Review: The Cauldron, Bristol

In the Cauldron

In the Cauldron

The Cauldron boasts of being the first entirely “solid fuelled kitchen in the last 100 years” – basically, they cook everything using wood or coal to “remove their reliance on the big 6 energy providers”.

Don’t say it’s laudable. It’s not. If every restaurant in the UK switched to this approach we’d have lopped down the whole of the New Forest inside five years and there’d be new clouds of smog over every substantial city centre. That’s not really the point. The point is that it’s different, interesting, and provokes exactly these kind of discussions – generally, over lunch or dinner. It’s just as easy to pour scorn on hippies that choose to live in a forest commune, grow their own food and abandon the trappings of modernity. The world’s population is already way too large for pre-industrial ways of life to sustain everyone. But that those people exist, and choose to tell their stories in books and TV slots, is a very good thing because it provokes the right kind of conversations. The last thing we should do is sleepwalk our way into destroying the natural environment pole-to-pole and ourselves into the bargain.

The Cauldron’s website looks way hip, so the hand-painted sign above a bow-windowed shopfront with a couple of pub tables outside in a down-at-heel parade of neighbourhood shops is a bit surprising. But the welcome is warm and they accommodate our unannounced arrival by perching us at one end of a long table booked for five. To our pleasure (but no doubt to The Cauldron’s chagrin), the five never show up.

Sunday roast

Sunday roast

We are here for Sunday roast, and the plate that eventually settles before us is a smorgasbord of roasted things. I’ve chosen the mixed roast, so my plate includes roasted: beef, lamb, pork, potatoes, carrot, beetroot, banana shallot, sweet potato, yorkshire pud, cauliflower, greens and peas. The last three aren’t roasted but you get my drift! Love it. And I can report that all were roasted to perfection except for the carrot which was simply too huge to have cooked through and the pork which was drysabone. Outstanding was the beef: nicely pink sirloin, and it had been wood-smoked beforehand. If you like roast beef, you’ll love smoked roast beef! Also the beetroot, charred on the outside which gave it a coal-y sticky sweetness. Smashing cauliflower cheese – whatever cheese they chose, they chose wisely. The gravy was deep and good, but I should have asked for an extra boat as we just didn’t have quite enough.

And, genuine or psychosomatic, I really thought I could taste the tang of wood-smoke right through the whole lot.

And that’s your lot, we didn’t stop for pud. Decent glass of Rioja – all their wines are vegan, by the by. The roast was £15 and this is an excellent deal. The Cauldron brings a dose of originality and some solid cooking to an already eclectic Bristol dining scene. I’m looking forward to going back on a not-Sunday and tucking into their regular menu.

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