The Mint Room is a modern Indian restaurant in the Clifton district of Bristol. If you’ve ever walked up the steep pavement running along Clifton Vale and Goldney Avenue, then you take your seat feeling like you’ve earned a good meal.
And this restaurant certainly delivered on that score.
Yet before entering The Mint Room’s chic but laid-back dining room we caught our breath over cocktails, sitting on one of the red banquettes in ante-room overlooking the bar.
A good place to share food
I didn’t dine alone here. If you enjoy savouring well-blended flavours created by fresh spices and quality ingredients, this restaurant is good option to visit in with close friends — people with whom you don’t mind sharing dishes. That way — or by marching up and down the hill several times, to create an appetite — you can be sure of tasting a handful of The Mint Room’s creations.
With wood flooring, a fireplace featuring exposed brickwork, and planking on walls where framed modern artwork and mirrors hang, The Mint Room dispenses with the obvious desi decor favoured by so many of Britain’s Indian restaurants. Indian cuisine is served, but this is by no means a curry house for late night nosh after a length session on the ale (or cider, given it’s the south-west?).
Should you be inclined to imbibe a pre- or post-meal pint, you can do so at The Lansdown, next door. Cosy in winter, it has a sizable beer garden that looked a fine place to socialise on summer afternoons. I could tell you how I enjoyed a hand-pulled pint of Proper Job, brewed at Cornwall’s St Austell Brewery, but my raptures would undoubtedly lead to a beer-fuelled digression.
Munching on mini-poppodoms
As we nibbled on mini-poppodoms, served on slate in tiny brass tubs, I noted the refined hubbub of conversation and neat design of the metallic lamps hanging above tables. But those were not things I dwelled upon too long. Noting the rate at which the pots of punchy mango chutney and salsa-like tomato-chilli dip were being emptied, I refocused on enjoying my share of the food.
It’s rare to dine at an Indian restaurant in which the menu lists wine suggestions. A wine consultant advises The Mint Room on which pairings work. “It takes the guesswork out of it,” commented my waiter, smiling, when I asked about it.
That, and the chef’s attention to detail in his presentation of each dish, are among several indicators that The Mint Room has aspirations to be so much more than just another Indian restaurant.
The serving staff are attentive and engaging. Importantly, the overall mood of the place is laid-back and positive. It’s a combination that makes enjoying good food easy.
Seafood in the starters
Our starters of desi-style salmon Gravadlax served with Cornish crab, avocado and mango, plus tawa seared scallops prepared with kaffir lime, green chilli sauce and cucumber looked more like the kind of dishes served in fine-dining establishments than typical Indian restaurants.
We then shared soft shelled crab prepared with turmeric and served with mango sauce, a dish I last tucked into in Kerala. Oily, this dish had an intensity of flavour that built gradually.
A selection of mains
It was good to see Chettinad lamb and seafood moillee being served. South Indian dishes are so often missing from the Mughal-influenced menus of Britain’s Indian restaurants.
We selected the dum biryani, topped with bread that was torn open at our table. The topping ensured the rice, green chilli and chunks of chicken beneath were tender and moist. Would pairing it with another chicken dish, labardar, be too similar? No, the combination worked well. The sweetness of a Peshwari naan counteracted and complemented the labardar’s spiciness.
Room for a dessert?
To be honest, it would have been easy leave The Mint Room more than satisfied after our main course.
But a dessert list that included gulab jamun and carrot halwa served with dark chocolate sorbet proved too tempting. In such circumstances a little space can be found in stomachs that would normally be designated full.
A valedictory cocktail set us up nicely for our walk back down the hill. Perhaps we could have rolled?
The Mint Room, in every sense, proved top of the hill.
The Mint Room
The Mint Room is at 12-16 Clifton Road, in Bristol’s Clifton district (tel. +44 (0) 1173 291300). There’s also a branch of The Mint Room at Bath.
Find out more about the attractions of Clifton and rest of the city on the Visit Bristol website.
Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.
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