Looking for restaurants in Bristol? Read our review of Mexican cantina Masa + Mezcal, or check out our guide for more places to eat and drink in Bristol.
Masa + Mezcal in a nutshell
With a clear focus on the two majestic ‘Ms’ that make up its name, punchy fresh flavours and laid-back Latin vibes come as standard in this new, entirely gluten-free Mexican cantina in the heart of Stokes Croft, Bristol.
The fifth opening for Kieran and Imogen Waite, the husband-and-wife team behind the always-popular Bakers and Co, Bravas, Gambas and Cargo Cantina, Masa + Mezcal is the latest addition to their burgeoning local hospitality outfit, Season + Taste. It’s Imogen who heads up the kitchen team, along with executive chef Mark Chapman and head chef Carlos Rivas.
What’s the vibe?
There’s a super-casual, carefree feel on the evening we visited and a mix of couples, groups of friends and families, all gathered on its mix of rustic booth seating, high tables or perched on stools by the back-lit bar. It’s the sort of local you’d want to impress out-of-town friends with, yet affordable enough to drop in for after-work botanas (snacks) and beers, with warm, seamlessly intuitive service to match.
What’s the food like?
It’s fast food but not as you know it, with a varied menu full of dishes designed to share – covering botanas, masa (taquitos, tacos, tostada and quesadilla), crudo, asado (from the grill) and sides. Palm-sized Cornish oysters dressed with pickled habanero and shallots are sweet with an intense saline rush, while chopped fillet of Dexter beef crudo is so soft, bright with chilli, lime and salt, and comes with an enormous smile-inducing golden cured egg yolk (begging to be broken) on top. Sometimes soft, sometimes smoky, sometimes crisp, masa turns out to be far more than a vessel for its delicious toppings and definitely shines through in every dish.
With a plant-based menu alongside the regular one, crispy cauliflower is creamy yet still with bite and works brilliantly with the cool avocado purée spiked with sesame oil. It’s only the celeriac tostada – a textural challenge – that turns out to be a bit of a dud. A shared semifreddo-esque carlota with lime and hazelnuts is the ideal citrussy end to a near faultless meal.
And the drinks?
Mezcal’s served straight up, paired with tonic and added to cocktails, and our margarita with El Jimador Blanco tequila, tamarind and hibiscus with an orange salt rim is umami-rich, intriguing and moreish in equal measure. There’s also a mix of local and Mexican beer – Masa, brewed in collaboration with Good Chemistry Brewery, is ice cold and seriously sessionable – and there’s a good selection of old and new world wines by the bottle and glass.
Don’t overlook the tortillas and dips. Salty house-made corn chips with a trio of salsas – fruity tomato, smooth avocado loosened with lime and salt, and pokey habanero (which comes with a personal warning from the chef) – are the best we’ve ever tried.
Masa and Mezcal, 77-79 Stokes Croft, Bristol BS1 3RD
Words by Kate Authers
Photographs by Kirstie Young