Casa, Bristol


Sometimes, it’s easy to begin a review with a paragraph or two of context and throat-clearing. I’ll cut to the chase here; I’ve had the best meal that I’ve had all year in Casa, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’s fabulous Italian restaurant in Bristol. Stop reading this right now and book a table; you are guaranteed a meal of the calibre of the River Café, or better, at a considerably kinder price. So, I’m now assuming that you’ve done that, and now I will attempt to explain why I’m going to bet my reputation that you’ll have just as fantastic an experience as I did, and what makes Casa one of the greatest places to eat in Britain right now.

First, some history. Casa emerged from the ashes of Casamia, a Michelin-starred restaurant that served multi-course tasting menus that would cost hundreds of pounds along with elaborate wine pairings. It was regularly voted one of the best places to dine in the country, but Sanchez-Iglesias was wearying of being the custodian of a gastronomic temple, and felt in the mood to create something more casual, more affordable and – dare one say it – more fun. And so Casa emerged, the impish, irreverent sibling to Casamia’s more uncompromising greatness.

It’s not the easiest place to find, being a 15-minute walk either from the station or the city centre, and situated in the Redcliffe area of Bristol. Yet once you make it there, you’ll be struck by the stylish, welcoming room, complete with whitewashed walls, the friendly and knowledgeable staff, and the menu which is neatly divided into all the sections that you’d expect; antipasti, cured meats and cheeses, pasta, meat and fish and vegetables.

Yet it’s full of surprises and twists that make a meal here a constant rollercoaster of culinary delights. Start off with a delightful gin fizz – served long- and a couple of delicious puffs of fried semolina filled with parmesan cream, and some oil-drenched focaccia, and begin the adventure.

Of the cured meats we try, the mortadella – my daughter’s favourite – is candyfloss-pink and wonderful, just as the sopprasetta (or chorizo by virtually any other name) is equally exceptional, although the San Daniele ham (£22, and worth every penny) steals the show. We pop in a quick plate of exceptional gorgonzola, and then it’s onto the pasta dishes.

My daughter adores the rosemary gnocchi in a moreish buttery sauce, and my wife’s a great aficionado of the special, a gnocchetti sardi with fennel sausage, but I consider myself the winner with a dish of garganelli with girolle mushrooms in a sensational garlic chive sauce. Oh, it was wonderful. Accompanied by a glass of Fiano, it really doesn’t get a lot better.

We switch to glasses of Chianti for a main course of braised beef cheek in a rich marsala-wine sauce – it comes accompanied by a spoon, in the happy confidence that it’s so tender that it will fall apart – and sides of spinach drenched in pesto and ‘lion’s mane Milanese’, or deep-fried mushrooms that pack an umami punch. It’s gutsy, innovative cooking, with stunning ingredients and just the right amount of food; it might look deceptively small on the plate, but you wouldn’t be able to eat larger portions and leave room for the sublime desserts of cannoli, a perfect panna cotta and the best tiramisu I can remember eating in this country or Italy; a legacy of Casamia, apparently, where it was also legendary.

Casa is, deservedly, a legend in Bristol already, less than a year after opening. Word should travel far beyond the west country, however; this is serious food, done beautifully, and at a very fair price for this degree of excellence. It will be my go-to spot whenever I’m in the city, and I suggest that it becomes yours, too. You will not be disappointed.

Casa, The General, Lower Guinea Street, Bristol, BS1 6fU. For more information, and for bookings, please visit