Why is Bristol so bad for fine dining?

January 23, 2015 6:05 pm / by

I haven’t posted for a while and this one is going to be a bit of a rant. Given that Bristol is enjoying unprecedented popularity as one of the cities to live in, why is the dining experience so bad? Others disagree but, of the ten places mentioned in the linked article, only Casamia is worth visiting and then only once. Bell’s Diner is considerably over-rated in my opinion. When I go out for fine dining I expect to eat food that I would be challenged to cook myself. That has never been the case at Bell’s Diner. Given the glory days of Harvey’s, Thornbury Castle (before it was discovered by the Americans and went downhill from that moment), Markwick’s, Ma Provence and Deason’s – all flourishing in the late 1990′s/early 2000′s – what has happened that they have all (apart from Thornbury Castle) disappeared?

Today I visited Berwick Lodge where the head chef, Paul O’Neill, is looking to add a third AA rosette to its existing two and also has his sights on a Michelin star. I can only say that this is a million miles away from such outstanding Michelin starred restaurants as Purnell’s and Adam’s in Birmingham. Whilst the wine list was indeed excellent the food was decidedly average. The ambience is very Thornbury Castle like and, in keeping with recent experiences at the Castle, my dining companion and I were the only ones at lunch. There was no sommelier at lunch time, although Jean-Sebastien did turn up in time to serve cognacs at the end of the meal, and this showed in the way wines were presented to us. Having said that the wines were excellent and the restaurant cannot be faulted on its wine list. We started with a glass of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2009 and then went on to a lovely bottle of Condrieu ‘Les Chaillets de L’Enfer’ 2008 by Georges Vernay (although the list had this down as 2007) to accompany our smoked haddock. Our main course (guinea fowl and gurnard respectively) was accompanied by a fabulous 1996 Hermitage ‘La Chapelle.’

The food was reasonably presented and certainly acceptable but in no way outstanding, I cannot understand, on this experience, why this restaurant is so highly regarded. I had a lovely time due to the ambience, the wine, and the fact that I hadn’t seen my dining companion for several months but I cannot recommend the restaurant on the basis of its food.



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