Pastry Renovation

A Bucktown favorite gets serious about dessert

Editor's note: Amanda Rockman left The Bristol (and its sister restaurant, Balena) in February 2013. 

We've never complained about The Bristol's chocolate sabayon with peanut butter cookies, a constant on the dessert menu.

But we will cheer over its new companions, courtesy of the two-year-old restaurant's first-ever pastry chef, Amanda Rockman.

She's plumped the historically short, simple menu with sophisticated desserts that stack up to the savory side.

Basque cake ($10) is an aerated version of the traditionally dense sweet, with a crisp bronze exterior and a pillowy inside. Salted to perfection, it's surrounded by apples cooked to a golden translucence in apple cider caramel.

A crock of olive oil and grapefruit flavors ($10) is the restaurant's most delicate and unusual dessert to date, marked by a gentle and pleasantly lingering bitterness. A nugget of grapefruit-olive oil cake hides inside olive oil custard rich with the oil's verdant fruitiness. Grapefruit curd with a touch of Campari, grapefruit gelée and cinnamon-scented grapefruit segments lies on top to freshen each bite.

Small brownie cookies now accompany coffee and tea, and Rockman is currently working on caramels to serve as mignardises–chocolate-sea salt and coffee-gianduja. Sweet potatoes and whoopee pies are her next sources of inspiration.

Brunch's great gain: a croissant, part of a quartet of pastries, along with coffee cake, a chocolate-cream cheese muffin and a cinnamon roll.

The Bristol, 2152 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-5555 or thebristolchicago.com