Though just a hundred metres or so from the manic traffic around the Arches, that distance makes all the difference at Greens.
It’s cool and calm on a recent Thursday night, half a dozen tables occupied and the garden door open. The dark grey walls and deep wood furniture are chic and modern without being wildly avant-garde: this is a restaurant without gimmicks, where the food is allowed to speak for itself.
Seated at a table in the back portion of the restaurant, we peruse the comprehensive wine menu, plumping for the Casa Elena merlot (£4.65 per glass), before approaching the difficult task of choosing our food.
My companion is a vegetarian – “No problem,” I was assured on the phone when I booked the table – and he is supremely well-catered for when the friendly member of front of house staff brings over the separate vegetarian menu.
She is the only person front of house tonight, and is run off her feet as the tables begin to fill. She apologises each time it takes her a long time to return to us to take our order, but never loses her composure, even when scooting between the restaurant and the kitchen every time the service bell rings.
We choose to share the ricotta stuffed courgette flower with fig and heritage tomato salad (£8.50), and are just finishing off some crusty bread and oil when it arrives piping hot and beautifully presented.
The kitchen have mistakenly prepared the meat version, so I am forced to demolish all the serrano ham and beautifully ripe melt-in-the-mouth figs, that lend a delicious sweet and savoury balance to the dish. The ricotta is the star of the dish – a generous serving that squishes satisfyingly out of the sides of a courgette flower covered with a feather-light batter. We scrape up the last morsel, wishing we’d ordered two portions.
My salmon fishcakes (£14) arrive hot and fragrant, and the side dish of dauphinoise potatoes is still bubbling away at the edge, fresh from the oven. It has all been timed to absolute perfection by the experienced team in the kitchen, led by Martin Laurentowicz.
The fishcakes have a crunchy crust of breadcrumbs that is lovely with a good squeeze of lemon. The salmon filling is soft without being mushy, and is beautiful in its simplicity – the fresh ingredients speak for themselves. The other elements on the plate are far more manipulated: the Caesar salad hits a bit of a bum note as it is deconstructed into a lettuce leaf smothered in creamy sauce and too much parmesan, but the vinegary notes of the kohlrabi remoulade complement the fish nicely.
The dauphinoise potatoes are crisp at the edge and oiled without being at all greasy: in their little dish, it is devilishly tempting to just pick up the whole thing and wolf it down with a spoon. Despite the cream and the cheese, they still manage to be light and not overly rich – just delicious, and exactly the right portion size to be left satisfied and happy but not bloated and regretful (and with room for dessert).
There is a marked pause while we wait for our waitress to come back and take our dessert order, and a conversational lull is droned out by the loud hum of the kitchen extractor fan, which is difficult to ignore. There’s no background music in the restaurant tonight – something the atmosphere might be improved by.
But, dessert saves Greens – the Eton mess comes in a glass practically big enough to swim in, with fresh strawberries and light meringue and cream that’s just the right consistency to lick with relish off the back of a spoon. It’s light and not a bit sickly – perfectly balanced, like the rest of the dishes we’ve indulged in tonight.
Gloucester Road might be better known for its Saturday morning shopping and strip of bars, but it’s rapidly developing its own culinary identity as like attracts like. Redlandites are lucky to have such a lovely restaurant on the doorstep.
Greens, 25 Zetland Road, BS6 7AH
0117 924 6437
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