aroma of one’s descent into the dirty thirties! A touch dramatic perhaps and yet, a Living Social voucher entitling the BFF and I to a three-course extravaganza from Juniper’s à la carte menu, (with a glass of wine each to boot), would no doubt constitute the kind of dining experience that only a 'special' occasion of this nature could ensue.

Date and Time: Tuesday 30 July 2013, 19:30
Name of Establishment: Juniper Restaurant*
Location: 21 Cotham Road South, Bristol
Reason for Visit: A birthday treat from (and with) the BFF…

Juniper is a homely, intimately arranged (and largely plum-coloured) space with tables for two nestled within each and every nook and cranny There is an unmistakable sense that this establishment could serve as one's home from home whereby, with a regular following, it ultimately has community at its core. Its style appropriately compliments its ambiance which is friendly and welcoming - lending to the establishment a first-rate level of service which extended way beyond the booking process and into the evening itself; an evening where nothing at all appeared too much trouble. Sipping our complimentary vino (a Spanish Macabeo if you're interested), the BFF and I perused the menu which head chef Nick Kleiner describes as ‘contemporary’ and ‘eclectic’; intending to balance ‘bold and fresh flavours’ in order to deliver consistently first-rate fare. To that end, I chose to start with the crab cakes (normally £6.95) which had been tastefully-arranged upon a young leaf salad. Crushed almonds provided an earthy undercurrent amidst an otherwise powerfully flavoured dish whilst a liberal drizzle of saffron aioli added a notable vibrancy; both in terms of its exquisite flavour and visual appeal. The BFF opted for the home-made scotch egg which had been plated alongside an ample portion of buttery mash and, she enthused, ‘an incredibly tasty piccalilli’ – she also mentioned that the egg itself had proved the perfect consistency; melt-in-the-mouth moreishness!
Main courses followed promptly; for me, the supreme of free-range chicken (usually £15.95) which was juicy and expertly executed. Here, the main event had been coupled with a sun dried tomato stuffing which, combined with sporadic dollops of onion jam and flecked with chorizo, filled the palate with its sweet-salt deliciousness. Potatoes dauphinoise completed the bill, proving rich and creamy – perhaps a touch too rich and creamy however, due to the mushroom and tarragon sauce that had been liberally applied to the meat which you could say. had a somewhat comparable disposition. The BFF reported similar findings, opting for the rump of lamb (normally £18.95) which she admitted was really rather hard-going given that it had been slathered with a spinach and feta cream sauce which, albeit, very tasty, was really rather heavy, (especially in light of the meat’s indulgent accompaniment; the aforementioned potatoes dauphinoise)..She also pointed out that the lamb was disappointingly over-cooked which was a real shame as the dish was otherwise beautifully presented and generously portioned. 
When it came to the all-important dessert selection process, the BFF was quick of the mark; opting for the chocolate truffle pot (usually £6.50); yet dismaying in the knowledge that the peanut butter and salted caramel ice cream had expired well before our arrival. Powering through with home-made vanilla as a ‘pleasant’ substitute as well as a side-serving of summer berry compote, she praised the ensemble, commenting that the chocolate was of a good quality; its subtle bitterness suitably complimenting the zing of the fruit. I’m afraid that on my part, the ice cream situation was very much a deal breaker, meaning that my typical choice of pudding (which is altogether dominated by its chocolate content) was overthrown in favour of the warm blueberry bakewell tart, (also £6.50). Here, a whole tartlet had been served with merely a smudge of banoffee ice cream which, although fantastically flavoursome, just wasn’t plentiful enough – thus, I quickly missed the contrast between the cool, sweetness of the ice cream and the warmth of the tart’s sharp-noted filling.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed the laid-back appeal of Juniper – the drive to deliver locally-sourced, organic fare of an exemplary standard was evident from start to finish and, on the large part, achieved. It could be argued that some of the dishes were a little too complex for their own good (you really can have too much of a good thing, you know) and yet, one cannot deny the imagination behind their intricate construction. Therefore, if we return to the ethos of the menu and specifically, the concept of balance, we could argue that this still needs a little work – that said, the attention to detail, both in and out of the kitchen coupled with a genuine passion for hearty, innovatively assembled cuisine really is reason enough to keep coming back for more. I’d suggest that overall, given its calibre, the menu is reasonably priced but certainly reflects the ‘special occasion territory’ that we started this review with. As a result, this isn’t an establishment I’d regularly indulge in and yet, in the event of said special occasion, its fair to say that it would most certainly be in the running.
And now for the second opinion…
The BFF gave Juniper a rating of 7/10 and in three words,commented that there was 'just something missing'...