The Parlour, Bristol.
I am a sucker for a great foodie family story, especially if it's Italian and for sure if ice cream is involved!
On Thursday, I was kindly invited as a guest by Nick Licata and Socialight to attend the new dinner menu tasting at The Parlour on Cheltenham Road, Bristol. I used to live close by 15 years ago and would've loved this independent neighbourhood restaurant ... last thing I knew this was a lighting shop!
The Parlour has been here for 2 years in its ice cream carnation but the family has been involved in selling and making ice cream since 1974, spanning 3 generations. You may recognise the family name of Licata from the treasure trove Italian deli that is located on Picton Street, a fine Bristol institution. So rest assured the ingredients used in the dishes are truly authentic which Nick is very proud of, and rightly so!
With ice cream being a fairly seasonal product, Nick has been working on creating a dinner menu to compliment the ice cream aspect of The Parlour. He wanted to reflect rustic Italian food that is accessible for all and I think he has definitely achieved this. The menu has a selection of simple starters including scallops and king prawns; Equally a sharing antipasti board or some beautifully light homemade bread and huge, creamy green olives would keep you going till the mains arrive.
The beautiful walnut antipasti boards we tasted were meat or vegetable based and a great accompaniment with their house Merlot or Pinot Grigio. The boards included fennel salami, Parma ham, aubergines, mozzarella to name a few and the most beautiful marinated, almost cured courgettes in oil and lemon.
I was pleased to see the other starter dish come out was the scallops! I am a huge scallop fan, and these did not disappoint. Sweet scallops served with creamy celeriac puree, and those delicious lemony courgettes to offer a little pallete cleanse. Ours were served with an Italian 'chorizo' which was a little overpowering for me with all the delicate flavours but I'm pleased to see on the menu released it is usually served with pancetta. This for me would seem a lot more balanced and work better for the dish.
No Italian menu would be complete without a meatballs dish...a favourite for young and old. The Parlours combination of beef and pork mince, sage and garlic are served in a rich tomato sauce. With a note of warmth from black pepper, the meatballs were succulent and super tasty. Available as a starter in the sauce or with pasta as a main, I imagine this will be a crowd pleaser and a menu staple!
The main courses are divided between baked pasta, including traditional lasagne, aubergine lasagne or pasta bake of the day. The rest of the pasta menu covers pesto, carbonara, chicken, seafood and aforementioned meatballs! So really there is something for everyone. Vegetarians are catered for with tomato or aubergine based pasta, and vegans will be fine as long as they request their dishes without Parmesan or mozzarella. The childrens options are child-sized lasagne or tomato pasta, which if taken as 2 courses, they can choose a scoop of ice cream with toppings and sauces for £7. A great deal. The main courses range from £9.95 to £14.95 but on average expect to pay £11-£12.
Our main course dish was The Boar which is a meat ragu...with pork shoulder, wild boar and beef shin slow cooked in a tomato-based sauce. This is a meat lovers delight, the kind of dish my husband would be drawn to. I really enjoyed the pork shoulder and wild boar but would have preferred the meat all pulled and within the sauce rather than in meaty hunks but that's just my inclination!
To finish I guess it would be crazy to go to an ice cream parlour without sampling the ice cream, so pudding is certainly going to be well catered for here! The Parlours ice creams are made with only 5 ingredients. The strawberry ice cream is 25% fruit and each scoop of coffee ice cream is a shot of coffee! SO we are talking a totally natural product here, and Nick has created a great vegan ice cream base too. We were treated to the salted caramel ice cream, chocolate sauce and brownie sundae, which regular Parlour visitors will be familiar with. If you're in need of an indulgent dessert then this is definitely going to check the box for you!
In a fiercely competitive city of restaurants, I think the parlour dinner menu can have its place. The service from the staff who looked after us on Thursday was faultless and the two guys clearly have a genuine love for what they do, with character and heart. The Parlour is open at 7 pm from Wed-Sat and 12-6pm on Sunday. I can definitely see this as a place to bring the family and as long as they keep these simple rustic dishes en pointe, the quality of service high and with a family focus...I think The Parlour is going to be a great solution for family dinner times!