Juniper seems like a lovely restaurant on Cotham Road South placed on the edge of Kingsdown and Cotham. The area has big houses, quiet roads and seem almost rural rather than suburban. I used to walk around there when I was a little more local and can see how the twilight and the electric lights all help to make the restaurant one further step along a very pleasant route.
The start of the evening is lovely and the restaurant has a very nice ambience as I walk in. There are five tables by the door and their location seems to make for a potentially breezy couple of hours so I take a seat somewhere in the corner. The lighting is low without making the place too dark and there is a genuine sense of intimacy without it feeling like someone’s boudoir.
My dining companion arrives and we are given menus with selections for three courses.
I choose the red mullet with a seafood combination comprised of crab, crayfish and smoked salmon for a starter. The main is pan roasted duck with cheesy potatoes and a selection of vegetables and the dessert is a pistachio crème brulee. Where available, I will always choose the crème brulee and my expectations are high.
The starter’s mix of seafood is delicious and provides a very fresh offering that is both savoury and sharp. The golden fried red mullet piece that sits on top of it may have been cooked well but is not very flavoursome. I look around for some salt until I catch myself and just try to enjoy it as best I can. It was underseasoned and disappointing.
The duck is very well cooked and is a nice sized portion. The vegetables are ominously full of brussels sprouts which while not really a problem for me, bring to mind a Christmas dinner rather than a special night out at an enchanting restaurant. The cheesy potato dish is not particularly appetizing and for a £17 main I am not particularly enthused. I have had amazing potatoes at Graze at very reasonable prices and I feel embarrassed for this place which can’t compete with a gastropub, although admittedly there are few restaurants that can at the moment.
I couldn’t imagine that they would go astray with my favourite part of the meal, the crème brulee, but again it was slightly disappointing. The sweet was served at room temperature and while the sugar on top was indeed caramelized the rest had a Mediterranean feel and a thick and granular texture, which left me uninspired. It just didn’t fit in with the rest of my dishes.
My friend’s dessert was added to the menu just that day and promised a bit more of a wow factor. It was a tasting platter of chocolate consisting of five items: a chocolate brownie, a white chocolate trifle, a cookies and cream white liqueur and some other type of cake. I’m not sure if it lived up to expectations but it looked ok rather than fantastic.
I may be a little harsh in my recollection of the dishes but let me point out the prices on the menu: £7 for a starter, £17 for a main and £7 for a dessert. If you were to add some wine to the £31-each selection then the cost for two would come to around £100 and that would be an extortionate amount to pay for what felt more like a roast dinner suitable for the weekend.
This place has all the characteristics that could have made it a special experience worth coming back for and instead it turned out to be quite humdrum and average. A shame.
Juniper, 21 Cotham Road South, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 5TZ, 0117 942 1744