Before we headed to Bell’s Diner in Montpelier, word was the cod fritters were ‘to die for’.
It’s not often I would consider dying for cod fritters. Partly because I had never had a cod fritter until I sat down for dinner at Bell’s Diner, and partly because, I’m a wee bit sceptical of such effusive praise when it comes to any kind of food .
‘Fritter’ it turns out comes from the Romans doing some frigere-ing (Latin for ‘to fry’) and covers all manner of small fried thing from onion rings to deep fried Mars Bars.
Arriving at Bell’s, which is a hop and skip from the indie land of Stokes Croft, HH said that the first thing to order should be the salt cod fritters with aioli. I shouldn’t have been sceptical. The evening could have stopped there. I could order plate after plate of those miniature morsels of fried deliciousness and their garlic accompaniment and be wildly happy for a night. There could be a cod fritter lock-in and life would be good. Ordering another plate was probably the easiest decision we made.
It turns out that Bell’s has undergone numerous incarnations (as a greengrocer’s, cheap as chips wine-drinking hole and as a snob value restaurant) in the past but under the recently introduced guidance of Sam Sohn-Rethel, previously of Cotham Hill’s finest gastro-wine bar Flinty Red (more on which soon), it has become a salt of the earth hub for lovely British tapas.
After the cod (above), we ordered three more tapas, then another three, demolished homemade bread and moved onto pudding. And the delight was that from our bare wooden table and industrial-style chairs – all very now in Bristol it seems – we covered all nutrient bases (scallops, lentils, oxtail, chorizo, beetroot, goat’s cheese…).
Cod fritters aside the highlights were the spiced lentils rounded off with coriander and yogurt, and some soft-as-pillows Cornish scallops with oxtail and capers.
Having said that, it was hard to fault the interesting pudding selection from which we plumped for an oozing treacle tart and two of the less heard-of ice cream flavours: a boule of rosewater and cardamom and one of halva. The rosewater and cardamom might have beenn one experimental step too far, erring just slightly on the wrong side of pot pourri but the halva flavour was moreish and delicate.
The wine list is as much a delight as the food menu (both are presented in no nonsense format, explaining exactly what you get). It’s a thoughtful selection chosen to suit the food and the bottle of ‘Molino Loco’ white we plumped for, described as ‘easy glugging’, was easily glugged.
All I need now is the recipe for those fritters…
Bell’s Diner and Bar Rooms, 1-3 York Road, Montpelier, BS6 5QB