"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future", claimed Yogi Berra, the baseball playing philosopher; we agree and so try to avoid them. Yet when I ate there, I was overwhelmed with conviction that Casamia, the contemporary fine dining restaurant of the Sanchez-Iglesias family, will in due course become one of Britain's most famous and well regarded restaurants, that they will ultimately achieve three Michelin stars, and that should the World's 50 Best Restaurants still be going ten years from now, they could find themselves included in that too. Let's back track a little.
Casamia, meaning 'my house', for it was very much their house, is a restaurant in the Bristol area run by brothers Jonray & Peter Sanchez-Iglesias. Previously, it was run by their English mother and Spanish father as an Italian trattoria (since 1999), but in 2006, they handed over the restaurant to their sons who have subsequently steered their own course of tasting menus, thoroughly modern techniques, and a focus on seasonal British produce. Their achievement was recognised by Michelin who awarded Casamia a star in 2009, and the AA who have since awarded them 4 rosettes. Jonray and Peter therefore are both together, and individually, recognised as two of Britain's outstanding young chef talents, for the punchline here is that all of this has been achieved before either of them has reached 30 years old (Jonray, the older of the two is 29, and Peter 27).
Ahead of arriving at Casamia, I am genuinely excited about the prospect of my meal there, though totally unsure about what I would find. Google Maps shows Casamia four miles from Bristol's city centre in the suburb of Westbury-on-Trym and the restaurant itself is hidden behind gates, and even though I've checked on Street View what I'm looking for, with no real street facade, this restaurant doesn't give up its location easily. Inside however it's a warm greeting from staff and I am taken through into the main body of the restaurant where aside of its seasonal theme (the room decor itself changes with the season), it is an open finishing kitchen at the front where Jonray and Peter can be seen plating up that immediately grabs your attention.
Menu descriptions are of little help here in guessing what will arrive on your plate as I soon discover, and while 'goats cheese, beetroot tart' sounds a somewhat commonplace way to start the meal here, for I'm expecting fireworks, I'm also instantly wrong-footed. The bite sized beetroot cup that arrives with a dollop of unexpectedly yummy beetroot jam below the goats cheese already make this one of the best beetroot dishes I have ever had. From its size, I also instantly know that they understand the proper way to construct a tasting menu; I'm already very happy.
Spelt and parsley, and a spring salad (with 12 varieties of raw and cooked veg, and hot vinaigrette) complete with tweezers for eating follow. While my own favourite dishes occurred later in the menu, the table next to me doing their own straw poll saw at the end of the meal saw these earlier dishes come out on top. To me it highlighted that personal tastes alone will most likely dictate your preferences about this meal because the actual quality of every dish itself is unimpeachable.
So sad was I to finish that as I pushed my fork into the last piece of lamb, I relented and took my knife and further halved it, so delaying the inevitable by a half mouthful. I normally rail against large portions in tasting menus and the size of the plate here perfectly fits the bill of what a tasting main should be, but I would have sorely loved to eaten it again right there and then and would have paid to do so. This was my favourite dish of the day in a tough field where everything served is a joyous celebration of food.
I started by saying that this is a restaurant which could have three Michelin stars in due course: I have little doubt. The food is brilliant currently, the meal a joy, though to clarify, not just yet at the three star level, but Jonray and Peter are so young and are already delivering with confidence such an incredibly high standard of technique and food understanding that if they continue to grow their talents over the next ten years (as it is reasonable to assume they will), then Casamia will go all the way.
Remember how you couldn't get a table at El Bulli, wished dearly that you could have done so before they closed, and heard disbelievingly stories of Adria's early days when getting a table did not mean joining a lottery? Well, we'll make it easy for you: Casamia, remember the name, and if you don't book soon and enjoy this discovery, no complaining in ten years time when you can't get a table period. You heard it here first.
Post script: only three months in, but already I think this is my restaurant of the year.
Click for Casamia website
Follow Jonray on Twitter: @jonraysanchez
Follow Peter on Twitter: @petercasamia
Location Map for Casamia