A hidden treasure in the West
Rocinantes 85 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol (0117-973 4482). Open daily, Mon- Sat 9.30-11pm; Sun from 10am-3pm, 6-10.30pm. Bar meals from pounds 5-10, restaurant pounds 20-30. Children welcome. Vegetarian meals. Major credit cards except Diner's. Three steps to entrance, assistance for wheelchairs

Photograph by

Dave Young

Your name is Barny, Barny without an "e". You were born in North Yorkshire, but have settled in the West Country. You want to open a bar- restaurant. Do you name it after yourself or Don Quixote's horse? In the case of Barny Haughton, he chose the horse.

If only Mr Haughton had called his place Barny's. In 1988, the year he opened Rocinantes in the Clifton district of Bristol, dozens of tapas bars opened across Britain. Most of them were mainly good for getting blasted on sherry. By contrast, Rocinantes is something of a gem. Its Spanish element is subtle, and consists of a deep affection for the best Iberia has to offer: great soups, grainy serrano ham, boldly spiced egg dishes, fresh Nunez de Prado olive oil and big red wines.

For newcomers, Rocinantes all looks quite smart. Inside, tables are bare in the front. There is a blackboard menu and welcoming bar. To the rear is one of the dining rooms. Here tables are covered with starchy linen, and the mood is less rowdy, but still casual.

The chap with the exotic good looks and goatee is Matthew Pruen, a co- owner with Mr Haughton who joined the business three years ago. He is a great front of house man. All the staff are nice in an unforced way.

Barny Haughton works behind the scenes. He cooks. After teaching English and French in comprehensive schools, he first opened Rocinantes with a small kitchen and little experience. Yet he says he had one important influence, an American named Heather Statten.

Ms Statten had cooked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, home of a seminal organics movement that has changed food and food markets up and down the state. At Chez Panisse they cook healthy food, not health-food. Mr Haughton credits Ms Statten with enormous influence in his decision to, in almost all instances, use organic or wild food.

This is a time consuming and costly exercise, yet Mr Haughton's prices are ordinary and he does little by way of trumpeting the goodness of his produce. His commitment is there in deceptively simple guises: as tapas or in an appealing restaurant menu (more of which later). I ate from the tapas menu: a headily spiced chick pea stew, deep-fried calamari with mayonnaise, lemon and salad, and a grilled chicken salad with He has an easy, chameleon-like grace: he could be a customer, he could be the waiter, he could be the bartender, he could be a young Fernando Rey.

One suspects the floor is basic tile because it needs frequent mopping.

: a two-storey expanse of glass covers the frontage

, from Brighton to Dundee

the strong fresh taste of

he feel is much more workaday. T

reassuringly

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