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June 19, 2019

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Bistro brings international flavor to small town Bluffton

Raising the bar on the dining out experience in Bluffton

Icon Restaurant Review:
Bystillwaters Bistro
112 Vine Street, Bluffton
Reviewer: Liz Gordon-Hancock

At the back of Black Lab Trading Co., what was Jeanne's Kitchen has been revamped into Bystillwaters Bistro.

It's been open for four months now. Heather Cox, the owner, is doing something different with this restaurant. The decor is much the same, with exposed brick and painted mural and stencilling in colonial style. Cox has added plush, high-backed chairs to sit and relax over your meal.

The menu is particularly unique. Besides the regular menu of burgers, wraps, sandwiches, and soup and salad bar, there's a Dining with God menu. The Dining with God menu is a selection of vegetarian dishes consisting of foods, which were available when Jesus was alive, such as nuts, dates and hummus. Cox has brought these foods into the 21st century with her unique combination of flavors.

I was tempted by the "Jesus Pizza" - home-baked unleavened dough, layered with homemade hummus, tomato, goat cheese, onions and our Mediterranean dressing, with a fresh cucumber side salad.

Everything is made fresh at the bistro, from the pizza dough (on Friday nights) to the award-winning soups and salad dressings. Since everything is made on the premise, this allows Bystillwaters Bistro to be incredibly flexible with any dietary requirements or allergies.

If you do not like olives or cannot have gluten, then the restaurant can easily cater to your needs. In fact, everything on the Dining with God menu is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

Wednesday afternoons
On Wednesday afternoons, the restaurant serves English fare and Afternoon Teas from 2:30 to 5 p.m. In England, afternoon teas are for shared, special events and celebrations.

Since Cox is indeed English, this English Tea is guaranteed to be proper. A proper afternoon tea consists of your choice of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of mini cakes, such as jam tarts or truffles, all served on a three-tiered platter. If you order a hot tea with it, the wait staff will bring you a cup and saucer, a mini teapot with loose leaf tea brewing inside, and a tea strainer.

Cox cooks up daily and weekly specials, based off a weekly theme. My husband and I came for a Friday evening meal during Vegetarian Week. For the meat lover, we could still order a burger or chicken melt off the regular menu. The special of the week was a rainbow veg sandwich (see picture) on handmade rye bread.

Since it was Friday night, we also had our choice of a three-course meal for $18.99, the soup and salad bar, or make-your-own pizza, made on the premises with your choice of toppings. This was in addition to anything off the regular menu.  

I opted for the three-course meal: roasted garlic potatoes as the starter, spinach and roast veg pie as the main, and chocolate mousse cake for dessert. My starter of roasted garlic potato was small but satisfying, and not too heavy on the garlic, with a sprinkling of parmesan and sea salt.

The main dish was a spinach base layered with creamy sauce and a myriad of cubed vegetables, topped with a thin handmade pastry crust.  This was nothing like a pot pie - it was so much better. This dish was unlike anything I've ever tasted before.

Each bite was flavorful - fresh coriander, hints of ginger, sweetness of carrots, and morsels of tender onions and parsnips. The dish was filling, but without the heaviness that comes with feeling full. Then, a double-decker slice of chocolate mousse cake was placed in front of me for dessert. The airy chocolate mousse between layers of moist sponge just melts in your mouth. This treat was made by the in-house baker, Dennis Ellerbrock.

Everything I ate, I loved.

My husband ordered a dish from the Dining with God section of the menu, called Matthew 5:6.  The dish was dates, nuts, dried fruits, pita bread, olives and homemade hummus, with balsamic vinegar and mint dressing and home-baked unleavened bread. (See picture) The platter came as a selection of bowls, allowing you to combine as you wish. The balsamic vinegar dressing (made by Cox) was particularly delicious.

Portion sizes were good. Every sandwich or wrap comes with your choice of soup, salad or chips. The dishes range from $7-9. Service was quick and conscientious. We were served and finished within an hour.

Saturday nights
Saturday nights is international night, highlighting cuisine from a different country. Cox is offering a four-course meal for $25, which includes a drink. You can bring your own wine or beer. Considering how delicious and fresh the food is, I would say that is good value for money.

Cox is raising the bar on the dining out experience in Bluffton. In England (and most of Europe), eating out is more of an event: you consider getting dressed up and expect to take more than 30 minutes to eat. You take your time over your meal and savor it. This encourages good conversation, while you're enjoying good food. Cox is bringing this tradition, as well as international flavors, to Bluffton.

The restaurant menu leans towards vegetarian. Normally when I think of vegetarian dishes, the dish has just replaced meat with mushrooms or cheese and is heavy on the pasta. Plus, it can be less filling. However, that is not the case with Cox's vegetarian offerings. If you're still not full after a delicious Veggie Burger or hummus pizza, than you have every excuse to eat a slice of cake, made by the in-house baker.

Come to the bistro and try something you've never tasted before. Have a proper Afternoon Tea. Or try an old favorite, like a toasted cheese sandwich, that's been re-invented into spinach pesto grilled cheese sandwich. All of the dishes are guaranteed to be fresh, made on the premise, and delicious.

Upcoming theme week:
This week, from July 24-28 is Quesadilla week. On Friday, 27 July, there will be special Texas quesadillas and ribs on offer. Check out the bistro's facebook page for upcoming theme weeks.

Bystillwaters Bistro hours:
• Tuesdays – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Wednesdays – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2:30 to 5 p.m.
   (Wednesday’s late afternoon’s menu features English tea and food)
• Thursdays –11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Fridays – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7:30 p.m.
• Saturdays – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7:30 p.m.
(Saturday evening features an international dinner)