Root at the Wapping Wharf cargo development has a rather novel concept… it’s vegetables which are given top billing as main dishes while a smaller number of meat sides are available in a supporting role. Frankly I was a little dubious before arriving… I mean, how good can cauliflower really be? Certainly not better than a thick, juicy steak, amiright? So it was only when faced with finding a Monday night dinner spot to celebrate with a couple of vegetarian friends that I thought to try Root out for the first time.
I love the Wapping wharf development, even on a rainy windswept night (which it was) it’s a beautiful place to be. Each cargo unit glows a golden light out into the night, each one promising a different delight depending on what you’re in the mood for. Root occupies arguably the best spot on the top floor of the original cargo 1 development with a pretty spectacular view of the harbour. Previously operating as the Chicken Shed serving ‘ ethical posh fried chicken ’ (which had fairly mixed reviews.. ) things changed overnight in August as the team realised that either the ethics or the quality was going to have to give… Fried chicken gave way to vegetable power and the unit reopened as Root, with their focus very much on sustainability and ethical eating . I know that sounds rather W1A but it’s a tastier concept than it sounds, with ingredients locally sourced and grown. This means the menu changes fairly regularly to reflect what’s currently in season which is very Bristol and rather charming.
Inside the team have made the most of the space with a large central table, several tables for 4 and a long bar with stools stretching round the side of the container. We’re warmly greeted and after casting a glance at my fairly pregnant friend, we’re sensibly seated at one of the tables for 4, rather than perched on a bar stool. Water and menus are swiftly provided while the specials are pointed out to us. Perusing the menu we’re advised 2-3 (so that’ll be 3 then) dishes per person should do and to let them know just how vegetarian we are as some of the ingredients contain stealth meat (like Parmesan) but can be made full veggie. Luckily my dinner buddies are not phased when it comes to small plates menus and between the 3 of us we order nearly one of everything from the main menu, with one token meat dish (because, pork belly). I was tempted but resisted the cured mackerel with elderberries and the charred hispi cabbage with seaweed butter and radishes, however I don’t think we did badly. We ordered:
Grilled marrow with pine nut, parmesan and preserved lemons
Beetroot with hazelnut, blackberry and seaweed
Salt baked celeriac with girolle mushrooms and parsley
Gnocchi with parmesan and courgette
Pumpkin risotto with pumpkin seeds and pickled marrow
Roasted cauliflower steak with cashews
Heritage pink fir potatoes with salad cream and brown butter crumb
Pork belly with jus
Arriving a dish at a time, our table was clustered with small plates brimming with promise and we happily tucked in. Each dish had a little twist to it which elevated it beyond the rather pragmatic menu description, which was a delight to stumble across. The crunch of the hazelnuts with the beetroot or the beautiful sharpness of the pickled marrow against the sweet, creamy pumpkin risotto was wonderful to discover. Each dish was vibrant, flavourful and to be honest, fun. The gnocchi were plump little clouds of potato which melted in your mouth, the salt baked celeriac proved dangerously moreish.
The standout dish for me however had to be the pumpkin risotto. Silky smooth and hearty it was a bowl of autumnal goodness that makes you glad to turn your back on summer. Frankly just writing about it makes me want to head back for another bowlful..
The only slightly disappointing dish, perhaps predictably, was the pork belly. Although the jus was gorgeous there wasn’t quite enough of it and I found the pork itself a little bland and under seasoned. Not actively bad, just nowhere near the level of the vegetable stars of the show. But, perhaps that’s exactly as it should be, Root knows what it’s about and there are plenty of other places in Bristol to go if your focus is on meat. My only other slight gripe (which I’m aware makes me sound ancient and not young/trendy blogger at all, but dammit it’s true) is how uncomfortable the bench seats got after a while. Sure, they look cool but leaning against metal pipes is just not as good as leaning against…say… a cushion. #Voteforcushions.
Minor niggles aside, we found 8 dishes between 3 hungry ladies was plenty and we left full, happy and pleasantly surprised at the bill. Dishes range from £2- £8 so as well as tasty, it’s a fairly budget friendly option, double win! We were offered the dessert menu but as the gnocchi had successfully finished us off by this point we had to decline. Next time…