In a nutshell:
This petite fish bar is found, fittingly, on Bristol’s harbourside. You’ll spot it tucked into Cargo 2, one of the shipping containers that make up the newly redeveloped, family friendly, foodie quarter, Wapping Wharf. This is the second Salt & Malt, pared-back and nostalgic, and sister to the original which is also settled waterside, in Chew Valley, with serene lake views.
The décor sees modernity knit with tradition. Sturdy, seafaring ropes that wouldn’t look out of place coiled on a ship’s deck define the room; wrapping neatly around industrial scaffold bars that line the ceiling, and twisting around a slender pillar that stands between the tables. Timber slats in pine and pale blue line the bar and benches, exposed lightbulbs glow overhead.
There’s a takeaway bar and 24 covers, making crafty use of the compact space with bars lining the walls. We plump for bar stools that overlook the water, and are soon sipping on local pints; Ashton Press cider (brewed a few miles away), and Independence by Bristol Beer Factory (brewed within walking distance).
Seasoned Bristolian chef and restaurateur Josh Eggleton is the man behind Salt & Malt – his first job was in a chip shop, although he’s now best known for his Michelin-starred pub, The Pony & Trap.
All batter used here is gluten-free, not that you’d know from the bubbled, golden finish and satisfying crunch on our whole-tail Scottish scampi and large haddock. The batter recipe took nine months to fine-tune, apparently, using rice flour, rice starch and maize – the idea being that it’ll sit lighter in your stomach than a traditional recipe.
Our dishes arrive on metal platters with greaseproof paper, reminiscent of the chippies of your childhood, with a hefty mound of mushy peas that are as fresh as they are rich and buttery. The chips are spot-on, too. Piping hot and powder-soft inside, these are proper chips. The few updates made on time-honoured flavours are subtle, and carefully chosen; think seaweed flakes in the sea-salt, and homemade curry sauce that tastes like a perfectly balanced korma.
Order a side of sourdough and butter generously and build your own, grown-up version of a fish-finger sandwich (that excellent curry sauce will come in handy here). Load your butty with juicy scampi bites and the occasional chip, slather with sauce and tuck in.
These are good-value fish suppers, with mains ranging from £8.50 to £12.50, and sides sitting between £1.50 and £2.50.
Photography | Tim Martin
July 2017, saltmalt.com