Sister restaurant to the German Gymnasium in London, D&D's venture in the south-west has seen Bristol locals flocking for its German-inspired menus served against a glamorous backdrop. Jennie Milsom pays a visit.
This summer, during a short-lived spell free from lockdowns and talk of tiers, D&D London, winner of the 2020 Restaurateur of the Year – Group Catey, took over the magnificent Grade I-listed Quakers Friars Building in Bristol. The space – formerly home to Brasserie Blanc – was transformed, with a glittering island bar taking centre stage among countless booths and tables that sweep around the cavernous dining room. A grand staircase leads to more seating in the gallery above.
Head chef Rhys Grayson got the operation off to a flying start when it opened in September. Grayson, who has cooked at Corbin & King's Fischer's and the Wolseley, joined D&D from Sam Elliott's steak restaurant Pasture, also in Bristol, where he was known for pushing boundaries with flavours. "I've always been open to a lot of cuisines," he says. "I love creating new dishes, working seasonally and working with the team – the backbone."
I love creating new dishes, working seasonally and working with the team
The new kitchens at Klosterhaus weren't ready until launch, so Grayson recruited his brigade from interviews rather than trials. Within three weeks the team was cooking for 370 on Saturdays – and that's with the curfew – and topping 100 at lunch on Mondays. The operation has potential to accommodate more than 600 guests a day once restrictions are lifted and the three private dining rooms – which collectively seat 180 – and outdoor terraces are fully used.
Grayson's seasonally changing menus of Mittel-European classics have been developed with executive head chef Bjoern Wassmuth, who also oversees the kitchen at German Gymnasium. Concepts are inspired by "looking at trends and experimenting, finding new dishes people might not know about and refining them," says Grayson.
Starters include Bayrischer Wurstsalat (£8.50) – a salad of smoked pork sausage, gherkins, red onions and mustard dressing – and soused herring (£8.95), which is served with caviar, mustard and a sweet-sharp potato and apple salad. Meat lovers won't be disappointed and sausage is a strong theme; a section devoted to the German delicacy includes Münchener Weißwurst (£12.50), a poached pork and veal variety, which guests are encouraged to eat "the classic way", by sucking the meat from the skin. There is also street-food staple currywurst (£12.80), chopped up under a blanket of curried tomato sauce made from 25 ingredients, including Coca-Cola, which delivers "a nice kick at the back of the tongue".
In mains is Bayrische Schweinshaxe (£18.50) with dumplings and sauerkraut, for which the pork knuckle is slow-cooked in a spiced stock at 80°C for eight hours until melting off the bone, before a blast at 240°C to get the skin "popping". The pork makes a further appearance in the butcher's plate (£29.50 per person) alongside chicken schnitzel, leberkäse (meat loaf), weisswurst (Bavarian white sausage), sauerkraut and dumplings, as one of three sharing dishes for two served silver-service at the table.
There is a selection of schnitzel (from £17.50), each crumbed in German bread, and steaks from the grill, which include 28-day dry-aged native breed beef fillet (£31.50) and ribeye (£28.50).
Lighter options include lemon sole ‘Finkenwerder' (£24), cooked with brown shrimps, bacon and lemon, and line-caught sea trout (£18.50) served with a sweet and salty mix of golden raisins, capers and seaweed.
Sides (all £4.50) feature red cabbage infused with cinnamon, star anise and cloves, and spätzle dumplings, which are poached and finished in butter until crisp on the outside and fluffy within.
Desserts are the "most beloved" of foods in Germany, says head pastry chef Teodora Cirik, whose menu includes Kirsch-soaked Black Forest gâteau (£7), a quark cheesecake (£6.50) – twice-baked to prevent cracking – and apple strudel (£7) with toasted, spiced crumbs for crunch and sweetness against tart Granny Smiths.
When Bristol was relegated to Tier 3 last month, the restaurant shifted to delivery and takeaway. Needless to say Grayson is looking forward to a less disruptive 2021; he plans to introduce more in-house butchery and fishwork and talks of converting sections of the old lead roof into a kitchen garden. There may even be beehives.
"It's been a hard few months but we're very happy with what we've achieved in a small amount of time, really fitting into Bristol and being accepted," he says. "There's lots of regulars coming back – it's great for us and we want to look after them."
Klosterhaus, the Friary Building, Quakers Friars, Broadmead, Bristol BS1 3DF
From the menu
Appetisers, soup and salad
- Jerusalem artichoke soup, truffle cream £6.50
- Atlantic shrimp cocktail £8.50
- Endive salad: Roquefort, pear, walnuts, crème fraîche dressing £7.25
- Holstein schnitzel – veal, fried egg, anchovies, capers £24.50
- Venison ‘Baden Baden' £27.50
- Hazelnut praline £7.50
- Sachertorte £7
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