A new, modern wine bar and restaurant has joined the Bristol culinary scene, in the heart of Clifton village, and it’s made quite the entrance so far. In the vicinity of the likes of Cote, The Ivy Clifton Brasserie, Rosemarino, Wallfish and The Clifton Sausage, you might think attracting a strong crowd would be a tough feat for the newbie on the block, but Wellbourne is going remarkably strong. Bolstered by its charismatic team and intimate atmosphere (one that perfectly matches its minimalist menu concept), it’s safe to say I’m welcoming this new addition to The Mall with open arms.
The 36- seater space feels contemporary yet cosy. With tan seating, emerald panelling, wooden floors and white tables, its aesthetic is coastal meets urban jungle. Chefs Michael Kennedy (recently a chef at Wallfish) and Ross Gibbens, and front of house whiz Martin Irwin all met when they worked in Michelin-starred Dabbous in Bloomsbury.
Coming from the glitter of London to Bristol’s much loved Clifton village was a ‘huge change’ according to Martin. ‘It’s been a rollercoaster, but so far so good. Everyone, from other establishments to local diners, has been incredibly welcoming and embraced us with open arms which we’re thrilled about. The menu is going down well too, which is fantastic.’
We started with round of fizz, before perusing the drinks menu further. It was refreshing to see such an intriguing drinks menu accompanied by the equally knowledgeable front of house Martin, who entertained all my questions about the 7 gins and 9 rums on the list. We arrived pretty early at 7pm so it was only D and I, plus a few other tables. On a rainy September Monday night, we weren’t expecting things to get too bustling. By 8pm however, we were pleasantly surprised by the increasing number of diverse diners. Tables of couples, families and friends laughing over dim candle light, to the smell of great cooking (with something to prove) – we were in for a treat it seemed.
The abundant wine selection was winking at us from the impressive fridge behind the zinc-finished bar. If you fancy something light with a glass of wine, there’s the vol au vents (one for £2.50, two for £4.50 or three for £6). Our favourites were the creamed girolles, new season garlic and thyme, and Cardigan Bay shrimps, smoked paprika and rapeseed mayonnaise.
Fresh bread is served with fig infused butter – a flavour that permeates across the menu. Rich, sweet and slightly sharp too, it was the perfect beginning.
For supper, starters range from £7.50 (Red Russian tomato, fresh chestnut, basil and wild horseradish) to £9 (Charred lettuce, south coast crab, peanut and tagetes). D had the crab which melted in the mouth. It was so fresh and the simple presentation added to the honesty of the ingredients. My quail with cumin leaf, white radish and golden raisins was tasty (particularly the quail itself) – but perhaps better suited to those with a penchant for bitter notes.
Mains start at £14 (violet aubergine, pistou, sesame and dandelion) rising to £20 (Veal, new season onions, mustard leaf and rapeseed dressing). My duck with wild sour cherries and sea beet was, again simply presented (part of the charm), cooked to perfection and the cherries made the whole dish pop. Even better was the veal – soft, succulent and earthy.
All puddings are £7.50. The slow cooked chocolate fondant with crushed fig leaf Arbequina olive was the star of the show for me. Pure, melted dark chocolate (rather than the typical small sponge format) is surrounded by chocolate soil – a chocolate lover’s fix.
Figs, mascarpone, sage and fresh honeycomb wasn’t too far behind the showstopper. The fresh, rich figs, creamy mascarpone and sticky honeycomb transported us straight back to our summer spent on the Amalfi coast a few years ago.
The service was the best I’ve had in a while and the décor, flavour combinations and dish presentation were intriguing and fresh.
During the daytime, you can order open sandwiches, vol au vents, bars snacks including crispy pig ears and olives (both £3) and there’s a quirky brunch menu – complete with favourite brunch dish of the moment, avo on toast, along with options such as hot smoked mackerel with wild horseradish on crumpets.
Overall, Wellbourne is very much a welcomed addition to Bristol’s ever-growing restaurant scene. The atmosphere is low key, yet refined and I’ve heard on the grapevine it can get pretty buzzy as the night goes on. The menu isn’t extensive but you know every dish on there has been carefully crafted and cooked with the utmost care. The prices are high for the mains considering the smallish size, but the starters, desserts and other daytime options are very reasonable.
I will be back – specifically to have that slow cooked chocolate fondant once again.
Visit Wellbourne website here for more information and the full menu.
The Time I Beat Bristol’s Scariest Escape Room
I’m put in many a tricky situation exploring the very ‘Best of Bristol’.
