If you enjoy embarking on new wining and dining adventures, then Bristol and its surroundings offers an almost infinite range of possibilities. The problem, in fact, is keeping track of them all. For instance, you could have enjoyed an amazing evening in the elegant surroundings of Clevedon Hall, treated to a veritable banquet by four of the region’s best chefs. I say could because this very special Four Cuisineers event sold out a few weeks ago – as the inaugural event of Clevedon Hall’s Harold’s Club it was virtually guaranteed to be oversubscribed.
What else have you been missing out on?
In this post we give you half a dozen more great ideas of where you can go, in and around Bristol, for a culinary good time.
Cocktails at Cabot
If you enjoy a bit of retail therapy followed by a White Russian, a Singapore Sling or even some Sex on a Beach, then the cocktail bar on the second Floor of Harvey Nichols is an absolute must. With its silver ceiling, luminous marble bar and chic furnishings it offers oodles of discreet glamour and chilled sophistication. The drinks list, which includes a selection of wines and Champagnes available by the glass, changes with the seasons but the award-winning mixologists can always create classic cocktails for you.
There’s also a superb restaurant serving light lunches, indulgent afternoon teas and sumptuous dinners. If you are disappointed to miss Four Cuisineers event then pop along to the restaurant at Harvey Nichols – one of the chefs cooking for us on that night is employed in their kitchen!
Dine in a dungeon
Another of the chefs contributing to the Harold’s Club evening is Mark Veale, former Head Chef at Thornbury Castle – a rare opportunity to sample his superb cuisine this leaving the atmospheric surroundings of this most unusual dining venue.
One of the earliest owners of Thornbury Manor, Brictric son of Algar, made the mistake of spurning the advances of Matilda of Flanders. She then married William the Conqueror, who seized Thornbury and awarded it to his Queen. Matilda immediately imprisoned her unfortunate former love and Brictric languished in gaol for the rest of his life.
The castle you see today was built by Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, in the reign of Henry VIII. Stafford was also careless enough to lose the estate. After being betrayed to the king by a disgruntled servant, Stafford was arrested for high treason and executed on Tower Hill. Henry claimed Thornbury for himself, spending ten days here while on his honeymoon tour with Anne Boleyn. It remained royal property until the death of his daughter Mary I, when it was returned to the Duke’s descendants.
If you fancy a wining and dining experience with a distinctly historical flavour then book dinner in the 16th Century dungeon. It is now a bonded wine cellar containing an award winning wine collection that includes bottles from some of the best artisan wine makers and estates in the world.
Garden of delights
The Ethicurean restaurant is set in the enchanting Barley Wood Walled Garden, a perfectly restored Victorian kitchen garden perched on a hillside above the village of Wrington. Sitting in the old glass house you’ll not only enjoy lovely views of the Mendip Hills but you can cast your eyes over the well-tended vegetables and herbs that provide most of the ingredients for cuisine that has been described by the Guardian as “some of the most delicious, innovative, vegetable-focused cuisine in the land.”
The menu changes twice daily (yes, you read that right!) and celebrates their “bounteous walled garden and the wild land that surrounds it.” A variety of inviting treats awaits – you might be lucky enough to enjoy seaweed salad, toasted sesame & chili flakes, followed by trout & cuttlefish with tomato & fennel seed soup with almond, pear, cardamom and dark chocolate cake to finish.
Let’s meat for dinner
The Ox, as the name suggests, is a country mile away from the Ethicurean – not only is it in the centre of Bristol (hidden away in a basement under the Commercial Rooms on Corn Street) but it is gloriously carnivorous.
Steak is at the very heart of what they do but there’s also a tempting range of stunning small plates – charcoal roasted octopus, chorizo, salsa rossa and potato, or ox tongue, picked vegetables, mustard mayo, to name but a couple. You can also graze to your heart’s content on classic charcuterie, including iberico salami, cecina, pork & pistachio terrine, rabbit rillettes, pickles, plum chutney and chilli mustard.
If you have any room left (doubtful!) there’s a selection of hearty and sticky desserts such as peanut butter & banana Opera cake with malted chocolate ice cream or caramalised vanilla rice pudding with boozy prunes and puffed rice.
Quality that never goes out of fashion
Bell’s Diner, on Picton Street in Montpelier, has been one of Bristol’s best kept secrets for at least 30 years, the kind of place you discover but don’t want to tell your friends about in case it becomes too popular. Although Bell’s has changed chefs and owners many times during its long and illustrious history it is still winning plaudits. The Observer recently listed it in their 40 best restaurants in Britain, citing a “brilliant, buzzy vibe, a savvy front-of- house team and truly imaginative cooking.” The team at Bells describe the food as “Modern Mediterranean. It is inspired by the robust, flavoursome cooking of Spain, North Africa, Italy and France in which top quality ingredients are treated simply and put together in clever combinations.” The wine list gets the thumbs up too with an eclectic but really well chosen range of regions and grapes.
Star quality pub grub
If you are looking for a great gastro pub then it’s hard to ignore the Pony & Trap in Chew Magna. Brother and sister team Josh and Holly Eggleton took it over in 2006 and have retained a Michelin star since 2011. Holly handles front of house while Josh runs the kitchen – he’s steadily becoming a bit of a celebrity, having appeared on BBC2’s Great British Menu. He champions a “field to fork” ethos, serving food that is sourced as locally as possible from suppliers around Chew Valley and the South West – organic fruit and vegetables grown in fields overlooking the pub, rod and line caught fish by Bristol fisherman and merchant Aaron, local wood pigeon shot by Charlie and all things smoked from the smokehouse at the back of the pub, to name but a few. Holly Eggleton recently won the coveted Front of House of the Year at the Publican Morning Advertiser’s Top 50 UK Gastropubs Awards 2014, while Josh picked up Chef of the Year. In 2015 the pub itself was ranked No 2 on that list and this year they sit at No 5, so they’re obviously doing a lot right!
Last but not least
The cuisine at Clevedon Hall is pretty special, even if we say so ourselves. Chef Alan Jones was formerly Head Chef at Cowley Manor hotel and spa in Cheltenham. He was also a finalist in the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship Award. If you want to enjoy Alan’s dishes we suggest you attend one of our Harold’s Club events. To make sure you don’t miss out subscribe to our newsletter and book quickly as places are limited and sell out fast. Next one is our New Year’s Eve Roaring Twenties evening – don’t miss it!