Bomboloni, Bristol

At the upper end of Gloucester Road in Bristol you will find Italian heaven, I mean restaurant. You will find the Italian restaurant, Bomboloni. I’ve visited a couple of times now but this was the first I was able to bring along the other half… Meaning I’d get to try, and the devour, the rest of any dishes she chose (smart thinking).

The portion sizes here represent incredible value for money, and for the quality and size of the meal, the price is trivial, as small as it already is for such fantastic food. I tried to not have a starter, I really did. But there it was, on a tiny piece of paper clipped to the menu – the specials. Arancini. My willpower can’t fight against that kind of sign from the universe. Arancini was there to be consumed; Ox cheek and gorgonzola filled, if happiness has a form this is it. The tang of the gorgonzola against the full ox cheek worked wonders and dipped into the tomato sauce that accompanied it cut through the cheese and its heavier notes. It was a pleasant change to the wedge of lemon that normally accompanies such a dish to deliver the same outcome.  I could have happily eaten 3 courses of this. However, there are only so many angles that arancini can be photographed from and there was even more ox cheek on the menu.

two balls of arancini on a ragu with rocket.

Delightful arancini.

For main I gorged myself on the ox cheek ragu- I don’t know if it’s a permanent feature but it’s the dish I’ve had every time I’ve visited. It’s like the katsu curry of Wagamama in an Italian restaurant. You know everything else on the menu is good, but it’s so good- so why risk it? The pasta here is easily the best I’ve had outside Italy and easily comparable to the pasta I’ve had in Italy. Silky smooth ribbons so slick I’ve heard in some places they use it instead of Vaseline and hair gel. The right amount of chew to it as well as I slurp away most of the dish. A slight coarsness to the bite is all that’s needed. The yellow of the pasta a deep harvest yellow of the wheat it’s made. Or if you’re in England at the time this was posted- the colour of half the country as we enjoy a long and Mediterranean summer. The ox cheek ragu was as excellent as it always is; full bodied, and well rounded; it’s easy enough to be describing a wine instead. The sauce is rich and deep with a hint of sweetness at the end; coiled around pasta it becomes something else, it transcends what one knows to be good food. At the main and already, Bomboloni has swept away the competition and I have a new Bristol favourite.

ox cheek in a tomato sauce on thin ribbons of fresh pasta

Ox cheek ragú which was utterly sumptuous.

The girlfriend went for the Norma pizza; my first experience of a pizza at Bomboloni and I was thoroughly impressed. Smothered in vegetables from roast peppers and aubergine to courgette and rocket, with the added wonderment of ricotta it was a glorious pizza. It verged on sheer brilliance which the dough and crust achieved, I managed to polish off the third half or so Em was unable to eat. Everything a pizza needs was present and delivered. My only ask (and maybe this is already done!) is to have a range of dipping sauces for the crust. It doesn’t matter where I’m served my pizza, garlic mayonnaise for the edges are always welcome.

pizza topped with roasted vegetables and green pesto.

The incr-edible Norma pizza. So much glorious pesto.

By this point I was overly full; but tiramisu whispered gently in my ear and I thought a mouse’s tongue of a slice couldn’t hurt. I never imagined the size of the dish that would confront me. Mountains of whipped cream and espresso-soaked sponge were waded through for me to conclude that the aromatic and bitter sponge with the sweetness of the cream and sugar was the best combination of such I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. It was magnificent and whilst so, I’m glad Em didn’t finish her bomboloni so I could gorge on those too.

Ah bomboloni, the restaurant’s name sake. To call these doughnuts would be an insult. These are doughnuts after millennia of evolution, the homo sapien of the fried dough world. It’s final form. Gluttony took over as I consumed bite after bite of heavily sugared, but light dough. Still warm to the touch, I’m salivating as I remember. Alongside was a strawberry coulis, pine nut brittle and an elderflower cream. Beyond pesto I don’t have much to do with pine-nuts or brittle but this was impressive. The bomboloni dipped into the strawberry and then smothered in the cream left me feeling as victorious as Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda when he demolishes that chocolate cake. If I’d manage to rise out of my chair I’m sure the restaurant would’ve cheered.

small spherical doughnuts served with strawberry jam and cream.

Gluttony’s final form. Delectable bomboloni.

Wiping away the last granules of sugar from my mouth I was able to just about request the bill (and a note to say how wonderful the staff are here), and contemplate what an excellent meal we had. Three courses (two for the girlfriend) and a bottle of wine didn’t even scrape £60. There’s not much else for me to say, other than we’ll be back soon

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