Usually up high, scaling buildings and cranes (#antimitchclimbs), but I didn’t think it would result in being locked in a prison cell with a psycho killer called Pig Face (pictured above). Welcome to Hell in a Cell, ay?
Now for some of you reading, Hell in the Cell will make you think of wrestling but I can promise you this is scarier than when Shane McMahon jumps off the top of that cell.
Hidden beneath the old Crown Courts on Bridewell Street, within the cells, this has been dubbed “Bristol’s scariest attraction”. And so in the interest of research I took on Pig Face, and lived to tell the tale!
I can’t actually give away too much of the game, because this is an escape room and that just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?
What I can reveal though, should give you a taste of what to expect.
Like any escape room, Hell in a Cell Bristol sets players challenges that they have to complete. Perhaps the first challenge is not backing out after you’re handcuffed with a sack placed over your head.
It’s then trying not to cack yourself as you’re led into the pitch black cells, where you know you’re not alone, but you can’t quite tell what’s there.
It’s that lovely fucker by the name of Pig Face.
Pig Face is reasonably fair at this point and allows you an hour to make your escape. It’s go time!
Oh, and all your belongings have been taken off you, so you can’t use your phone torch or ask Siri for help.
What I will say is that you bond pretty bastard quickly when you’re scrambling to find light and remove your handcuffs. I was with my good friend Colin Moody, but with three other people I did not know, and we came out of it with an unwavering sense of camaraderie.
That probably explains why this Bristol escape room has proven so popular with corporate clients in the city. Hell, it’s proven pretty popular with all but one reviewer on a popular site that rhymes with whip chastiser. That person claimed it wasn’t very scary. Ooooooo sorry ‘ard.
The game itself was challenging, terrifying and fun (if you like being scared). It will most certainly fill you with adrenaline and leave you in need of a celebratory drink if you do make it out.
This is NOT for the faint hearted. I don’t scare easy, and if you’re like me you won’t feel a sense of fear, but you’ll definitely be made to jump. Nobody is immune to that.
If you do scare easily, go to the bathroom beforehand. Or don’t, these are real holding cells so you could always have a pee in there..
Tag us in your psycho selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you take on Pig Face
Sampling The Lesser Known Ciders From Thatchers
Despite the recent rain, bbq season is upon us, and no camping trip or garden gathering is complete without a few ciders to sweeten the deal.
With honey notes and a golden colour, the medium-dry Thatchers Gold is the flagship cider from one of Somerset’s oldest cider makers – and it’s a great go-to cider on any occasion – but Thatchers Cider have been producing and pressing apples in the Somerset village of Sandford since 1905, and their selection these days is broad.
An introduction to Thatchers Cider and Pasture
To showcase the full range of their cider offerings, the Thatchers Cider team descended on Pasture – the stylish new bar and restaurant near St Mary Redcliffe – last week.
With butcher Sam’s enthusiasm for local produce and Thatchers’ chief cider-maker Richard Johnson on hand, it was the perfect pairing.
Richard introduced us to the Thatchers Cider story – starting over 100 years ago with farmer William Thatcher making cider to help pay his workers, and ending with William’s great grandson Martin (the current managing director) overseeing Thatchers Cider distribution throughout the UK. In between tastings, Pasture’s Sam talked us through the menu selections he’d made to bring out the best in the ciders chosen.
Food and cider pairings
The Thatchers team opened with Katy, a light and softly sparkling cider made from Katy apples, and with it came Pasture’s scallop ceviche with pickled gooseberry and lime – the delicate seafood working beautifully with the light, bubbly cider. There followed five further mini-courses, each paired with a different Thatchers’ cider.
The meaty steak tartare with oyster mayonnaise met its match in Thatchers’ Old Rascal – a peppery 4.5% cider made with Tremlette and Somerset Redstreak apples for a bittersweet flavour. And Pasture’s short rib croquettes with delicate gochujang aioli balanced nicely with the bold and beautiful Thatchers’ Vintage – an oak-matured 7.4% cider with fruity aroma and crisp flavour.
It was a great chance to try lesser-known Thatchers ciders you don’t regularly see in the big supermarkets, and clear to see the thought Sam had put into the food pairings he chose.
If you’d like to give a few of Thatchers’ lesser-known ciders a try, take a look at the full range and buy online here. And for more details on the flame-grilled offerings over at Pasture, check out their website here.
Bristol’s Biggest Food Festival Is Back
Bristol Food Connections 2018 is nearly here, so it’s time to plan your festival!
