in a nutshell
Cousins Ben Harvey and Dominic Borel recently opened Pasta Loco on Bristol’s Cotham Hill. Growing up eating pasta cooked by their Italian mothers, Ben and Dom have a taste for the good stuff and they’re delighted to now be able to share it.
Ben runs the kitchen, working with local suppliers to source his ingredients, and has a small team of chefs alongside him. He’s cooked in some of the best kitchens in Bristol, most notably at Quartier Vert, a treasured local restaurant run by Barney Haughton in the early 2000s. A stint cooking in Sydney, and a time at Boccadoro in Padua, Italy all added to his breadth of experience.
Ben changes the menu twice daily, depending on what’s fresh, seasonal and what appeals to him. The short menu has four starters such as burratina, caramelised endive, orange, hazelnuts and beetroot, and caponata, marinated artichokes and basil.
Then there’s the pasta, the main event. Campanelle with red pepper pesto, sprouting broccoli and rocket for the veggies; linguini with sea trout, mussels, olives and Sicilian sundried tomatoes for the pescies and pappardelle with pheasant, pancetta and porcini braise for the meat eaters were some of the five options on our visit. Gluten free pasta is also available.
There’s cheese or cake to finish: think lemon and almond polenta cake with raspberry ripple cream, or chocolate delice, malt panacotta and salted caramel.
who’s front of house
Dom’s easy, relaxed front-of-house manner complements Ben’s style of cooking perfectly. He’s worked in enough bars and restaurants to have a reassuring, laid-back confidence.
whats the room like/atmosphere
Pasta Loco seats 34, so it’s not huge but it’s busy and buzzy and gets noisy with locals and students.
menu must orders and misfires
Ben’s version of pasta carbonara is a masterpiece of meaty goodness, featuring pork cooked three ways. He brines pork belly for 24 hours, braises it for five hours and then presses it for another 12 hours overnight before cooking it to top his salsica linguine, served with a soft poached egg wrapped in pancetta.
You may not be able to manage dessert…
Dom has worked in bars around the world and picked up a knack for putting together a succinct, well-chosen wine list along the way. The list changes with the seasons, more crisp whites in spring time, robust reds in autumn, and biodynamic, organic and natural wines wherever possible.
These guys also make a killer negroni, the perfect aperitivo before a pasta feast. There’s a carefully chosen list of fairly priced cocktails to choose from and the ubiquitous espresso martini is there too, to enjoy instead of, or maybe with dessert.
what else did you like
Pasta Loco is all about having a good time. Everything they do, they do with that in mind. Service is super friendly and focused on getting everything just right for each table. The staff are knowledgeable and love discussing all aspects of the food and drink menu. They’ll happily recommend bars and other local restaurants to try, too.
Go for the tastiest pasta, with the friendliest service, in a buzzy environment. Pasta Loco is a great addition to Bristol. But be sure to book: at the time of writing, tables on a Friday night were fully booked three weeks in advance. It’s not hard to see why.
Written by Pam Lloyd (pamlloyd.com), October 2016
37A Cotham Hill