Saturday, 18 June 2011

Review: Zazu's Kitchen

After an hour of strenuous aerial exercise (my latest passion is aerial hoop), me and two friends found ourselves wandering the Stokes Croft area of Bristol in search of sustenance. You may have heard of this creative and dynamic area in the news of late but don't let recent events put you off; this is a lovely part of Bristol which is well worth exploring.

After some dithering, we decided on Zazu's Kitchen. From the outside, it seems like a small establishment but inside, it's somewhat tardis-like. Our first impression was confusion; they'd been closed in the morning for a private event (the chef later told us that they'd cooked full English breakfasts for thirty people - rather him than me!) and the staff were trying to get the place in order. We were welcomed in to take a seat while we waited for them to ready themselves and soon had hot drinks in front of us. Zazu's is the kind of place that serves tea in a pot and proper frothy, chocolatey cappuccinos. Points there.

We were further perplexed when trying to order food. Apparently, they weren't ready to take orders. No, we couldn't place our order in advance for when the kitchen re-opened. Hrmph. We placated our hunger with more drinks. Incidentally, their hot chocolate is ace and they have an impressive selection of Fentiman's traditional soft drinks. While we waited, I had a little look around. There's a small, central, open kitchen which acts as the heart of the place as well as a divide between the front of the café and the more secluded back area. There was fresh pasta strung up to dry on poles all around the place - a nice touch showing that they make their own produce in house.

Eventually, the time came and food was being served. The menu looked fantastic; full of seasonal and local produce mixed with homemade basics. But before we could get up to place an order, a queue formed that trailed out of the door. Poor timing on our part, I suppose but unfortunate nevertheless. After (what felt like) an eternity of queuing, we settled ourselves for a 25 minute wait for our food. This was well spent people watching. Stokes Croft attracts a diverse array of characters but Zazu's seemed to be filled with painfully cool twenty-somethings - boys with silly, indie hair and girls with blank expressions and 'granny' shoes.

Our food arrived and it was certainly worth the wait. We enjoyed a confit of duck with crispy polenta and a gooseberry compote, a risotto of asparagus and preserved lemon and a piece of pan-fried cod on a bed of puy lentils and roasted peppers. The duck was a little dry but it worked well with the acidity of the gooseberry compot, which cut through fattyness of the meat. The polenta had a satisfyingly hard crust but a lovely soft interior - much nicer than my bland attempts at home. The risotto was deliciously fresh in flavour but still thick and creamy. The rice was perfectly cooked and it was interspersed with delicate slices of preserved lemon peel, which lifted the whole dish. The cod was perfectly cooked and the lentils were surprisingly meaty. All in all, a great meal for the food alone.

Zazu's Kitchen is great for a lazy breakfast or lunch when you're not in a hurry. If you have the time to sit back and enjoy watching the world go by (or by writing intense thoughts/ideas for meaningful song lyrics in your journal like many of the clientelle) while nibbling on delicious, seasonal food then this is the place to do it. They serve various teas, coffee any which way and wine, depending on your mood. Food is reasonably priced for the quality but you don't get a huge amount (not a problem for me but this might have left The Boy wanting).

Zazu's Kitchen can be found at 45 Jamaica Street, Bristol, BS2 8JP. Lunch dishes from around £7 - £12.

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