Markwicks is easily my favourite restaurant in Bristol, but it had been a long time since I last ate there, so I was really looking forward to returning there. Expectations were not disappointed.
We started with bourride and the 'special': breast of lamb Sainte Menehould. The soup--a large tureen of it--was powerfully piscine, spiced with cumin and coriander, and came with a pretty fiery rouille. Tasty, and very satisfying. The lamb was a preparation I had read about but never before tried: strips of meat, dipped in mustard and breadcrumbs, then fried. The result looked disconcertingly like something out of the Findus freezer cabinet, but this was frying of the first order: a crisp, greaseless crust containing sweet, mustardy, pleasingly fibrous meat. FMD has meant my local butcher is virtually giving the humbler cuts of lamb away: this dish is one I shall be trying myself as it is an inspired treatment of what can be quite a fatty part of the animal.
For our main courses we chose venison and hake. The venison comprised thick slices of fillet with a pile of spiced shredded beetroot and a reduction to which sour cream had been added. This was perhaps the least successful dish: it was very rich and the delicate flavour of the meat was a bit overwhelmed by the rest. Also, the meat was maybe a touch more rare than I prefer venison: probably my fault for not asking. But it did come with a lovely slice of pommes Anna. My wife's hake was a sensation: a piece of roast fish with garlic mash and mushroom sauce. The mushrooms enhanced the fine flavour of the hake perfectly, while the potato was pure self-indulgence. It's just a shame that hake seems to be so difficult to get hold of in this country...
We couldn't manage a pudding after that, although we were seriously tempted by the likes of whisky jelly with orange sauce, and honeycomb and coffee ice cream bombe.
The bill for two courses each, plus a very nice bottle of Bandol from Domaine Tempier, came to about 75 pounds, excluding a tip for the amiable, very correct French service. While it's not exactly cheap, I'd say Markwicks ranks high in terms of value for money. Fans of Elizabeth David's books, or those with fond memories of George Perry Smith, would love it.