First of all, the bad news – by the time you read this and you want to book this restaurant, you won’t be able to! It’ll be closed on 20 August 2022, and it’s already fully booked until then.
I have been meaning to go to Casamia for years, but there’s never really been the right opportunity (why have I not thought about stopping over in Bristol en route to Cornwall?), Anyway, when the news that Casamia would close permanently broke in May, I went onto the website and booked a table straight away – well, it’s either now or never….
It wasn’t that easy to find the restaurant, as the entrance was quite well hidden inside a dark corridor in an old building called The General, and the front door definitely looked more like a young music venue than a restaurant. Still, we got there at 7pm prompt, as instructed in the reservation email.
We were sat at a table with a “front row seat” to the open kitchen. Again, what to expect? It had a young energy to the whole place. I’ve been trying to think what other restaurants of this calibre would have this feel. Difficult to think of one really – perhaps StreetXO in London from many years ago?!
Before starting the service, the lights were dimmed, and Chef Zak walked to the middle of the restaurant with a candle, telling us about what’s to come: There would be 20 courses for this dinner, and he would be working mostly in front of the fire -he would use the charcoal from Oxfordshire, and oak and beechwood for cooking the food. He would also be the DJ for choosing the music for the night!
The reservation email did say that if you wanted a quiet place for dinner, this wasn’t the appropriate place. So by this point, I was just dreading the music would be thumping loud, to the point where it would annoy me (like how Zen in Singapore managed to annoy me with the music).
However, once Zak finished his speech, the music started, and whilst it’s not soft music, it didn’t bother me too much – maybe it’s not as loud as I expected, and maybe the bass wasn’t as deep and heavy as a dance club! Yes, definitely not a place for a quiet dinner or for intimate conversation, but it’s vibrant and got a nice flow of energy.
The first course came pretty soon afterwards – it’s a dashi made with Datterini tomato essence. It’s got the freshness and sweetness of the tomatoes, and there’s a beautiful savoury umami note also. It’s a good start.
Then a rather cute birdie chopstick holder and a pair of chopsticks were put on the table. Must be something Oriental next!
And yes, the next course is a smoked and cured trout with fresh wasabi, nori seaweed and caviar. In typical sushi-eating style, I just picked it up (with chopsticks – think it might get a bit messy by hand with the caviar) and put in my mouth. Lovely freshness of the fish with the saltiness of the caviar. There’s a very slight hint of wasabi but I wouldn’t have wanted more anyway, as it would then clash with the caviar and fish.
The next dish was a bowl containing carrots and a few other things (can’t remember what they were) – all I could remember was comparing this to the carrots dish at Pensons. Very different style though!
The next course was smoked pork jowl. All I could say was “wow – this is to die for!” (For those of you who know me well enough, the “to die for” verdict is reserved for those dishes that have completely blown my mind). Need I say more? It’s tender and moist, and the flavour was just like a beautiful firework display in the mouth.
The fifth course was the Lion’s Mane mushroom with wagyu beef. We were told that the teriyaki sauce was made from a local stout that had chocolate and caramel notes to it – couldn’t agree more! We were also advised to lick the sauce off the bowl, and we happily did that…. The bowl was definitely spotless afterwards – just couldn’t see that delicious sauce gone to waste!
Next was a dish that’s probably got a Korean influence – popcorn chicken!
Lost count already? Here’s course no. 7 – Poached Cornish lobster claw with a broth that has a distinct signature Thai flavour influence. By this point I suddenly figured out that Casamia’s style of food was a bit like Inari restaurant in Helsinki – with a pan-Asian influence.
After the claw, it’s the lobster tail – this one had a vibrant green wild garlic sauce. Another impressive dish – I actually preferred the lobster tail just because of my personal preference of the texture. At this point I was wondering what the tail would taste like in that hot and sour broth in the lobster claw dish before?!
Then the next dish went further west to India, with a Tandoori chicken thigh and crispy chicken skin with a rather rich tandoori sauce. Another wonderful dish – the only problem was that the crispy pilau rice only came when I was already halfway through the dish, and the garlic bread when I finished the chicken already and left with very little sauce for the bread to soak it all up.
By this point I started to feel full but I would soldier on. The next course was potato with a black garlic mayo – it was slightly tricky to eat this without cutlery as the potato was a bit heavy for a delicate base like this, and so I was worried that with every bite I would drop the remaining portion. But I managed to finish it. It was also quite greasy and without a wet hand towel, I had to wipe the fingers on the napkin and then went to the washroom to clean my hands.
The next course was a summery kebab made with lamb shoulder. Now, if kebab shops can make something like this, I’d be going for a kebab a lot more often! Succulent meat and a nice sauce on top of a flatbread – what’s not to like?
After the pork jowl earlier, here’s another pork dish and it’s the last savoury dish – pork belly that’s been barbecued and smoked for 7 hours, and then it’s place on top of a bowl of noodles with pork bone broth. Whilst the pork belly was nice, I wasn’t so keen on the texture of the noodles (OK, I am Chinese and I am picky when it comes to noodles). The pork bone broth was full of flavour, if a bit on the salty side.
Then the cheese course arrived – and it’s Cheese on Toast. It’s got pineapple in the middle and a melted cheddar cheese on top. Maybe in future I would try putting pineapples slices in my croque monsieur!
Then it’s the start of the “desserts” – well, could it be dessert when it’s got pork fat in it? But it’s a sourdough brioche donut. Again, if a donut shop could do something to this standard, I’d be eating a lot more donuts! Imagine the flavour was a bit like salted caramel but without an actual caramel – just a sweetness mixed in with a savoury pork fat flavour!
Maybe this was the palate cleanser for the proper desserts – it’s gooseberry with frozen sake granita on top. Quite refreshing and it had a bit of a fizziness in there. Wondering what sake was used?
The next dessert could be a Portuguese influence or it could be a Macau influence – it’s got a Portuguese tart pastry base, but with vanilla ice-cream and blueberry syrup. The pastry was top notch with the texture and lamination, and the blueberry flavour was incredible. Has anyone actually made a blueberry flavour pastel de nata?
The next course was a 75% dark chocolate from Piura, made by Original Beans, and it’s topped with what I could only describe as a posh sugar puffs
The penultimate course was honey creme brulee with granita – it’s got a hint of sourness underneath the sweet tone of the honey.
The last course was Baked Alaska – OK, it’s not the usual Baked Alaska, but then why would it be here at Casamia? Still, the strawberries were sweet and the meringue was not too sweet, thus it had a nice sweet fruity balance to this dish, and what a wonderful way to finish off the meal.
Et voila – that’s 20 courses which I enjoyed over the course of 3 hours, accompanied by some cool music, interesting variations of lighting in the restaurant and kitchen, and some nice graphic projections on the walls and vertical surfaces from time to time. Definitely got a young and edgy feel to the whole meal, both in terms of ambience and food. OK, it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea (no pun intended with the next picture) and you either “get it” or you don’t!
It would be interesting to see where Zak Hitchman would do next, and what will be the next project for the Casamia owners next – can’t wait.
As I have mentioned, if after reading this you want to book a table, you won’t be able to, as the restaurant is set to close on 20 August 2022.
Address: 8, The General, Lower Guinea St, Redcliffe, Bristol BS1 6FU, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)117 959 2884
Opening Hours: Lunch: Saturday 1200-1600 ; Dinner: Wednesday-Saturday 1900-2200
Total: 19/20 [Based on visits in July 2022]