What: A vegetable-centric small plates restaurant in Bristol’s buzzing Cargo shipping container development. Root’s premise is broadly similar to the recently closed and already missed Grain Store - it’s not vegetarian, though those that avoid meat and fish are well looked after, but vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts are invariably the star of the show.
Who: High profile Bristol chef Josh Eggleton. The restaurant replaces his Chicken Shed concept, which was one of the first restaurants to open in the Harbourside development back in late 2015. The venue was far from being a disaster but endured a shaky start as Cargo bedded in. Eggleton also says it proved difficult to align a fast, low cost fried chicken restaurant with high welfare products. Root’s head chef is Rob Howell, formerly the head chef of Eggleton’s Michelin star gastropub The Pony & Trap. Meg Oakley, who has also worked at the Chew Magna pub, will join general manager Domhnaill Barnes to oversee front of house. Root is a collaboration with Bristol-based food organisation Eat Drink Bristol Fashion, of which Eggleton is a founding member.
The vibe: Most of the fixtures and fittings from Chicken Shed remain, including the rather covetable porcelain egg boxes that cover the kitchen and bar counter. Bottle green tiles now line the lower portion of the walls and the venue has been given a fresh lick of paint, but that’s about it. These subtle tweaks have given the space a marginally less casual feel, but the restaurant remains a stripped back affair.
The food: The pedigree of the team shines through with creative, finely-tuned dishes that belie the casual surrounds. At £5 to £7 a throw, Eggleton’s plates are surprisingly generous too, with most of the dishes considerably larger than one would normally expect at a small plates joint. There are a dozen dishes plus three meat and fish dishes. The latter are confined to the very bottom of the menu where one would normally expect to find the sides, an effective way of hammering home Root’s philosophy.
On the menu: Plates include grilled marrow with pine nuts, parmesan and preserved lemon; gnocchi with parmesan and courgette; tenderstem broccoli with rainbow chard, lardo and anchovy; and beetroot with hazelnut, blackberry and seaweed (pictured). On our visit, the meat and fish dishes were pork jowl with jus; lamb sweetbreads with brown butter; and cured mackerel with elderberries.
Root cause: Eggleton and team's beetroot, hazelnut, blackberry and seaweed dish
And another thing: The project is being linked with the Sustainable Restaurant Association and is designed to raise awareness of the environmental and health benefits that come with eating less meat and more vegetables. “People should eat less meat,” says Eggleton. “We do creative things with vegetables at The Pony and grow a lot of our own, so why not bring that to a more casual restaurant?” Why not indeed.