PASTA LOCO, COTHAM, BRISTOL
In July 2016, cousins Ben Harvey and Dominic Borel embarked on an exciting journey to bring a touch of Bristol to traditional Italian dishes. But finding the right venue is never easy, so when Harvey finally stumbled across what we now know as Pasta Loco, the cousin’s dream was quickly becoming reality. After just 3 months of rebuilding under the direction of Mike Harvey, Ben’s father and Dom’s Uncle, this truly family affair was ready to open its doors to Bristol’s fiercely passionate foodies. Nestled amongst some of Bristol’s finest restaurants, Pasta Loco had a lot to compete with from day one, but through selecting authentic ingredients and offering excellent service, together Dom and Ben have created a restaurant that stands its ground, oozing elegance and character.
How did Pasta Loco come to be?
It was really Ben Harvey’s idea who is Also our head chef. After running a pop up restaurant in St Werburghs (Cafe Mulino) the demand for his food went up and we had been discussing opening a restaurant for over a decade, it just felt like the time was right. opening such a restaurant is something we had loosely been discussing Since we were 20 years old…
What have been your biggest challenges?
We haven’t had too many large setbacks or challenges – we’ve been extremely blessed with our staff and management team, plus we’ve got a lot of support from other restaurants and businesses. Things like last minute machine breakdowns and gas companies always keep us on our toes but overall we’ve been really lucky.
Any regrets since opening?
Honestly – not one. At all. We’ve had a much more positive response than we could ever have imagined.
Why Cotham Brow, did you think about opening anywhere else before?
I was still living in Sydney at the time and Ben would send me through different venues but he was particularly taken with this one. He talked about the local residents, the mixture of students, families and young professionals plus we are surrounded by so many other great restaurants like Wilsons, Bulrush, Wilks, No Mans Grace, Bellita etc… it all makes for a great community.
How did you come up with the name?
Ben’s crazy twin girls, Annie-May and Betsy go mental anytime they eat ‘Daddy’s’ pasta so that’s pretty much how we came up with it. It’s also a bit of a play on the fact Ben takes old school recipes and adds a crazy spin on them – a touch of Bristol.
What is your speciality, what do people keep coming back for?
The Carbonara – linguine in a creamy sauce with diced Porcini, crumbled salsiccia, crispy pork belly, topped with a poached egg, wrapped in pancetta. People go nuts for it, some have even walked out after we ran out of it a few times but we have a lot more to offer & to come.
Your menu is incredibly hard to choose from (i want to eat it all…) how do you come up with it?
The kitchen crew (Ben, Joe, Konrad, Frankie & Nick) work together everyday on local produce and whatever gets flown in from the Milan markets that morning. Generally we work off what there is a high demand for and what wild ideas everyone has – it’s playtime but with food.
The italians like coffee just as much as they like pasta, why is it so important to serve good coffee?
People deserve it. For something that we rely so heavily on, for something that most of us need on a daily basis, people should be served food and drink that has been made with love and this is something we believe we do. After working and living in Sydney for almost 9 years one becomes accustom to high quality coffee. Australians are one of the biggest coffee consumers in the world, they take it really seriously. It becomes the norm to take care of the grind, timing, the milk and the pour. There’s a lot of competition out there as well and the Bristol market is catching up, we’d rather help the movement forward than stick around with average coffee.
Describe your perfect coffee…
Ben and I both lovea macchiato, a smooth, rich bean with a perfect balance of sweetness & bite. Our favourite Brian Wogan bean is the Organic, Fairtrade Sumatran, it’s the bean we use in the restaurant and our customers seem to love it too.
Do you have any plans to expand?
We’ve just gone public with our plans to open Pasta Ripiena which will be central, slightly smaller than PL and will offer a range of stuffed pastasand other small dishes. This will be manned by Joe Harvey, Bens younger brother, my cousin and ex head chef of Bellita. We can’t wait for it and aim to be open in early 2018, but you know how openings go…
You’ve spent a lot of your career in Sydney, tell me about that…
It was crazy, it’s definitely where I cut my teeth in the fields of food, coffee, wine and cocktails. I worked and managed a range of places from 5 star hotels to 2 hat restaurants. I had great mentors like Mike Collins and worked alongside legendary Chef’s such as Jason Dean and Monty Koludrovic, who really opened my eyes to high quality food and great service.
Why did you decideto move back, was it the right decision?
I was heavily involved in Sydney’s hospitality scene but I missed my family and I finally felt the call to come home. When Ben rang me about opening a restaurant it was the cherry of the cake. Sydney isn’t over for me but we’ve got stuff to work on here in the UK at the minute.
Of course the success of Pasta Loco is no two man job and Dom’s immense gratitude extends to his family and friends but most of all to the people who have dined, returned and continued to support the restaurant as it has gone from strength to strength. It’s all too obvious that without family, Pasta Loco and its soon to open sister restaurant Pasta Ripiena would not have been possible and I’m sure their new venture will revel in just as much success.