This review is also on Bristol Bites….
With the Ox, Milk Thistle, Cosy Club, and Pata Negra amongst others as it’s neighbours, the Bristologist is the newest kid on the block and is already looking very much at home. Located on the corner of Corn Street and Small Street, in a former bank that has also been known as All Bar One and most recently, the Vault Room, the Bristologist is one of the restaurants that is turning the Old City area of Bristol from an area of chain restaurants and bars to one championing independent businesses and becoming the place to eat and drink.
First impressions of the restaurant is that although fairly large in size, it retains the feeling of being cozy and intimate thanks to ambient lighting and a muted but chic colour scheme of taupe, greys and purples. The bar at the back was positively heaving with bottles of all colours, shapes and sizes – just as you’d expect from a cocktail bar. But the Bristologist is so much more than a cocktail bar.
The owner, James Sleeman has teamed up with General Manager, Christian Abbott, who some may recognise as the former head chef at Brace & Browns. The cocktail menu boasts food inspired cocktails and Christian has brought Darren Farquharson (also formerly of Brace and Browns) to head up the kitchen and cook the menu that Christian has designed, taking advantage of the superb local produce in what Christian hopes to be stylish yet tasty food.
Settling down with some freshly made bread, we started off browsing the cocktail menu, all of which had locally inspired names that included the “SS Great Britain”, “St Nicks”, and “Brunel”. Two of us plumped for the “Cliftonite”, a rather delicious but unusual sounding mix of Prosecco, Amaretto and Blackberry. They came in tall, very ethereal looking goblets (ones that might fit right at home in the lair of the White Witch from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!) Very suitable as the Prosecco and Amaretto mixture almost glowed under the lights. The Bristologist are pushing customer interaction forward so our waiter finished our drinks at the table, pouring the blackberry into the glasses from his cocktail shaker so we could watch the purple plumes turn our golden drink into a very appetising pink colour. It was incredibly light, very fruity and rather drinkable!
The others went for the “Banksy” – lemon vodka, gin, rum, orange liqueur and Cola. This came in a shorter, heavier goblet and looked almost like dark ale with an impressive head of foam on top. Alongside the goblets came mini glass beakers (like those you used to get in chemistry lessons) holding a mix of the different shots so you could control how much went in. The head of foam hid a sprinkling of popping candy – an enjoyable discovery!
The verdict was again, very light, delicious and very quaffable. The element of theatre was a lovely touch and I was sorely tempted to sample the rest to see what other tricks would be used.
For those who don’t drink or want to take it a bit easier, the Bristologist serve up some pretty tasty virgin cocktails (although we had to ask if they did any) – I had a virgin mojito that was served in a glass almost the size of my head and you could almost forget that it was alcohol free!
The list of cocktails will increase to between 40-50 cocktails in January and I’d be interested to see whether that same level of customer interaction could be achieved with such a massive list of drinks.
The food menu consists of slates and plates – Christian’s take on modern tapas, previously seen at Brace & Browns. The Christmas themed menu features traditional ingredients such as turkey, goose and duck but there are plenty of other choices including halloumi, squid, potted lamb and tempura prawns.
I ordered “smoked trout parfait, onion jam, croute”, “Christmas cured duck breast with a celeriac remoulade” and sage & onion roasted potatoes (this girl never could refuse a roastie!), whilst my fellow diners orders included “roasted squash & mascarpone risotto”, “seared turbot, saffron and cherry tomato risotto”, “roasted mackerel, pickled beetroot salad”, “turkey terrine, apricot and vanilla” and “sweet potato and spinach pakoras”.
My trout parfait was a wonderful looking plate of food with curls of wafer thin cucumber, slices of radish and tiny pieces of pickled cauliflower. The parfait was smooth and creamy, I only wish I had slightly more of it as there was quite a lot of onion marmalade but it was utterly delicious.
The duck breast was beautifully presented on a slate, the pink of the meat really standing out against the black and the celeriac remoulade was crisp with a slight tang – a perfect companion to the sweetness of the duck. The potatoes were flavoursome and fragrant and not overpowered by the sage.
Everyone else was very impressed with the appearance of their food – the mackerel was so pretty and came with prawns – my friend who doesn’t normally eat prawns declared she was going to anyway because the whole dish looked so lovely. Even the more traditional dishes of turkey and sprouts were given a makeover – the turkey into a terrine and the sprouts into individual dressed bites with the chestnuts crumbled on the side looking almost like a dukkha.
We found the plates to be quite filling – we had three each and shared a couple of rounds of the moreish garlic and rosemary chips but we had to try the desserts on offer – Eton Mess and sticky toffee pudding. Again, the presentation was excellent – the Eton Mess looking pretty and light while the sticky toffee pudding came draped with a slice of chocolate parfait looking darkly delicious and decadent.
Aside from the food, one thing that really caught my eye was how even the smallest of details had been carefully thought through – my beautiful goblet had been subtlety branded in gold with the restaurant’s logo and even the greaseproof paper that lined the baskets holding the chips proudly carried their name.
From the ambient atmosphere to the unusual but scrumptious cocktails and flavoursome food, the Bristologist is certainly somewhere to watch. On Sundays, they offer up a traditional roast where if you play your cards (or coins!) right, you could be leaving with a full wallet and a full tummy as you can flip heads or tails for your meal and your second cocktail. Along with the introduction of their huge cocktail menu in the New Year comes a new steak menu where the meat can be carved in front of diners. The Bristologist is set to fulfil James Sleeman’s mission statement – “Eating out should be fun and entertaining and that is exactly what we have set out to achieve. I think that we have created in the Bristologist is something truly unique. Nowhere else in the area can you enjoy such fantastic and interesting food and drink offerings, with such theatrical flair.”