Casamia, Bristol

After enjoying his day at Jekka’s Herb Farm, Duchess treats DonQui to a meal at Michelin-starred Casamia — Bristol’s finest restaurant. Many of the herbs they use are sourced from Jekka’s farm.

The entrance to Casamia

After the slightly disappointing experience at the Black Swan in Yorkshire, DonQui wonders if the multi-course tasting menu at Casamia will also be a little over-fussy. He need not have worried. The meal is utterly exquisite — each small dish of the 12 course menu is a wonderful gastronomic experience in its own right and the courses build beautifully.

The open kitchen

Tucked away on a pedestrianised road beside the Bathurst Basin water, the contemporary styled restaurant has room for only 35 diners, creating a nice intimate atmosphere with the tables spaced well enough apart that there is no crowding. On arrival Duchess and DonQui are treated to a quick tour of the huge open kitchen where the enthusiastic young cooks prepare the dishes. 

We are given no menu in advance. Instead we are advised to sit back and enjoy the journey. Every dish is brought to our table by one of the enthusiastic cooks who helped prepare it. They give detailed explanations and are happy to answer questions. The pride in their creations is palpable. 

parmesan tart 1.jpg
Parmesan tartlet

The meal begins on a high note with an incredible parmesan tartlet. The ultra-fine crisp pastry filled with a parmesan cheese mouse and topped with grated parmesan is a taste explosion with beautifully contrasting textures. It is one of the most wonderful things DonQui had ever eaten.

Prawn on lava

Hot on its heals came a fabulous dish of Canary Islands prawn served on a lava rock evoking the islands’ volcanic state.

A tiny but delicious salad

The dishes are very small — tiny even, but with 12 courses to get though this is a good thing. Every dish is exquisite and DonQui finds it hard to find the words to do justice to the tastes. In addition to the parmesan tart a couple of other dishes stand out.

Trout with served with hot charcoal

The brown trout served with a white-hot piece of charcoal on top still cooking the fish is not just a piece of showmanship. The lingering taste of charcoal infuses the fish with its flavour and the crispy skin is served on the side, much like a piece of pork crackling. The monkfish tail with a champagne sabayon is also quite delectable and definitely one of the stand-out dishes. It is helped by the fact that DonQui opted for the wine pairing and a glass of the champagne which was used in the sauce is served alongside it.

A wonderful sourdough bread with tangy cultured butter is served as a separate course after the salad and before the two fish dishes. DonQui remarks to the chef that he is not a fan of bread being served before the meal. Inevitably he is hungry then and eats far too much of it. The chef replies that the bread is so good that it deserves to be served as a course in its own right. He is correct and it helps that the previous dishes have knocked the edge off DonQui’s hunger. 

Duck breast

The meat courses are based on duck with a flavourful consommé preceding a beautifully cooked piece of breast with a crisp, spicy-herb skin and a rich sauce.

The red wine is breathing

DonQui is very glad that he chose the ‘wine flight’ as Cassamia calls it. In doing so each of his dishes is accompanied by a different wine, few of which are familiar to DonQui. Amongst the most notable are the Equinocio Branco from Southern Portugal which goes very well with the opening courses and the French Uroulat Jurançon desert wine.

passion fruit.jpg
Passion fruit desert with Jurançon wine

The deserts are as sublime as the savoury courses. There are several of them including a passion fruit concoction served in an elegant ceramic pot as well as a mix of strawberry based sweets. Perhaps the most unusually interesting is the tiny porcini mushroom fudge served at the end of the meal — the earthiness of mushroom unexpectedly and beautifully combining with the sweetness of the fudge.

Strawberry second desert

This is probably the best meal DonQui has had in a long time. Given the restaurant’s reputation and its small size, bookings need to be made well in advance. 

How to use herbs

Busy with other things, DonQui has been a bit lax of late when it comes to his writing. Never mind — his hooves are once again tapping the keyboard.

Recently he had the delightful experience of spending a day at Jekka’s Herb Farm just outside Bristol.


Jekka McVicar is the Herb Guru of the UK. Her many acolytes include Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal. DonQui can now also be counted amongst their number having completed Jekka’s How to Use Herbs masterclass.

DonQui loves his herbs especially those from the Lamiaceae family which includes thyme, rosemary, mint, basil and oregano amongst others. Until now he did not know that much about them and his attempts to grow various herbs have been rather hit and miss. Now he knows much more although the paradox of knowledge is that the more he learns the more he realises just how much more there is still to learn.


So what did he learn?

In no particular order the things that stand out most for DonQui are:


In the West we use the wrong part of lemongrass. In many parts of Asia it is the leaves which are prized, not the stalks. The stalks are exported to the West and the leaves are used at home. DonQui therefore purchased a lemongrass plant so he can start experimenting with the leaves.

Rosemary has been proven to improve memory. This is a good thing to know as DonQui is hopelessly forgetful. This is not just down to his ageing brain — he has always been that way. When he was a young colt his father once told him that it was a good thing his head was screwed on as otherwise he would forget it.

Oregano (and marjoram) is good for stomach upset and indigestion while fennel seed can prevent heartburn. This is why fennel seeds are a key component of Mukhwas, an Indian after-meal digestive. Mint is also a natural digestive and helps to calm the gut. A glass or two of fresh mint tea after a meal is probably a much better bet than DonQui’s usual espresso!

Aniseed, tarragon and fennel seeds help to break down cholesterol. DonQui is rather fond of cream sauce with tarragon (with fish and chicken breast). Now he knows that the tarragon not only adds to the taste — it also helps his body deal with the cholesterol overdose.

Garlic helps to reduce blood pressure — something DonQui needs to do. He also learned that the little shoot in the middle of the bulb (often slightly greenish) can taste bitter in old garlic. It can easily be removed by splitting the clove length-wise down the centre before slicing or crushing.


The flowers of most herbs are not only edible but they pack a fabulous flavour punch. They do loose their taste in cooking so use them in a salad or by sprinkling over a dish after cooking. After flowering the herbs should be cut back,

It is incredibly simple to create a herb infusion. Simply pour boiled (but not boiling) water over a sprig of your favourite herb to make a refreshing tea which can also be kept to drink cold. DonQui hopes that the occasional Rosemary infusion may help him to remember where he left his keys, or his phone, or his wallet.


With over 300 culinary herbs, Jekka’s Herb Farm is the largest single collection in the UK. Delivered with dry humour by Jekka and her two adult children, the masterclass was as fun as it was informative. There was plenty of opportunity to create and try various concoctions and decoctions as well as a lovely lunch which showed off the use of many of the herbs.

DonQui highly recommends taking a class or just visiting on one of the open days. Be advised that classes fill up almost as soon as they are advertised. It took DonQui almost a year to secure a place which he got off a waiting list. It is worth persevering!