As a self-professed carb queen, it's not unusual to find me in my kitchen, greedily guzzling down large vats of my latest pasta-based concoction. Sadly, however, I am not a pro-chef, nor am I Italian. My culinary creations definitely leave a lot to be desired, and so I'm always on the lookout for a delicious new place to enjoy properly cooked, freshly made pasta. Needless to say, when The Parlour got in touch inviting us to come and sample their new savoury menu - which centres around freshly made pasta - I gleefully accepted. Having already enjoyed many a sweet treat there - homemade ice creams, waffles, shakes and pancakes were the previous raison d'être at The Parlour - I was excited to see what the leap to savoury food would entail. Let's be clear: this is no blind leap of faith. Owner Nicolo is of Italian (Sicilian, to be precise) descent, and his family have been bringing a taste of Italy to Bristol for decades via their family-run deli, C. & T. Licata & Son, over on Picton Street.
And so, filled with excited trepidation, my partner in carby crime and I made our way to The Parlour in the early evening, hoping to beat the rush and get home in time for Masterchef, obv. On arrival, the lovely Nicolo greeted us with a beaming smile, and showed us to our seats. Nestled within a beautiful old building, The Parlour has a relaxed yet stylish vibe inside, with wood-clad walls and funky industrial-style lighting lending a modern edge. The diner-style red leather seats nod to The Parlour's original incarnation as a purveyor of delicious sweet treats, and sweet-teethed Bristolians will be delighted to see that the fabulously filled ice-cream counter still stands proud in the restaurant. We made a mental note to leave room for pudding.
Once seated, Nicolo came to talk us through the menu, also bringing us an enticing teaser of what was to come, in the form of freshly made focaccia, feather light, salty and delicious. It was drizzled with sweet, sticky balsamic glaze, and served with some satisfyingly enormous olives. We oohed, we aahed, and we scoffed it all.
Focaccia and olives, £4
We left our starters to the immensely knowledgable Nicolo and his head chef Jack, and boy - we were not disappointed. Proving that simple things are often the most delicious, an incredible plate of marinated tomatoes, basil, and buffalo mozzarella absolutely dazzled us. The mozzarella had none of the grim rubberiness of shop-bought equivalents, and melted in the mouth in an explosion of soft deliciousness, whilst the tomatoes packed a seriously flavoursome punch. It was refined, it was elegant, and it was a little burst of pure, excellent flavour.
Mozzarelle e pomodori, £7
For our second starter, we shared a pancetta wrapped game terrine, served with a refreshing poached pear salad. As someone who has previously shied away from game after one-too-many dry, jelly-filled plates of disappointment, this was an absolute surprise and delight. Layers of juicy, moist rabbit meat were encased in the delicious smokiness of the pancetta, whilst the pear cut straight through the richness of the dish. It was utterly stunning, and came served with a toasted version of that dreamy focaccia. Lush.
Terrina di carne, £7
For our main courses, we stepped down a seriously meaty route, although both the seafood linguine and the pumpkin and amoretti biscuit ravioli also looked insanely good. We stuck to our instincts, though, and ordered wild boar, old spot pork, and Devon red beef ragu pappardelle and spiced soft chorizo, chilli, roasted pepper, spinach and sheep's curd spaghetti respectively. Both were served in pleasingly large bowls, offering a hearty portion size. The wild boar ragu was utterly stunning; head chef Jack brines the wild boar overnight, then slow cooks it for several hours until it falls of the bone in a tender tangle of tastiness. The resulting ragu was moreish, hearty, and very grown up. I wanted seconds. The chorizo spaghetti was similarly delicious - there was a gentle kick to the whole dish, whilst the sheep's curd provided a nicely creamy, cooling contrast.
By this point, we were feeling very well fed and watered; we'd been washing down our dinner with a nice bottle of red - the house merlot - which went particularly well with the wild boar. Being the brave Wriggle soldiers that we are, however, we accepted Nicolo's insistence that we try dessert. And golly, were we glad that we did. A small but perfectly formed chocolate fondant arrived, drizzled with salted caramel sauce, and served with smooth salted caramel ice cream. It was oozy, melty, rich and intense. We gobbled it down.
Chocolate fondant, £6.75
The Wriggle verdict? Although The Parlour's new menu doesn't come cheap, it is simply exquisite, and worth every penny. Perfect, lovingly cooked dishes like these, made with highest quality, locally sourced ingredients shouldn't be a bargain - they are a princely treat, and should be enjoyed as such. Don't head to The Parlour with any old Tom, Dick and Harry - take somebody that you really enjoy spending time with, and indulge in an evening of absolutely heavenly food. Thank us later.
Where: The Parlour, 243 Cheltenham Road