We were in town for a show at the Old Vic and decided to eat at the MYRISTICA Indian restaurant on the corner of Welsh Back mainly because it had just been awarded the prestigious Best Asian Restaurant Award 2013 for Avon and Somerset.
The restaurant has an elegant interior but the subtle touches of décor leave you in no doubt that you can expect a cuisine based in genuine Indian style. I was pleased to find that Amit Lakhani, the owner with a Hindu family background, steers away from the all too ubiquitous Bangladeshi fusion style of dishes which seem to have crowded the restaurant market.
We are always interested in a restaurant’s background, so we got chatting to Amit and took his advice when we ordered our food. He is very proud of his menu which he has designed to bring the diversity of Indian cooking to the table. In his kitchen chefs from top hotels and restaurants in India are at work, concocting dishes with the freshest ingredients.
As a starter I tried and loved the Rabbit Varuval, a South Indian speciality of rabbit meat (off the bone) tossed with onions, chillies, curry leaves and spices. I am always surprised that the English rarely eat rabbit; the meat is lean with a robust consistency and flavour that is ideal for these strongly spiced dishes. My companion praised the corn-fed garlic chicken breast with garlic, crushed peppercorns and mint chutney. As main dish I couldn’t resist the tender fillets of sea bass, marinated with lime juice and served on a succulent bed of spinach puree with pulao rice. My friend’s Dhaba Murgh was delicious and had a story to tell. It is based on a popular rural Indian chicken curry, served by the road sides. It is prepared with onions, tomatoes, hung yoghurt and fresh coriander. Amit has taken this humble dish and turned it into something worthy of its place on his menu. There is a great choice of rice, from delicately flavoured saffron rice to the garlic rice we ordered. The naan filled with coconut was so fluffy and scrumptious that I asked to take a couple home with me.
Another specialty worth well mentioning is that all desserts are made in house, as opposed to the usual ready-mades. This allows for some unusual treats. My companion had the chocolate samosa with a fine saffron ice cream; I decided on the tandoori pineapple, glazed with cinnamon and honey, also served with home-made saffron ice cream (Amit’s dessert chef also makes a delicious pistachio ice cream).
The biggest surprise of our meal was the Indian wine, which seems to be a very well kept secret. ‘They keep the good wines for themselves,’ says Amit. We tried the Sula Shiraz, estate bottled full-bodied, quite strong wine (14%), but then the strong flavours of genuine Indian cooking can easily cope with this wine.
We had a great, unhurried meal which stood us in good stead for our visit to the Old Vic. One can either take lunch, if you are in town for a matinee, or arrive for pre-theatre dining at 6pm. Either will leave plenty of time to eat and get to a performance at the Old Vic which is only a couple of minutes away or the Hippodrome, just five minutes further on. – Astrid Burchardt, November 2013
MYRISTICA, 51 Welsh Back, Bristol BS1 4AN Tel. 0117 927 2277 http://www.myristica.co.uk