Sunday, 12 February 2012

Souk Kitchen - delivers every time

Chef @soukkitchen
 I'll come clean now, the Souk Kitchen is my favourite restaurant in Bristol. I get excited at the thought of eating there. Even when I'm actually eating there I'm excited about visiting again.

Me and the missus ate there on Friday. We had booked early, 6.30pm, as we were going straight from work but we weren't the first there. That's a good sign. We'd booked in the expectation of ordering from the specials board, but then we got the menu and choices on there were just too tempting.

We started, as we do, with dips and flatbreads. We had these the last time we went and would have been happy having the same again. But clearly the kitchen like to make sure they keep offering something new. These little plates are so moreish. We had white bean and feta which was soothing and pleasingly salty, split pea and chermoula which tasted like a fine indian dhal and carrot and rosewater topped with pomegranate seeds - their sour sweetness accentuating the savoury carrot and balancing out the heady rosewater. To be honest, they're worth the trip themselves.

And so to mains. This is where I get greedy. There's too much on offer on the mezze menu for it to be possible for me to choose one main dish. I love being able to order 3 or 4 dishes which can offer a wide range of tastes and textures. And, in this instance, a very, very pleasant surprise.

Fried cauliflower with almonds
 First up, Fried cauliflower with almonds, sweet onions, sultanas and tahini. I would never, never normally order a dish of cauliflower. Ever. I'm so glad I did. It becomes a completely new experience here. The almonds, onions, sultana and tahini all seem to accentuate the nutty, sweet and slightly sour notes tastes of the cauliflower, elevating it to heights completely unexpected of a vegetable grown in the flatlands of Lincolnshire.

Lambs liver
 Next, Pan fried lambs liver with cumin salt and pomegranate onions. That instantly sounds appealing. I'm a fan of offal, but would never think to serve it like this. Which is obviously the reason I enjoy going to Souk Kitchen so much. Again it's easy to see the chef's working with sweet, sour and salty tastes to work with the main ingredient. Very tasty.

Pumpkin kibbeh with zhoug
 Now we start getting into unfamiliar and exciting territory. Pumpkin kibbeh with zhoug yoghurt. If you've ever watched Masterchef, and given that you'll only read this blog if you're into food so I'll take it that you have, then you'll have heard Gregg Wallace describe food as being 'like a cuddle'. That's the first thing that sprung to my mind when I tasted this. It was full of comforting, reassuring warmth. Like being tucked up on the settee under a duvet when you're 7 years old and have a cold. Like a father's arm around your shoulders. This dish just says "Everything's going to be alright". There's some food ponce creeping in here, isn't there?

Haloumi and quince
 The Char-grilled haloumi, roast quince and honey turned me into a complete food ponce. I might even have said to the missus that eating this made me feel humble. I'm not rolling in cash (certainly not now my offer on a flat has been accepted - woohoo!) but I've eaten occassionally in 'starred' places: Michael Caines' Priory in Bath; The Pony and Trap at Chew Magna. This haloumi dish would not be out of place in either, in my opinion.

This is what I love about eating out. Being able to sit down in a restaurant and confidently pick things that are unfamiliar safe in the knowledge that whatever you order is going to be good.

The missus did the complete opposite to me. She ordered a chicken tagine. To be precise it was Chicken, preserved lemon, chestnut and apricot tagine with rose couscous and onion confit. It was presented in a topped tagine which allowed a waft of wonderful aromas before being revealed by the waiter.

Chicken tagine
 A hearty, wholesome dish. Well spiced so that we could taste all the individual ingredients but which delivered a taste greater than the sum of its parts. Clever cooking. The rose couscous which came with it was some of the nicest couscous I've had.

When we evetually left and headed home I didn't mind that it would take us about an hour and half to get home. Or that some of the time was spent walking in the freezing cold. I'd make the same journey time and time again, and can only suggest that you make the effort to go there as well.

Thinking of eating out in Bristol, read more reviews of Bristol Restaurants.

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