To say the food is prepared with the finest, freshest ingredients and cooked with passion, panache and style and dished up with an aesthetic, culinary artiness that wouldn’t be out of place in a Michelin-star restaurant would be an understatement.
Standing proudly at the top of Colston Street in Bristol is one of the city’s finest and much-loved culinary colossi, ZeroDegrees – and the food currently being plated up and the beers poured remain just as magnificent and stellar (if not more so) as they have always been.
Since it opened way back in 2004 this marvelous microbrewery has gone from strength to strength serving dishes of fine cuisine, all of which can be washed down with one – or several, if you’re that way inclined (as my brother and I most certainly were when we visited on a balmy Wednesday evening) of their incredible craft beers.
It’s also interesting and significant to point out that the venue was actually way ahead of the craft ales game all those years ago. Remember, after all, it was promoting and championing the cause and awesomeness of proper beer long before it became fashionable and the city became saturated with a trendy new-wave of tattooed, bearded, plaid-wearing supposed craft ale connoisseurs.
ZeroDegrees underwent a major £350k refurbishment in 2014 to mark its first decade. This led to a rearrangement of venue’s space with the main dining area being relocated to the top floor and the main bar being situated downstairs, so that those with a penchant for proper quaffing can enjoy the lip-smacking deliciousness of their beers whilst simultaneously staring in gobsmacked awe at the impressive, massive shiny steel vats that continue to brew their fine beverages on site.
It’s an effective shift that works very well, too. Diners can enjoy their (top quality) tucker amongst the low-key lighting and atmospherically flickering candles unimpeded by drinkers throughout their gastronomic peregrinations, while ale aficionados can imbibe to their heart’s content (and possibly make their way up to the restaurant later to soak up the ale, which a few of them did when we were there).
As well as the 2014 restaurant and bar makeover, the addition of a new roof terrace and walled garden to what had previously been a Victorian tram depot as well as the already existing terrace overlooking the rooftops and hustle and bustle of Colston Street make it the perfect spot for some good weather al fresco supping.
My brother and I kicked off with a selection of their craft beers: the hoppy, malty Pilsner; the fruity, floral Pale Ale; the more potently yeasty Wheat Ale; the rich, chocolate-coffee notes of Black Lager; and the refreshingly fruity Mango. Served in champagne-style glasses and running in conjunction with their current FirstSips campaign, it’s a superb way to get an inaugural sampling of all the beers they brew there.
The impressively substantial but not overwhelmingly intimidating menu has a particularly Italian bent and covers the gamut of starters, mussels, sides, pizzas, pasta, salads and risotto.
My bruschetta (£4.95) was as divine and sublime a starter as one could have wished for, the toasted Italian bread slathered generously with small, sweet fresh cherry tomatoes, olives and a basil dressing creating a mouthwatering masterpiece on the gustatory senses. Opting for the spiedini (£6.50), my brother’s starter was first-rate, with big chunks of halloumi wrapped in Parma ham and grilled to perfection so the ham was crisp and the halloumi tender, working beautifully with the fresh, peppery rocket, sweet cherry tomatoes and rich, sweet balsamic reduction.
After a certain amount of hesitation, deliberation and mind-changing, I eventually plumped for the roasted garlic chicken pizza (£10.50). Cooked in their wood fire pizza oven, the base was perfectly thin and marvelously blistered; crispy, light and with a generous topping of garlic chicken, red onion, parsley, white wine and garlic cream sauce that combined to create an ecstatic symphony on the senses.
That they hadn’t had their delivery of fresh mussels that morning meant my brother couldn’t indulge in his first main course choice of Creole mussels, but any slight disappointment was soon expunged by the arrival of his Scotch Bonnet carnitas pizza (£12.95). It was piquant and fruity with succulent pulled pork and a gorgeous Scotch Bonnet sauce, full of power and punch and a satisfying, though not excessive, chilli after-burn. (Bear in mind though this is my brother, whose insatiable chilli appetite is well known and his predilection for eye-watering heat flavours that would normally fell a rhinocerous has rendered him with something of a Teflon tongue.)
My Belgian waffle (£4.50) was as good as any I’ve ever had, the waffle a satisfying mix of crunchiness and chewiness, drizzled with teeth-suckingly sweet maple syrup and topped with a nice big scoop of pod-flecked and delicious vanilla ice-cream to counteract the richness and sweetness. Affogato (£4.50) was my brother’s dessert of choice; a shot of very high quality Illy’s espresso poured over a beautiful scoop of vanilla ice-cream which sent him into blissful paroxysms of sweet-infused hedonistic delight.
To say Zerodegrees just gets better with every visit is an understatement. To say the food is prepared with the finest, freshest ingredients and cooked with passion, panache and style and dished up with an aesthetic, culinary artiness that wouldn’t be out of place in a Michelin-star restaurant somehow doesn’t seem praise enough. And to say their beers easily rank as some of the best-made brews in Bristol really isn’t giving it sufficient credit.
Served by affable, attentive staff in a relaxed, cosy restaurant with a buzzy but laid back vibe, Zerodegrees just continues to up the ante and raise the high-water mark for delicious, exemplary cuisine and stunning craft beers that still make it, even after all these years, one of the best food and drink destination venues in the city.
Reviewed for 365Bristol.com by Jamie Caddick. Additional words and photos by Andrew Caddick.