Clifton Kitchen, Clifton Village: Review

So reads a tweet from Princess Victoria Street’s Clifton Kitchen, posted on the morning of our visit. It seemed odd to us that the bread should be singled out as the highlight of the restaurant’s offerings on the day, but as it turned out, we agreed…

The site of the restaurant, 112 Princess Victoria Street, has the accolade of being the site of Keith Floyd’s legendary bistro in the 1970s. Unfortunately since then the building appears to have become cursed, with a number of businesses having disappeared as quickly as they sprung up. Clifton Kitchen, however, celebrated its first birthday at the end of May, and was recently awarded the “Restaurant Of The Year” award at the 2011 Bristol Tourism And Hospitality Awards.

It’s an interesting-looking place. The small seating area at entrance level is decorated with a pastel-coloured kitchen mural and an homage to Floyd himself on the walls, and leads to a larger dining area downstairs. The window between the dining area and the kitchen means that diners can see and hear their food being prepared, and on the evening (having arrived half an hour early for our 7pm booking, so the restaurant was very quiet) meant that we could listen in to a conversation between the waitress and the chef, who was describing to her items on the menu that she was asking about.

We were there with a Groupon voucher that had originally entitled us to two courses (either a starter and main or a main and dessert) and a glass of wine each. The terms of the voucher, however, narrowed between purchase and booking: it had to be a starter and main course, we weren’t allowed to bring our own wine (there’s a BYO option at the restaurant), we couldn’t order anything from the specials list, we had to pay a supplement to order certain dishes…

After being seated at a window table, we were brought a jug of tap water without asking for it (thumbs up here!) and given a special Groupon version of the menu that didn’t include any prices, apart from the £2 supplement for certain dishes, and prices for the side orders.

(You can see a full version of the menu by clicking this link).

For our starters, we both decided to go for the potted shrimp, fennel & coriander salad and brown toast (normally £5.95). We both loved the strong flavours in the salad, and the toast was perfectly browned but still light and soft in the middle – delicious. While the potted shrimps were tasty, we felt that they were possibly a little dry, and that there was far too much butter…

For me, a main course of a warm salad of braised rabbit, sugar snap peas, pickled carrot and roasted silver skin onions (normally £13.95). The salad was presented well and the combination of flavours was lovely, but the pickled carrot overpowered the rabbit a little. Disappointingly, I found a rather large rabbit bone in my portion, which was surprising as the rabbit had been flaked fairly well…

My friend’s smoked haddock and chive fishcakes (normally £13.95), were served as a huge portion, but she wasn’t a fan, sadly. I’m told that the smokiness was overpowering (and not the sort of smokiness you normally associate with smoked fish), there was little fish in the cakes, and the chunks of potato in amongst the mash put her off slightly.

We had also ordered two sides: a basket of homemade bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (£2.50) and a portion of French fries (also £2.50). The bread was absolutely delicious, and we could see why it was mentioned on Twitter as a highlight of the menu! The fries, when they arrived, were a little on the salty side but lovely and crispy. Unfortunately they didn’t actually turn up at our table until we’d almost finished our mains, but this situation was rectified by our waitress offering them on the house.

A mixed experience, all in all. Clifton Kitchen certainly offers an innovative take on British cuisine, and parts of our meal were lovely. It’s just a shame that certain elements let down what could have been a great meal. Without the voucher, we would have paid around £50 for our evening for two courses, side orders and drinks – a price I’m not sure I would have been willing to pay. With the award accolade mentioned earlier, though, I’m hoping our experience was an anomaly – it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of others who have been…

Clifton Kitchen

Website: http://www.cliftonkitchen.com

Address: 112 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton

Telephone: 0117 946 7870

Find Clifton Kitchen on the Bristol Bites Directory…

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Clifton Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 

7 Responses to Clifton Kitchen, Clifton Village: Review

  1. Interesting review and sorry to hear it is still as inconsistent as when I first reviewed it last year. One thing – it has only been a doomed site since Neil's Bistro closed. That was there for about 20 years after Floyd left and was very successful/popular.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mark. Others have raved about the place, but as I say, if you're paying £50 for a meal for two, you want to be sure that you're going to have a good experience.

      Thanks for the clarification too, I tried (and failed) to find a comprehensive list of all of its previous incarnations since Floyd left…and struggled!

  2. I've eaten here twice; both times the food was superb, the service fantastic and I love the homeliness of the place.

    The manager is a great guy who chatted with us enthusiastically and knowledgeably for a long, long time during the end of our meal. When I popped in to book our Groupon at short notice a few weeks later, he instantly remembered both of our names and fit us in to a very busy Friday evening on the Groupon.

    Really like the place – I hope you try again and have a better experience this time.

    • Hi Erika,

      Glad to hear about your good experiences. It seems like one of the key differences between your visits and ours is the service. I'm not sure if the member of staff who served us was new or just having an off day, but she came across as very cold and disinterested. The owner actually came to our table to serve our starters (and he knew who I was, as I'd booked the table by email) but made no attempt to introduce himself or engage in conversation.

      It's a real shame, as I've heard great things about the place – from you and other commanders, and from others – so I'm puzzled as to why our experience was so different!

  3. Like Erika I have only positive comments regarding the food and service at Clifton Kitchen. I've eaten there once during the day and found their brunch menu to be both absolutely delicious and incredible value for money.
    I returned with friends for dinner recently and enjoyed another delicious meal and warm reception.

    The place has a great fresh atmosphere, and I have heartily recommended it to both friends and colleagues.
    It's a shame the coupons seemed to have marred your view of what is essentially a very exciting new eating experience for us Bristolians!

  4. We go to Clifton Kitchen every time we visit our friends in bristol and each time the food is amazing and good value (£20-£25 a head is pretty standard for a couple of courses and drinks), with good sized portions. The service is really friendly and the whole experience is consistently of a high quality. it's a cool and funky place too.
    Also the puddings are yummy! Not sure why as a food reviewer you didn't try one of them?!

    We live in the London area where it's hard to find places like this – lots of places here are either chains or really pompous. Sorry too that you didn't have a good experience there. But we can't wait to go back to Clifton Kitchen and would recommend it to anyone.

    • Hi Livvy, thanks for commenting. Completely agree re: London, moved from there a few years back but luckily managed to find a few places in Islington that were friendly and relaxed!

      We would have tried the puddings, but we were a little disillusioned with our evening by that point, and decided to call it a night. From other comments and reviews that I've read, it appears that inconsistency is a bit of an issue here, and hopefully one that they'll be able to iron out!

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