I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t planning on reviewing this one but I’m lacking in inspiration and a review seemed like an easy option. The other week, after visiting Wookey Hole, Fraser and I popped into Bristol to grab a bite to eat. Under the Stars, a little restaurant on a boat appealed to us because, well, it’s on a boat. I mean that’s pretty exciting and classy right?
So we meandered over to the little boat and asked if they had a table available and luckily enough they did. Unfortunately the table was needed for a booking a little later on, so we couldn’t stay for too long – it was a quick drink and a quick nibble sort of affair.
We sat down and enjoyed our beautiful surroundings, to my left was the harbour, the evening sunlight glittering on the water, and to my right was a homeless man sleeping on a bench and a young man sat next to the water fountain enjoying what looked like a cigarette of the, ehem, special variety. Ahhh Bristol.
Anyway, we decided that we weren’t really in a cocktail mood, so Fraser ordered a draft beer and I ordered a bottle of Rattler Strawberry and Lime Cider. Unfortunately it was pretty obvious that there was something a little wrong with the beer, it tasted quite musty and just a little off. Fraser (the bartender) figured that it had been a while since the restaurant had cleaned their beer lines. I’ve got to be honest, it was pretty noticeable.
For food, we opted for a selection from their tapas menu, and, my new found obsession, a baked camembert. The food was served to us fairly quickly, perhaps because they needed our table but no one else seemed to be waiting too long either.
We decided on a few different options, from different sections of the menu. I though the sectioning was quite a nice touch, as it made it easy to think about how many meat dishes you were ordering compared to how many vegetable dishes, etc.
As heavy meat-eaters we limited ourselves to two items, the chorizo oreado, caramelised onions, red wine & pimento sauce and the harissa chicken, marinated with garlic and lemon. We also choose the patatas bravas, spiced tomato aioli and some tenderstem broccoli, white wine, tomato & garlic butter sauce with spring onion, you know, to be healthy. This was of course all supplemented by the baked camembert, with marinated garlic & rosemary which was also accompanied by a red onion chutney and some bread.
While Fraser may have been disappointed by the beer, we were incredibly delighted by the food placed in front of us. As we all know, we first eat with our eyes and the spread in front of us was quite beautiful and extremely colourful. I managed to only get one quick snap of the food because I was too excited to just start tucking in.
We started eating the food with much enthusiastic, and each mouthful of every dish was just as tasty as the mouthful from the dish before. I was particularly impressed by the flavours of all the accompanying sauces, as I have never been much of a sauce fan (or what I call “wet foods”). Despite my misgivings about wet foods, I found that the sauces were delicious and enjoyed mopping them up with some of the bread.
For me, I believe the chorizo was the stand out dish. You can never go wrong with chorizo, but the red wine and pimento sauce elevated the chorizo to a new level. As far as sauces go, something that’s wine-y or vinegar-y is exactly what I enjoy and Under the Stars hit the nail on the head with this one.
Out of the two baked camemberts that I’ve enjoyed in my life, this one wasn’t the best, but it was still perfectly gooey and cheesy. The broccoli went down like a treat, something broccoli doesn’t often do – this was definitely thanks to the sauce. Pretty much everything was right with the food.
I do have to point out that I wasn’t exceptionally impressed by the service. As someone who has experience as a server, I can tell the difference between good service, bad service and service that is just a bit “eh”. This was an example of the last one. Nothing was particularly bad about it, but I did feel like some of the staff didn’t particularly want to be there, or alternatively, they didn’t particularly want me to be there.
On a whole, I did have a few misgivings about Under the Stars, mostly the whole beer thing and service that was probably just below average (though it could have been an off day for our waitress, or just the pressure of knowing she’d have to get rid of us ready for the booking – I don’t like to be too harsh about these things). However the food was incredible and there are definitely some bonus points for the boat setting, though watching some youth smoke a spliff for half the meal wasn’t exactly what I envisioned. But that’s just Bristol, not exactly the restaurant’s fault.
I have to say, I probably won’t be returning – while the food was great, the whole experience is based on everything and I definitely have other places I’d rather try or return to in the area. Sure, I’m definitely glad that I visited Under the Stars and I would say that it’s worth popping in out of interest, but I don’t think they’ll be making it to the top of any of my own personal lists any time soon.