Following the completion of its £6.3million extension last year, St George’s Bristol is throwing open its café doors for all-day dining. So step away from your desk; there’s a new lunch menu your taste buds won’t want to miss. Words by Jessica Hope
The arts venues around Bristol are taking things up a notch. As well as providing us with critically acclaimed theatre, sell-out concerts, and belly laughs in abundance from top-circuit comedians, many are now coming to life earlier in the day. Rather than opening the doors to visitors just half an hour before a performance begins, the concept of becoming a more multipurpose venue, where people can grab a drink and socialise, is growing increasingly popular.
St George’s Bristol, one of the country’s leading concert halls, has caught on to this trend and is now open from the morning until the evening. The venue recently began offering day-long dining in its beautiful Café Bar, which is part of its multi-million pound pavilion-style extension which launched last autumn.
French chef Oakan Brousse – who has worked at Bristol’s two AA-rosette hotel Berwick Lodge, as well as other rosette holders such as The Lamb Inn in Burford and The Swan in Norfolk – recently joined the St George’s team, bringing with him a creative approach to food and plenty of pastry training (good news for cake-lovers).
Open everyday from 10am, St George’s will be providing options for breakfast and lunch, plus cake, coffee and pre-concert drinks and nibbles, making this an ideal spot to meet in before an event, or just catch up with friends over poached eggs and avo on toast. They are rolling out a hot tapas menu, which should be a hit among evening concert-goers – grabbing a quick (but delicious) bite to eat before listening to top quality music in the same place sounds ideal to us.
Settling down in the contemporary Café Bar, overlooking the gardens and the glass sculpture titled Apollo – designed by artist Luke Jerram – which hung above us, we perused the lunch menu, which is available from 12-3pm every day. If you’re in the mood for a hearty, homemade soup, or a chunky sourdough sandwich with fillings such as local cheddar and red onion balsamic chutney, then you’re well cared for here (dishes from £5.50).
In a quandary over what to choose, I tore my attentions away from the appealing crispy potato rosti with poached egg and spinach and ricotta croquette (£7.50) and decided on the cauliflower and cheese dish (£7.50). The large cut of roasted cauliflower was intense, sat on a creamy three cheese sauce. The crunch of the almond gremolata added texture, while delicately cut pickled cauliflower offered a sharp tang which cut through the cheesy sauce. This was garnished with sorrel leaves and an impressive shard of a parmesan crisp.
My dining partner, Jake, chose the pork belly which pulled apart with ease, and was topped with crispy crackling. The meat was complemented by a smooth potato purée and pancetta crumb, adding a smokey touch to the dish. He raved about the cider and chicken reduction, which was an ideal companion with the garlic kale and roasted tomato (£11.95).
The drinks menu is succinct, offering a selection of local beer, good quality cider, wine and soft drinks (the fiery ginger beer is a must), as well as freshly ground coffee and tea.
If you can manage something sweet, then it’s definitely worth it. From glossy millionaire’s shortbread to gooey chocolate fudge brownies, Bakewell tray bakes to red berry puddings, chef Brousse’s pastry training will not be going unnoticed by visitors.
As well as helping to create a new favourite lunch haunt, St George’s Bristol’s new dining options might even tempt a few people to try a concert or talk that they might never have considered before. Bringing culture and first-class food together? Bristol’s arts venues are delivering above and beyond, and that gets a thumbs up from us.