Bristol Food Connections is one the highlights of Bristol’s food calendar, with a ridiculous amount of events (130 at the last count!) taking place across the city from 11-17th June.
It’s a fairly huge festival, covering everything from growing your own food to huge gala dinners and talks on sustainability. We’ve decided to break down what’s happening and pick out a few of our favourites from this year’s programme.
Booze it up
There are plenty of ways to hit the hard stuff (and find out more about it too)…
- A Journey Through Gin on Brunel’s SS Great Britain (Thu 14th, £22)
A tutored tasting of the full range of Bramley & Gage’s gins (inc. 6 O’Clock Gin) and liquers aboard Bristol’s historic ship.
- Traditional Cider Making, Orchard Tour & Tasting (Sun 17th, £10)
Enjoy a guided tour of this orchard in North Somerset & taste several ciders.
- Whisky and the Senses (Tue 12th, £8)
Find out why whisky tastes the way it does, and why you like some but not others.
- Cider vs Beer (Tue 12th, £25)
Taste your way through a selection of great beers & ciders and find out their similarities and differences!
- Portuguese wine dinner (Sat 16th, £45)
A three-course Portuguese dinner complimented with a paired wine flight.
- A Celebration of Bread & Beer (Fri 15th, Free)
Left Handed Giant and Assembly Bakery join forces for this street food party in Finzels Reach.
- Avery’s Summer of Wine (Sat 16th, £25)
Avery’s annual wine fiesta takes over Colston Hall, with over 100 wines for you to try!
See more of Bristol
With events dotted in every far flung corner of Bristol, now is the time to get out and explore!
- World Food Passport (All week, £8)
Taste your way around the food businesses of Gloucester Road, collecting stamps as you go (or you can also do a guided food tour of Gloucester Road that week too).
- Behind the Scenes of a Gin Distillery (Sat 16th, £25)
Head out to Thornbury for this special tour of 6 O’clock Gin’s distillery to find out more about how their delectable spirit is made (with plenty of tasters along the way, obv).
- Shroomshop (Sun 17th, £30)
Get some hands-on tips about mushroom cultivation at this workshop in St Werbs.
- Thyme Trail (Fri 15th, £15)
Visit various vendors in Wapping Wharf, hearing the stories behind the businesses and getting tasters as you go.
- TimeZone: Eat Your Way Around the World (Sat 16th, £4)
Try a range of international cuisine in Easton, including Jamican, Indonesian and Spanish.
- Eco day at Hartcliffe City Farm (Sun 17th, Free)
Try your hand at pond dipping, searching for bugs and other activities.
It’s not just about filling your face with food, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn a new skill or hear some interesting perspectives on the food we eat too:
- In Our Hands Screening (Thu 14th, £5, or £12 with a two-course meal)
Head to City Hall to see this thought-provoking documentary about Britain’s food system.
- Transforming the Education System Through Food (Tues 12th, £8)
Can schools transform learning through diet? Head along to this talk to find out.
- Philosophy Breakfast: The Ethics of Global Food Production (Sun 17th, £14)
Is it possible to eat ethically? Join the debate (breakfast included)
- Startup Stories (Tue 12th, £10)
Hear from several Bristol food businesses how they started out, and how to build a successful independent business.
- The Secret Life of Cows (Sun 17th, £8)
How do cows naturally behave, and what issues does this raise around farming?
- Fermentation Collaboration (Thu 14th, £25)
The Pickled Brisket & Bristol Cider Shop explain the process of fermentation, followed by a cider tasting and one of Pickled Brisket’s mega sandwiches.
Some seriously special dinner events from well-known chefs and local producers…
- FUTURE: FEAST (Mon 11th, £25)
Star Trek meets Come Dine With Me in an ‘immersive dining experience’.
- A Summer’s Feast (Fri 15th & Sat 16th, £30)
The next generation of Bristol chefs serve up a seasonal feast.
- It’s a Bristol Ting! (Sun 17th, Free)
Celebrate Bristol’s Jamaican community with rum & jerk chicken at Lakota.
- Chocolate Gala Dinner (Mon 11th, £35)
A special dinner to kick-off festival week, with all 3 courses featuring chocolate.
- Summer Dine & Vine Feast (Thu 14th, £30)
A three-course tasting menu paired with bio-dynamic wines.
- Homegrown Collective Supper Club (Fri 15th, £35)
Three-courses of local, seasonal food accompanied by music.
There are also loads of free talks and demos at the Festival Hub (next to Watershed) throughout the week, so it’s worth stopping by to see what’s on!
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