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Wellbourne Bristol Review

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Wellbourne Bristol

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.

wellbourne bristol restaurant inside

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.

bread at wellbourne

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.

quail at wellbourne

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.

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Behind the Scenes at Thatchers Cider

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I have a confession to make… I’m a cider snob. I like it dry or medium-dry, and cloudy – with the heady scent of fermented apples still brimming in the glass. The kind of cider that’s been greasing the wheels of agriculture and industry in Somerset for centuries. Not for me, the sugary, sweet, supermarket stuff… I’ll have a pint of real zider, and you can leave the twigs and leaves in, too.

Spanning four generations in the same family, Thatchers is our region’s most famous cider-maker – and their range of produce is broad. Although most of their ciders are slightly over-processed for my liking, they do still make cider the traditional way. I’d say a visit to their orchards at Myrtle Farm in the heart of Somerset’s cider country is a must-do for any cider-lover in Bristol.

Exploring the orchards

Image courtesy of Natacha the Franglaise

My recent visit began in the Thatchers Exhibition Orchard, where manager Chris oversees over 450 different apple varieties. The weather conditions in Somerset offer the perfect conditions for growing apples – with cold winters allowing the trees to lie dormant, and temperate springs promoting bee pollination and blossom-growth. True to form for this time of year, it was pissing with rain as we strolled among the lines of fruit-laden trees – but the apples like a little of that, too.

Hearing how Chris and his team fuse new apple buds to young root stocks to produce varieties like Dabinett and Jonagold was insightful, and his ability to harness the power of nature to produce the finest harvests made for fascinating listening. Our tour continued past the huge apple vats and ancient fermentation tanks to the state-of-the-art canning plant, and it was a joy to hear the various Thatchers team members share their passion for the product.

To the tasting…

Thatchers brought a selection of their lovely cider to Bristol a few months ago, so this was a fortunate second tasting for me. We sampled diverse brews including Redstreak, Old Rascal, Vintage, Haze, Katy, and more – each offering a different balance of scent and flavour to the last. It turns out Old Rascal is the team’s overall favourite Thatchers’ cider – a very fine drop indeed.

Lunch at The Railway Inn

Image courtesy of Bristol Bloggers

The Railway Inn is Thatchers’ local pub, with a broad selection of beers and ciders alongside a full menu of delicious dishes sourced, of course, from in and around Somerset. The pub has been lovingly converted from its original stone structure to a warm and welcoming space – with traditional snug, open bar area and stylish oak-beamed dining room. There’s garden seating for summer visitors, and a seasonal menu that makes the very most of the region’s natural produce.

Take a tour

If all this talk of apples and cider has got your taste buds tingling, you can find details on Thatchers’ guided tours and tastings on their website here. October is Cider and Perry Month, so now’s the ideal time to celebrate and support our local orchards and cider-makers. Harvest season is upon us too, so if you visit Thatchers there’s a good chance you’ll get to see the trucks arriving from across Somerset – their fruity haul ready for pressing.

If you head over, do book a table at The Railway Inn – it makes a good visit great. I can recommend the Thatchers Gold-battered fish and chips, and the sticky toffee pud hits the spot. Cider’s not bad ‘n’ all. Cheers!

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For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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Pata Negra Revamp Kitchen And Menu

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Pata Negra Steps It Up for the Autumn Season

Bristol’s proud independent streak is well-documented, and we’re lucky to have so many vibrant and exciting bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in this city.

If you enjoy visiting and supporting Bristol’s varied independent venues, it’s likely you’ll have a list of places old and new that you’re just waiting for the right time to tick off.

The Ox on Corn Street had been sitting on my must-visit list for months when I went last month, and I was very, very impressed.

But from the style-savvy team behind The Milk Thistle and Hyde & Co, what else could I have expected?

Also on Corn Street, and also run by the same talented team, Pata Negra is another venue I’d been curious about for a while — but on those occasions when I’d peered in past the door, I’d never felt encouraged in. Despite the great location and classical décor, it somehow just didn’t feel tempting.

Fresh changes at Pata Negra

That’s all changed now. In the latest round of developments at Pata Negra, the kitchen has been brought up from the basement to take pride of place at the forefront of the room — and the difference is striking.

You step through the doorway to skilled chefs preparing delicious dishes in their new open-plan setting, with a fine haunch of cured Ibérico ham hanging from the wall.

Further towards the back of the room, welcoming window seats and banks of plush red-leather benches offer the perfect settings for intimate gatherings of friends.

A menu re-vamp for the autumn season

The engine-room of the restaurant is now fully on show, and a menu re-vamp has changed things up for autumn. Diners can expect seasonal twists on authentic Spanish classics alongside new dishes created to bring the best out of the kitchen’s open grills.

Meanwhile, the wine and sherry list showcases the best of the Iberian Peninsula — the perfect accompaniment to the delicious tapas dishes, fresh seafood and decadent desserts on offer.

For full details on Pata Negra’s refreshed autumn menu, head over to the website here.

For more of @cjcallaghan’s reviews and write-ups, check out his Best of Bristol author page.

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The Time I Beat Bristol’s Scariest Escape Room

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Hell in a cell Bristol

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.

Probably..

Hell in a cell Bristol

The rather terrifying Pig Face.

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.

Hell in a cell bristol

You don’t know what you’re getting yourself in for until they handcuff you and throw a bag over your head..

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.

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You ok there hun?

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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..

Fancy it? Then click here to book.

Tag us in your psycho selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you take on Pig Face

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