One of only a handful to hold a star in the city, the high-reaching restaurant will close later this year due to rapidly increasing costs making the business “financially unviable”.
It is understood a more casual restaurant, run by owner chef-patron Peter Sanchez-Iglesias will take its place.
Casamia executive chef Zak Hitchman will leave the business as the restaurant closes on 20 August and hopes to open a restaurant of his own.
Sanchez-Iglesias is among the South West’s most prominent chef restaurateurs, also running the Michelin-starred Pacos Tapas in Bristol and Decimo in London.
Bristol’s most ambitious restaurant
Currently open for dinner on Thursday and for lunch and dinner Friday to Saturday, Casamia offers a circa 20-course £180 tasting menu with wine pairing priced at £120.
Difficulty reliably filling the dining room on Thursday evening and Friday lunchtimes is exacerbating the situation, says Sanchez-Iglesias.
“With margins so tight every table counts. Losing just a few covers per service is often the difference between making a profit and making a loss.”
“The family has been reviewing it for the last couple of months and have come to the difficult decision that it’s time to call it a day.”
Casamia reopened after lockdown with a more edgy look and menu and a more theatrical approach after Sanchez-Iglesias handed creative control to Hitchman, formerly of high-profile Welsh restaurant Ynyshir. Hitcham describes Casamia on his Instagram account as: “’less of a restaurant, more of a weird gig with food”.
The changes were divisive, with some older customers taking issue with the pair’s more contemporary take on high-end dining.
“As far as I’m concerned Casamia is the best it’s ever been,” says Sanchez-Iglesias. “It’s super creative and free. Part of the reason we are closing is that we don’t want to compromise on anything or stop moving forward. I can’t ask the team to start ordering lower quality produce or reducing the number of courses.”
A new restaurant
The Sanchez-Iglesias family are planning to open a new venture in the former Casamia site as early as this Christmas.
The concept has not been finalised but it could well serve Italian food, referencing Casamia’s origins as a simple neighbourhood trattoria.
Such a restaurant would not be called Casamia and would likely be pitched at a similar level as Pacos Tapas, which is in the same building as Casamia.
Holding onto staff
Sanchez-Iglesias is hoping to retain the Casamia team, with staff offered jobs at both Pacos Tapas and his restaurant Decimo in the capital, which is located atop The Standard, London.
Staff will also have the option to take some time out and return to the business when the concept launches.
Casamia was opened in 1997 in the Bristol suburb of Westbury-on-Trym by the brother’s Spanish father Paco and Bristol-born mother Sue, who remain closely involved with the business.
The brothers worked in the kitchen as teenagers and soon developed a love of and aptitude for Italian cooking and were given free rein in the kitchen in 2006, receiving their first Michelin star in 2009.
Casamia moved to its new home at The General development in 2016 shortly after Sanchez-Iglesias’ older brother and culinary collaborator Jonray died after a four-year battle with cancer.
Bristol will be left with just two Michelin-starred establishments when Casamia closes its doors – Pacos Tapas and Bulrush.