Date and time: Tuesday 18 November 2014, 19:30
Name of Establishment: Bridge Café, Clifton
Location: Avon Gorge Hotel, Sion Hill, Bristol*
Reason for visit: An invitation to dine from the newly launched Autumn/Winter menu on a complimentary basis...a no-brainer really!
Appropriately named given its proximity to what is arguably Bristol's most iconic landmark (which, on this occasion, was majestically lit up against the night sky…and just a couple of weeks shy of the pomp of its 150th birthday celebrations no less), the Bridge Café is the long-running eatery within the Avon Gorge Hotel. Minimalistically furnished and intimately arranged, this is not a particularly sizeable space, especially if you're used to visiting in the summer time (as per my last visit) when the sliding doors are open to the elements; creating an airier, almost al fresco dining experience. That said, my dining companion and I were given a table-for-two with a view; that is, with an uninterrupted view of the aforementioned backdrop. Service was also warm and accommodating; demonstrating the perfect balance between attentive and unintrusive.
We started with drinks, an aromatic (suitably Kiwi) Sauvignon Blanc for me and a Pinot Grigio Blush for my companion. We acknowledged the familiar Clifton price-tags, (nothing under a fiver here!) and yet couldn't resist indulging in a second glass as the evening progressed. On to the food and after feasting on artisan focaccia and seeded wholemeal, we moved on to a starter of Devon pan-seared scallops (£9.25) which had been attractively plated alongside crispy pork belly and cumin spiced carrot puree. Finished with an orange dressing, this was an exciting medley of flavours which were exquisitely contrasted in terms of texture and taste. In fact, our only criticism was that the scallops themselves appeared a little anaemic having not been finished with that signature pan-fried crust. After an appropriate wait, our main courses were served; for my dining companion, the Savernake Forest roasted breast of pheasant (£14.95) which was served, a little untidily, with (a generously sized) fondant potato, braised red cabbage and Crimbo-style pigs in blankets! A heady red wine sauce completed the ensemble; an ensemble that she described as, quite simply, delicious. I chose the chargrilled venison steak (£14.50) which was rich in taste and tender on the palate. The sticky port, juniper and redcurrant glaze was flavoursome yet not too overpowering – served separately to allow for as liberal an application as desired. Thus, it didn’t soak the game chips which actually masqueraded as latticed crisps; a welcome variation to thick potato wedges or skinny fries that you'd almost certainly choose between elsewhere.
|This main's got game!?|
When it came to desserts, I opted for the Bridge Café's take on the classic chocolate fondant (£6.95) which had been jewelled with marshmallows and scattered with blackberries. This was a thoughtful arrangement whereby the acidity of the fruit offset the sweetness of what were clearly homemade confectionaries, (I don't know about you but I can always tell when something has been baked with love!) and complemented the bitter-sweet chocolate which oozed from its cakey encasement. Its overall disposition confirmed an expertly executed pud! My dining companion chose the rice pudding (£5.95) which she commended for its decadently creamy consistency. She wasn't convinced by the poached pear which served as its slightly obscure accompaniment however, suggesting that this would have been better replaced with a compote of sorts. Instead, the pear proved somewhat overbearing given its intense aroma; you might say rather like an unwelcome smell in a confined space! The almond brittle just about made up for this shortcoming with its idiosyncratic crunch and burnt-sugar scent. Desserts were washed down with cappuccino which was a little on the cool side but drinkable nevertheless; not marring our opinion of the evening which had been on the large part, laden with positives.
|It didn't look this tidy for long...|
|Paying the price for rice that's nice!|
Overall, my dining companion and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the Bridge Café. We thought that it was a little pricey and thus, suited to a special occasion rather than an everyday eatery and yet, weekly themed nights; Sunday evening’s Wine Night (50% off all wine and champagne when purchasing a main course), Wednesday evening’s ‘Pie Night’ and Thursday evening’s steak night for example, offers an array of affordable options to those in the know. Plus, with panoramic views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Avon Gorge, the restaurant really ticks all the boxes when it comes to the wow-factor - luckily both the service and the fare altogether follows suit.
And now for the second opinion…
My dining companion gave The Bridge Café a rating of 8/10 and in three words, described the venue as a a ‘special occasion must’.