Review: Root, Wapping Wharf in Bristol

"Veg is the star at Root every dish focuses on a particular vegetable."

"Veg is the star at Root every dish focuses on a particular vegetable." - Credit: Archant

A chef in a shipping container is doing magical things with West Country veg, discovers Catherine Courtenay

Unusual dining locations are getting more common these days, you can eat almost anywhere, from barns and boats to Art Deco cinemas – even Victorian public toilets have been converted into trendy restaurants.

But going out for a meal in a shipping container still has a certain, offbeat, appeal. There are several eating places in the stack of shipping containers housed at Wapping Wharf in Bristol. Right by the water’s edge, alongside the old cranes and railway sidings, they don’t look at all out of place.

The metal stairs clang, even wobble a bit, as you climb up to Root, a restaurant on an ‘upper floor’ of one of the shipping containers. There’s a temporary, pop-up feel to the place, but this is a restaurant which, since being set up in 2017, has dug deep down into the heart of gastro Bristol, winning praise and accolades, including a Bib Gourmand in the 2018 Michelin Guide.

It was set up by chef Josh Eggleton of the Michelin-starred Pony & Trap in Chew Magna, with the Pony’s former head chef, Rob Howell taking over the Root reins. As the name suggests, the ethos is all about sustainable, local food with vegetables at the heart of the operation. And they mean what they say. Veg is the star – every dish focuses on a particular vegetable.

It did initially put some diners off, says one of the front of house team. People tend to think they are being short-changed if the meat is missing. But pretty soon Bristolians were converted and no wonder – not only is every dish packed with flavour and visually stunning, there are delightful surprises, like the thin ‘slice’ of dukkah covered brick pastry, balanced on creamy cheddar rarebit with leeks; then the Asian-inspired tempura spring onions, their alliumny kick matched with equally strident flavours of chilli, peanut and coriander.

For those who do love their vegetables, then a visit to Root is a bit of a kid-in-a-sweetshop moment because the menu consists of small plates and you can try several dishes. It’s tempting to fill up on the snack starters like the divine hasselback parsnips with honey and mustard or a hunk of sourdough bread with cashew hummus, but the team are brilliant at guiding you through and offering helpful suggestions. And for those who simply can’t go without, there are a couple of meat and fish plates to choose from, including Porthilly oysters. But you’d be a fool not to sit back and let those vegetables win you over.

Find out more at eatdrinkbristolfashion/root.

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