July 18, 2012
A dining experience can be quite different if you suffer from a food intolerance such as gluten. You find yourself in a conversation with your work mates and secretly begging for them to not choose that Italian restaurant to go to so you can actually relax and enjoy your Friday evening. To be ‘glutened’ over the weekend is never a good thing.
Tapas however, can save you from losing your Friday feeling, especially as some of them have now cottoned on to the fact that a good quantity of the traditional Spanish dishes can be made entirely gluten free. They’ve even started putting the ‘GF’ letters next to the dishes and everything; it’s been a long time coming.
My tapas spot this weekend was Brace and Browns Bar and Kitchen in Clifton, Bristol and it is a prime example of a kitchen catering to everyone’s needs from the outset; the tapas menu had a great balance of not only gluten free but of vegetarian and meat options, which is refreshing to see. It was fantastic to just be able to sit down in a cosy, bar and have some nibbles without having to worry about whether it was gluten free or not, instead of listing the questions in my head that I’d have to ask the waiter who will, if misinformed, have to consequently go and ask the head chef for more details!
The bar space is simple, inviting and quite quirky. Old sewing machines, unusual clocks and a variety of bold paintings of HP sauce, black treacle and other delights in mismatched frames, makes Browns become a very good destination to come to if you’re looking for some conversation starters.
Downstairs has even been transformed into a rather ‘Mad Hatter’s’ paradise with wonky bookcases and painted mural windows of which one depicts a childish scene of sun and hills or rather- England’s hopeful sunshine; It must be coming some day soon, surely? ‘We can serve cocktails in teapots too’ says Dave Brown, the owner of Brace and Browns; ‘mad as a hatter’ of an idea but something I would definitely try with the girls.
Tapas of any kind, should be simple, delectable nibbles that serve a punch; nibbles with a purpose. With garlic, paprika, cumin, saffron, honey and chilli all delivering bold appearances, which I do forewarn, you can become ridiculously addicted to, A ‘Tapasaholic’ if you will. Most importantly, a relaxed and a slightly alcoholic attitude are imperative to the social dining experience.
The gluten free Brace and Brown’s tortilla was perfect in everyway, from the garnish presentation to the seasoning. I think it may be the best tortilla I’ve ever had. I sometimes find there is confusion over how to balance the egg and the potato; I’ve had many that are very potato heavy but this was just right, light and airy and full of flavour.
I was particularly excited about my roasted duck breast with blackberry puree, nowhere near Spanish unlike others, I’m all for trying all types of tapas as long as it’s done well. It looked wonderful blushing against the sweet Byzantium puree, complimenting remarkably well in presentation and taste.
In pictures: Tapas at Brace and Browns in Clifton, Bristol (photography by Sarah Kreczmer)
As I was nibbling down a very addictive and generous portion of honey roasted chorizo, I looked at the other side of their menu of burger offerings and I questioned Dave as to whether they would consider introducing a gluten free burger bun at some stage and it’s definitely something they are looking into at the moment. With all the gluten free breads and baps that have dramatically improved over the last few years, I think all restaurants should really consider giving it a go. All in all. Brace and Browns delivers a pleasant environment and a very commendable and tasty gluten free menu. Recommended.
To avoid being ‘glutened’ next time someone suggests Italian – say no, we’re going to get tapas! Problem solved.