Review: BOX E, Bristol

Dining in a box

Dining in a box

All the tables at BOX E are closer to the kitchen than the chef’s table at most other restaurants. I say “all the tables” but they’ve only got 14 covers in total. The clue is in the restaurant’s name: BOX E lives in two knocked-through shipping containers, perched on top of some other shipping containers in Bristol’s revitalised dockland area. I’ve eaten in some boutique restaurants, but this is unimaginably small. The tidy-nerd in me marvelled at how cleverly they’ve used every inch of space to maximise storage. Still, if chef Elliot Lidstone hasn’t got a couple of extra freezers and a cupboard full of gadgets back at his house I’ll be very surprised!

They do actually have a chef’s table; four stools at a bar that is as close to the action as you could possibly get. I could look into the pans on the hob, and I’m not even joking. I’d 110% recommend this experience; Elliot has plenty of time to chat while seemingly able to keep track of the timings of five different dishes in his head while plating up table 2’s desserts and answering all our questions.

Wallfish 'n' bone marrow

Wallfish ‘n’ bone marrow

So, how about the food? Chef’s table gets a five course tasting menu (though by my count it was eight courses, so no idea what happened there!). Elliot’s cooking is spot-on flavour combinations and mouth pleasure, sensible portions and nothing finicky or flash; it’s not fine dining, it’s just really good food. The salmon from our second starter was cured in the leftover botanicals from a local gin distillery, a powerful cure that went very well with a fresh fennel salad and a sprinkle of fennel and bee pollen. The star of the starters was snails with caramelised onions and a bone marrow broth.

Beautiful piece of halibut next, with crushed potatoes, salsa verde, monksbeard and anchovy butter. Deadly simple, but such a perfectly cooked piece of fish with the balance of the other flavours just right, if I had this for supper every night until the end of my days I’d be happy. Our main course was local salt marsh lamb, jolly pink and accompanied by a Moroccan-style chickpeas spiced up with paprika and plenty of fenugreek. Absolutely loved those chickpeas.



Somewhere I ought to be recording where I’ve had my “best ever” of all the various dishes of the world. It’s probably a bit late to start now. But for the record, the best ever pannacotta is served at BOX E – it wobbles there on the plate, clearly just within a whisker of collapsing into liquidity but somehow staying together, and eating as lightly as a dream. Very nice with a bit of rhubarb on the side.

This was a jolly good meal for £45 a head, plus drinks. The wine list is short (there’s nowhere to put more bottles!) but full of good choices based on the two we enjoyed, and it has a bit of a focus on organic. I’d say that £45 is about spot-on for cooking of a style and quality to match the very best dining pubs, but the chef’s table experience here is more than a bit special – you’d have to put an apron on and start cooking if you wanted to get any closer. Can’t recommend highly enough.

Lovely fish

Lovely fish

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