A Dirty Weekend -Mi Casa Cantina, Bristol

A Quebecois friend of mine had told me about poutine; French fries with curd cheese and a thick gravy, usually made with pork or beef bones. Somehow, it just didn't appeal, not being a fan of cheesy chips or chips with gravy, the combination of the two seemed anathema to me. She assured me however that when the mercury dips to -40, it really does hit the spot. So when I heard that Mi Casa were setting up a cantina in the Big Chill Bar and selling poutine, I thought that we really ought to try some, though thankfully it's nowhere near -40 out there.

Between us all, we snaffled our way through a good part of the menu, including a try of the weekly special. Let's talk dirty first of all...hand cut fries that were just perfect on their own, went from this...

to this...

Molten chunks of Westcombe curd cheese and a thick, savoury peppercorn gravy, smothered the fries. It was surprisingly moreish; the cheese, mild, added a bit of proteinacious bite. The gravy deeply delicious and, far removed from the gloop I've eaten previously, but I think I'll be sticking to straight-up or spicy fries.

We also tried the Reuben -hot salt beef, sauerkraut, sliced gherkins, Comte cheese and Thousand Island dressing in sourdough. The beef brisket wasn't as pink and briny as I'd expected it to be and, the sharpness of gherkin didn't quite cut through. As Reubens go, although I preferred the sourdough bread, I think I prefer the Meat and Bread brisket, but it was nevertheless a little taste of New York.

The Porchetta -slow roast herb stuffed pork belly, tomato, rocket and salsa verde in sourdough. Ripe, sweet tomatoes tasted of sunnier climes and pungent, fragrant, salsa verde married well with the tender pork and crunchy strips of crackling. A definite thumbs-up.

The weekly special -fried chicken with gem lettuce, blue cheese dressing in a sourdough bun. Free-range chicken breast was crisp yet succulent and that blue cheese dressing, I really need the recipe!

By far and away my favourite though was the spiced sweet potato wedges. Crisp skin and caramelised flesh, dredged with a spice mix and toasted sesame seeds tasted almost Jerk like. Peppery hot, salty with some cumin, possibly fennel seeds and chilli flakes, it was just delicious and a lot less dirty than the poutine. Hmm, I wonder if they might be willing to spill on the spice mix too?

Oh, and all hail the Wall of Sauce. An interesting mix of Mi Casa's favourite sauces, self-served, so you can squeeze as much as you like of what you like, without running the risk of a withering look.

Mi Casa Cantina, in residence at the Big Chill Bar for the next three months. Dirty and delicious. Go on, you know you want to...


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