Looking for a neighbourhood bistro? Read our review of Wilsons, and check out more suggestions for eating in Bristol here.
Wilsons in a nutshell
Chef Jan Ostle, who’s worked at The Kensington Arms in Bristol, as well as The Square (under chef Phil Howard), The Clove Club, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, and with Tom Kerridge.
What’s the vibe?
The food does the talking here. The only break on the white walls are the blackboards, which serve as the food and drink menus. Wooden tables are clothless, pendant lights hang down, and there’s a small bar at the back, and an even smaller kitchen where you might catch a glimpse of chef Jan, who owns Wilsons with wife Mary.
What’s the food like at Wilsons?
You’ve heard of nose to tail, probably even root to fruit, but how about fin to fin? Work your way through the food menu at Wilson’s, and you’ll notice a theme – every part of every ingredient is used. An architectural stack of over-caramelised (purposely), crunchy crusted rye bread arrives with whipped turbot roe, brawn made from the turbot head, and a pure, dashi-like turbot bone broth, alongside the usual pat of butter. (The fish later appears again with pretty borage flowers and snails bathed in borage oil.)
Ingredients are hyper seasonal, and restrained but refined dishes are designed to shout about it. On our visit, a rainbow of Isle of Wight tomatoes the size of giant marbles are painstakingly peeled, and come bobbing around in silky dill oil, before being submerged in a delicate elderflower-scented consommé. Another plate heroes hispi cabbage, which comes stuffed with rich lobster mousse and just-cooked scallops, with homegrown (the couple have invested in four hectares of land to grow more organically) lemon verbena oil, and tiny yellow cabbage flowers. Proud gooseberry soufflé tastes of England – its tartness mellowed by smooth sheep’s cheese ice cream, the milk from ewes at nearby Homewood Park.
And the drinks?
The wine list is also worth exploring. An organic, biodynamic “anti-prosecco” Casa Belfi Col Fondo is a cloudy, funky, fizzy start. Château Guiraud, a Bordeaux blanc, smells like honey thanks to its fermentation in sauternes barrels.
The menu is succinct (only three choices for starters, mains and desserts) so go with a group so that you can order everything.
Wilsons, 24 Chandos Road, Bristol BS6 6PF
Words by Laura Rowe
Photographs by Issy Croker