Posted 4th April 2011
Updated July 2014: Since writing this review Rosemarinos have gone on to win multiple awards in the Bristol Good Food Awards and have established themselves very firmly as one of the best Italians in the city. The breakfasts here are truly fanastic (one of the only places I know where you need to book a table for breakfast!) and the lunch and dinner menus are mouthwatering.
Situated opposite my favourite Bristolian pub (The Lansdown), it was only a matter of time before we gave in to the temptation of the relaxed and warm atmosphere we had often observed through the steamy windows on a Saturday night.
Rosemarino is one of a few new restaurants in Bristol to pop up in the last few months. Located where the famous York Cafe used to be, they are trying to keep the breakfasts going, but with an Italian twist. They are also open all day most days, but it was the Wednesday to Saturday evening openings that tempted me.
My parents coming to stay for the weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to test it out. From the outside, Rosemarino has always looked inviting, and this is not an illusion. The size from the outside is though! I had always thought it was tiny, but when we were led down a spiral staircase to another busy dining room with about 8 tables, I realised how big it was.
Our table was a slight squeeze at one end but comfortable nonetheless. The mezzanine gives the dining room downstairs an open and airy feel, and the rustic wooden tables made me feel at home. The menu is short, but I appreciate that – I really struggle when there are too many choices on a menu. An interesting feature of their menu is that most of the dishes come in small or large versions, and mixing and matching of side dishes is encouraged!
The starter choice was easy – we ordered two mixed antipasti selections to feed six of us on the advice of our friendly and efficient waiter. The main course decision was a little harder – I went for the slow roasted pork belly with polenta, while my parents went for the gorgonzola and cep risotto balls and the fish special, and others went for the meatballs.
The platters arrived swiftly and were an excellent start to the meal – smoked salmon, aubergines, sun dried tomatoes, peppers, fennel marmelade, parma ham, salami, you get the idea – served with soft homemade focaccia, and washed down with the house white (albeit a tad sweet for my taste). Quality was great. Quantity was OK, but being picky (which I am!) I would say that one platter shared between two would have been better.
After a slightly longer than average wait, our mains arrived looking impressive. It turns out that a small version of most of the mains plus a side dish such as grilled veg (aubergine etc) would be sufficient for most. My pork belly was deliciously soft, but sadly the ratio of fat to food was a bit much – I am a big fan of crackling don’t get me wrong, but two pieces of crackling plus extra crackling on the pork and slow cooking which meant that the fat had not been rendered out of the belly, left me feeling a bit sick!
The risotto balls looked impressive – two giant ones for a large, one for a small, but again incredibly rich – gorgonzola is not a subtle flavour, and two was a bit much even for my boyfriend who I have witnessed eating chunks of parmesan as a snack! The fish special – cod with butter beans in a tomatoey stew looked delicious, and I am assured tasted so too, although the cod was a tad overcooked.
Not a family to pass on pudding, we perused the menu and to my mother’s horror, there were two options that included banana, (her nemesis) and tiramisu (the pudding I had fed them the night before!). I actually went for an affogato – two scoops of ice cream, topped with hot espresso – a perfect pudding for me.
Others sampled the tiramisu – it matched up to mine! – and one of the banana concoctions, which I am told was tasty, though perhaps a tad confused (lots of different flavours which just about held together).
To tie it up, the bill for six of us came to less than £150 – an absolute bargain considering most of us had three courses and we got through a couple of bottles of wine!
Verdict: Atmosphere, service and price are top banana. Menu is interesting and very flexible, but some dishes are too rich for my taste. I would definitely recommend visiting Rosemarino and am looking forward to tasting their breakfasts soon!