AN Evening at The Cauldron , St Werburghs
Traditional cooking methods, locally sourced produce and a relaxed welcoming atmosphere; so far, it’s the classic recipe for any decent contemporary restaurant. But hang on, there’s more to this independent Bristol eatery than first meets the eye.
Because, you see, this isn’t your standard “we source everything locally where possible” establishment. The Cauldron hasn’t stopped at stocking Wiper & True or serving salads from just up the road at Purple Patch. They’ve made a rare and admirable commitment to their local community, choosing to collaborate almost entirely with St Werburghs based businesses – from the restaurant’s graffiti art by Zase Design to the stationary by Unicorn. Heck, they even balance their books with Linden Accountancy, from just up the road.
These efforts are mighty impressive, but what of the experience itself?
Well, having walked across town on a slightly drizzly Tuesday evening, my friend Abi and I were pleasantly surprised to the find The Cauldron busy and buzzing with the chatter of groups of friends, young families and couples alike. Crackling in the corner was an authentic wood-fired oven, the heart of both the open-plan kitchen and the wider restaurant. More often seen in fabulous country gardens and small holdings, this authentic Pompeii oven speaks of chef Henry Eldon’s commitment to back-to-basics cooking.
Inspired by his international travels, Henry wanted to create a kitchen where he could reflect the traditional cookery methods used across the world and throughout history. As such, The Cauldron’s entire kitchen – from the wood-fired oven to the Swedish iron stove, traditional South African potjie pot (similar to a cauldron) and Japanese yakatori grill – are all powered entirely by charcoal and beech wood.
And while the result is a delicious char-grilled flavour that threads its way through many of the ingredients, the menu is anything but rustic. Instead, I was delighted to discover a sophisticated mix of elegant meat dishes, creative vegetarian and vegan fare, and even some helpfully highlighted gluten-free options.
I decided to be brave and kick things off with the ‘Pig Stick’, a provocatively described combination of pig’s head croquette, sauce gribiche (think mayonnaise but sophisticated and French) and crispy ear salad. Though it may have sounded intimidating, what I discovered was a croquette so delightfully crunchy on the outside yet so rich and meaty on the inside, that I could have quite happily ordered another for my main and walked out a happy woman. Not only that, it was accented by crunchy slivers of sweet dried apple and a lattice of fine crackling. Refined and indulgent, I was instantly sold.
Next the main: a grilled chicken salad with avocado, croutons and homemade vinaigrette. While not quite as memorable as the starter, the breast meat was deliciously tender and of fantastic quality, while the delicate coriander added a freshness I adored.
In contrast to my carnivorous choices, Abi went for the ‘Veganoise’: a wood-fired salad of peppers, tomatoes, wild rice and couscous offset by a sprinkling of soft herbs. With smoked oil and hearty shaved corn added into the mix as well, we were both impressed by the depth of flavour this entirely vegan and glutton-free dish produced.
As the restaurant began to quieten and our delicious bottle of house white began to drain, it came time for dessert. We agreed to share two dishes; feasting on home-made bitter sweet chocolate truffles with burnt orange (did I mention almost everything is made on site from scratch?) and heavenly wood-fired rice pudding with sour gooseberries. Set apart from the crowd by its satisfyingly breakable crème brûlée top, I’m afraid poor Abi barely got a look in with that one!
The Cauldron: come for the ethical ethos, stay for the fantastic food. It’s the St Werburghs’ spirit at its finest.