Friday, 28 May 2010

Review: The Lido, Bristol

The Lido seems to be the current culinary "place to be" in Bristol. Having read Jay Rayner's uncharacteristically glowing review in The Observer and an equally chirpy article in the Metro, The Boy very kindly booked a table for two.

Stepping across the threshold from the car-crammed residential street and into the Lido world was like finding a gate into a secret garden. Our waiter seems to melt a little as he describes it as an "oasis", recognising the awe-struck delight on our faces as we enter. The entire building seems to lean into the central space with its raised, infinity-edged pool lined with candy-striped be-curtained cubicles. The whole place reeks of contemporary, but not necessarily cliched "modern", style. Simply laid back, good quality design at its best. The restaurant itself, being on the first floor, has an amusing vista of the pool being on the first floor. You're able to eye-ball the swimmers as they go about their business; an interesting ice-breaker or, if you know each other through-and-through like The Boy and I, great for people spotting.

The service was very good; prompt but unhurried and so very friendly without being over the top. The high street seems to be infected with this insincere salesman-esque exaggeration of "friendly". A brittle veneer of "chatty"; a poor approximation of the real thing. It's all "How are you today!?" or "Have a nice day!!". Not here. The waiting staff were genuine and thoughtful without stifling us.

We consulted the menu. On first glance, our impression was positive. Simple, almost sparse, featuring only five mains and ringing with seasonal produce. The Boy went for a Scallop and Asparagus with Hollandaise starter while I chose the Squid with Harrisa. While we waited, a plate of fresh bread with good olive oil materialised. A nice touch though I found the bread (homemade, natch) a little heavy. Our starters arrived, nicely presented and undoubtedly fresh though we had a few niggles. Forgive me for a moment but The Boy's £9 starter featured only two scallops and four minuscule spears of the spring-time good stuff. Now, we were armed and ready for a luxurious celebratory meal with a price tag to match (easy for me to say considering that it was The Boy's treat!) but this, to me, seemed a little mean. A scallop starter usually consists of three scallops, no? My squid was just slightly overdone in places, rendering it chewy rather than melt in the mouth soft. This wasn't enough to prevent me from clearing my plate, I must admit. The harissa was zingy and delicious and despite my gripes on portion size, it was an appetiser, leaving us wanting more.

Our mains followed; oak-roasted poussin with a sumptuous broad bean salad for him and lamb rump with a bulgar wheat and cabbage pilaf for yours truly. Both meals were good; everything was perfectly cooked and seasoned but, for some reason, it seemed to miss the 'wow' factor. I wonder now if this was because of the amazing setting; a fantastic atmosphere that is a feast for the eyes but dwarfs the taste buds. Or, the cynical side of me chimes, they've become complacent, lazy even, following their recent golden press though I doubt this.

It almost seemed like the mains were lacking a certain something that would lift the dishes and bring them together. I wouldn't hurry back for a second helping tomorrow but I think I will return given time. I would love to wander by the pool and spend some time in the spa. I would also like to try the poolside café bar to see how this compares to the upstairs restaurant. I won't be highlighting The Lido as a culinary highlight of Bristol for food alone though it is well worth a visit for the atmosphere. You can tell that the place has history and I like that but there is definitely something undefinable that stops it being a perfect all-rounder

A few tips if you are curious and want to explore The Lido for yourself... Parking is hard to come by in Clifton and in Oakfield Place, you would be very lucky to find a space but there are plenty of opportunities in the surrounding residential streets. Set aside some time and be prepared for a hunt. Also, The Lido is pretty laid back so keep this in mind when choosing your dining attire. Jeans and a 'nice top' for the ladies will do you fine and men can get away with a casual shirt. This from the lady with the curves and the corset top who felt just a teensy bit out of place....

Starters: £7 - £9
Mains: £15 - £19
The Lido
can be found on Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2BJ.Tel: 0117 933 9533

1 comment:

James said...

I went to the Lido about 18 months ago and loved it...the bread in particular, though as you say it is quite dense. They have their own wood oven where they bake the bread and also roast a lot of the meat.

Great review, and very fair - 2 scallops is indeed stingy for a starter, but glad to hear your thoughts on the service. You can always smell a rat when the friendliness is contrived.

Look forward to reading more of your stuff; very honoured to be on your blog roll!


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