Apollo 31, (Marmo pop-up) 31 Baldwin St, Bristol BS1 1RG

- Review -

Apollo 31: To circumvent covid, Marmo goes out of this world

Because sports are the worst, I’m not usually the sort of person you’d find watching them. Although as someone who has spent years having their evenings ruined by the boys remembering it’s Match of The Day in the middle of a Rainbow Road decider, every now and then being subjected to this sort of thing pays off. When it came to boxing, I became fascinated with one in particular- Nikolai Valuev.

This was mostly due to his adoption of the Homer Simpson technique whereby he allowed his opponent to punch themselves tired, then issued one downward fist to the top of the head for a neat KO.

Round after round, the invariably dwarfed opponent did their best to bob, weave, fake & deceive but to the indifference of a man who looks like he’s been blasted out of neolithic bedrock. All the while he’s biding his time; even smiling in the face of it. Hummingbird or bee, Valuev remained unphased.

For over a year now, the restaurant industry has taken hit after hit with many having either folded under the weight of their circumstances or have successfully found a way to adapt. Marmo seems unphased as it delivers this Valuevlian KO to the scourge of ‘the new normal’.

Of course, the blessing of fried chicken is a universal- nobody disputes that- but when it’s done badly, can be harrowing. The line for me is the scenario in which, delicious or not, the skin completely slides off with the first bite- a loose, damp batter that comes away like a caught tablecloth.

The coating is, by contrast of my nightmares, this fitted Kevlar- fused to the filleted thigh meat that stays put with every bite. Whilst nobody has grassed up the recipe to me, the batter seems like it’s fortified with polenta, semolina maybe even just baking soda- with what I can swear is a tang of a hard cheese in the back somewhere.

So robust is the batter that it’s completely water-tight; allowing the meat to almost poach in its own juices, whilst maintaining structural integrity at all times. A projection of my own inadequacies, I feel a nip of rage. Who does Marmo think they are? Times get tough and they just nonchalantly drop this on us, like it’s nothing? Then again, discretion is the better part of valour.

Rarely are chips favourable as a side when contrasted with fries. Crispy little salty starchy nothings that boost the seasoning as you go- chips aren’t that. They’re hefty and cumbersome in a way that detracts from something like fried chicken or a burger. However what they’ve done here is, take the width of a chip and spliced it with the depth of a fry resulting in this cuboid set to maximum crisp. It’s not this starchy nothingness, but sweet with that wholesome cwtch of potato that gives way to the shrapnel of its exterior.

Dipping into them like loose change, the pickles are mutant ninja-green ridged coins- thick and plump with brine. Notably sweet but still with that crunch and quenching sourness, I wanted more and brattishly forced myself to pace the distribution throughout the affair.

In addition to the acidic-relief party is a tomato salad, dressed simply with cumin- out of left-field it would seem, for someone that doesn't know better (me). Often associated with the far east, cumin found its way into mediterranean cooking and so it makes sense here, as this meal is entirely a homage to fusion but with modesty set to stun. Juicy, aromatic and cooling, it competes for my reserves of pickles- but only just.

Slinking about in the bottom of the bag are two demure nods to Marmo’s roots. A cacio e pepe sauce which has me shaking my head with a chuckle. What the fuck, Marmo? Yet another flick of the wrist that exudes the originality that they embody. The other is an ‘nduja sauce, glossy and malleable like a softened compound butter- allowing easy application that doesn’t drip.

I’m sitting on a wrought iron bench in the rain, gnawing in the way a squirrel does- rotating the food in my claws with each bite, staring twitchily into the middle distance for predators. As a matter of course, I’ve always devoted good time to finding at least a decent fried chicken joint whenever I move to a new neighbourhood.

The fucked up thing is that upon moving back to Bristol, Maxin Chicken up Gloucester Road was my only vice for a long time. Pro-cruelty chicken I’m sure as it must be reflected in the price, the flavours always had me coming back for more and totally discarding my moral compass. That, and, I never had any sickness afterwards, which has almost come to be expected from that grade of animal welfare as well as it coming out of a kitchen that looks like it glosses over EHO guidelines with pride. The back of the premises disappeared into the shadows.

Tonight was a prayer answered but also a bitter realisation that this is just a fling- a romance where they don’t remember your face but you spend your days drifting into a haze thinking about them. Marmo’s had their way with me, al fresco style, and all that’s left is to see myself out with a bloated walk of shame back to my own bed.

Fuck you Marmo, I fucking love you.