Brazz at the Castle at Taunton - Review

10 Aug 2023

by Giles Adams

It was this summer that Brazz in Taunton celebrated its 25th birthday, yet its incarnation for the last few years is the period that seems the closest match to its name.
Lively and confident, it’s a long way from when my father occasionally drank ale from tankards in the surrounding Castle Hotel following scrum appearances for Bridgwater Rugby Club in the early 1950s, around the time that the Chapman family took ownership. The entrance then was on North Street, however today a vibrant ambience resonates as the doors open to Castle Bow.
Brazz is fast becoming a destination for cocktail aficionados. No cartons of sugary pulp here, but essences nurtured and prepared on the premises. I have never written a sonnet, however if that time comes then my first will be about the Smoking Old Fashioned, prepared and delivered by Adam Turnbull. Rich and dark Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon was enhanced perfectly by orange twist and maple syrup. There are three pages of cocktails on the menu, and a smattering of alcohol-free options. I followed with a contrasting Grapefruit and Rose Gin Sour, Carina enjoyed a sip so much that she begged Adam for an off-menu alcohol-free version. Exquisite. I have lobbied the Chapmans many times to place an 8’ Bosendorfer grand piano for me to play in such a buzzing atmosphere. Alas it’s a sensible no, due to using valuable floor space let alone the cost. If only there were inflatable ones. The ambient upbeat yet sensitive playlist underpinned the venue and cocktail vibe perfectly instead.
The menu alongside also suited its hinterland, both within Brazz and out. Chef Andrew Swann returned to The Castle last year, having started his career here over twenty years ago. He is bringing his mark and also awards to the table, this year winning Trencherman’s Best Chef. Local suppliers such as Stream Farm, Parris Potatoes and Longman’s feed the Castle’s subterranean kitchen, a creative HQ purring away beneath us.
Seven options for starter, three of them fish (including Octopus Carpaccio), two vegan. Actually it was four fish as I am neglecting to tell you about the set menu on the facing page to the main one, remarkable value at £30 for two courses, £35 for three. Carina dived straight for the Crispy Squid and came up with treasure. Of course such a dish is firstly about texture, just sublime, with the waves of delicate taste perfectly counterpointed by Siracha mayo which has just a gentle heat.
The Severn & Wye Smoked Salmon, Quail Egg, Orange, Cucumber, Radish, Dill that I chose was a magnificent combination of fresh contrasting tastes and textures that continually bounced off each other. Inventive, with so many palette experiences on one plate united by the salmon, we both agreed it was dish of the night. There are five white wines available by the glass, Adam steered me away from choosing an Undurraga TH Chardonnay on to an exceptionally dry yet smooth Olivier Coste, 'Rare' Carignan Blanc. 
Whilst here, the wine list at Brazz is extraordinary. 34 pages is nearly biblical and it was on the final page of ‘by the glass’ where I spent the evening, culminating in a dessert Liberator South African Chenin Blanc escorting a Rum Baba. Leafing back through however was a grand tour of viticulture, starting of course at la mère patrie of France but even venturing to Lebanon, Turkey, North Macedonia, Croatia and a comprehensive assortment from Greece, a nice testament to owner Kit Chapman’s lineage. (Top Tip: if you are ever pushed for conversation, pop some ear plugs in and then ask Kit where the Elgin Marbles should reside). I particularly liked the unabbreviated title for United States of America, nice touch.
Swartland Winery, ‘Founders’ Merlot from Western Cape  warmly accompanied my Chicken breast with a novel potato gnocchi and a red wine sauce – a warm beckon to autumn. Stream Farm are based a few miles away in the Quantock Hills and their organic ethos pays dividend on the plate. Certainly not a shy portion but the volume sacrificed nothing to quality, more a poulet experience in rural France. Brixham Pollock, Saffron & Pea Risotto, Dill Oil was a treat, nicely seared surrounding a gorgeous texture. The risotto’s al dente poise easily passed the exceptionally high bar of La regina del risotto, Carina Lagnado. My experience of them before meeting her was so poor, I had always thought they were boiled sweepings from the floor of Italian restaurants. – 01823 252000. 

Brazz at the Castle at Taunton - Review
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