Flinty Red, 34 Cotham Hill, Bristol

This week, like some contestant from an awkward cross between Come Dine with Me and Blind Date, I find myself in Bristol, eating at a random restaurant, with a man I have never met.

The venue for this socio-gastronomic assignation is an up-and-coming Bristol newcomer with the evocatively vinous name of Flinty Red. I heard about it from one of the restaurant's previous conquests, a love-struck foodie who took me aside at a party to hymn the place's charms. "It's only small, but it tries really hard," she swooned. "Especially in the evenings..."

What woman could resist? I was on the train to Bristol at the first opportunity. As for the man I was meeting – well, I won't betray the network of human traffickers who help out when reviewers urgently need warm and hungry bodies in unfamiliar cities. Let's just say that I placed a call to a certain gentleman who discreetly set me up with a male "companion".

On a sweltering Saturday night, Flinty Red was fully booked. We scored the last remaining table, at a time you'd call pre-theatre, were there any theatres here at the scruffier end of smart Clifton Village. First impressions – of the restaurant, rather than of my companion, Pete – was that it was small, minimal and unbelievably hot (apparently the air-con had broken down).

The cramped store-front premises on a narrow street are more bare-bones bistro than restaurant. But for those who know, here are all the reassuring signifiers that bespeak food-centred authenticity: photos of artisan produce against scrubbed-brick walls, marble-topped bar with stools; and, doing double-duty as no-frills place settings, delectable daily-changing menus of unusual range and flexibility.

My new friend Pete and I launched ourselves into that night's menu with gusto, starting with the house apéritif, Punt e Mes bitters with fresh orange juice, and, to break the ice, a shared plate of cecina – silky, air-cured beef from Spain. Next up, a Provençal-inspired nibble called panisse – misshapen nuggets of deep-fried chickpea flour, which were good, in the way that most things are when they're deep-fried, salted and accompanied by alcohol.

The marriage of food and drink is fundamental to Flinty Red, a collaboration between a local husband-and-wife chef team and the independent wine merchants Corks of Cotham, a few doors up the street. The school-of-Moro menu, like the wine-list, is strongly influenced by Spain, Italy and France, and many dishes are available in smaller tasting portions. So Flinty Red can be used for a tapas-style experience, with shared plates matched to wines by the glass, or for a more conventional three-courses-with-a- bottle dinner.

The evening menu is sub-divided by category – "cured/smoked/preserved", "fried/pan-fried", "pasta/dumplings", "charcoal-grilled" etc, and dishes range from the simple – anchovy toast, grilled chorizo – to those that require their own Google tool bar. The appearance of verjuice, morcilla, tonka beans and wet garlic sent Pete and I spiralling into a frenzy of "name the mystery ingredient" (he won).

Almonds were a feature of both our starters; adding welcome crunch to slippery mascarpone-filled ravioli, blowsy with fresh thyme and wet garlic (ask Pete), and to a dish of charcoal-grilled quail, served pink, with chunks of cucumber, grapes and a verjuice reduction.

In a gender-bending defiance of dining norms, my main course was a hefty pork chop, while Pete went for a more delicate fish dish. The chop didn't quite have enough char from its time under the grill, but the oozy blast of Mediterranean flavours supplied by a blanket of morcilla (Spanish black pudding), raisins and pine nuts more than compensated. Pete's pan-fried grey mullet was so delicate as to be almost overwhelmed by its accompanying fennel.

Finding wines that work with strong flavours is something Flinty Red clearly prides itself on. And as no one wants to spoil a good date by making an arse of themselves over the wine list, we put ourselves in the hands of co-owner Rachel Higgens. Her recommendations – an £8.50 carafe of Verdiccio and an £18 bottle of Juan Gill Monastrel – saw us happily through the meal from soup to nuts.

Desserts were simply put together but fine – almond buttermilk pudding with fresh raspberries, and an assembly of chocolate fritters, whipped yoghurt and roast wild cherries. Our time-slot expired, but the staff seemed in no hurry to move us on. Noise levels rose as the room filled up with happy diners, delighted to have discovered this reasonably-priced hotspot.

With its wine dinners and tasting events, Flinty Red is trying hard to make a connection between the worlds of food and wine, which all too often operate at arm's length. The result may be cramped, noisy and hot. But it's also adventurous and eager to please. The kind of place, in other words, that's made for a long-term relationship, rather than just a one-night-stand.

Flinty Red, 34 Cotham Hill, Bristol (0117 923 8755)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 2 stars
Service 4 stars

Around £40 a head for three courses with wine

Tipping policy: "No service charge. All tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Bristol bites

Café Maitreya

89 St Mark's Road (0117 951 0100)

Café Maitreya serves imaginative veggie food such as fennel and vegetable ceviche with tomato lavender water and cheese kromeski.

Brasserie Blanc

Friary Building, Cabot Circus (0117 910 2410)

One of Raymond Blanc's more informal eateries; make sure you try the classic favourite dish of Burgundian snails in garlic herb butter.

The Thali Café

12 York Road, Montpelier (0117 942 6687)

Try the six-dish thali at this lively café serving authentic and healthy Indian food; there are three other branches across Bristol, too.

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower