Bar 44, Regent Street: Preview

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Bar 44 Bristol - Exterior

 

On August 1st, Bar 44 officially opens to the public on Clifton’s Regent Street – the first non-Welsh premises for the modern Spanish dining brand. But while it’s restaurant number four for sibling owners Tom, Owen and Natalie Morgan, they’re keen to point out that it’s definitely not a chain.

At a preview lunch the week before the grand opening, Nat explained how each of the four restaurants has its own individual menu, with the head chefs given the freedom to put their own stamp on the kitchen’s offerings with a combination of both Spanish and UK ingredients.

The sample menu on the Bar 44 website certainly whetted my appetite – but it wasn’t until we arrived on the Wednesday lunchtime that we were able to explore the full gamut of dishes on offer.

The imposing grey-washed exterior gives way to a surprisingly large interior that blends the rustic with the modern and quirky: wood panelling and comfortable leather seats at polished wood tables jostle for space with huge painted wall murals, a feature wall that showcases some of Bar 44’s ingredients on shelves with warm-hued Spanish patterns, pillars coated in mosaic tiles and a large neon “sherry is sexy” sign right in the middle.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Shelves

 

The bar, which is the focal point as you walk in, sits beneath some truly beautiful caged lights, with the spirits behind the counter illuminated to highlight the huge array of Spanish drinks (and 28 different gins…) on offer.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Bar

 

Bar 44 bills itself as a family-friendly restaurant, and I loved their attention to detail too: I asked when booking if it was ok to bring my 6-month old in his pushchair, and on arrival, they’d not only put out a highchair at our table, but also gave us a table with plenty of space around it to prevent the buggy from getting in the way. And there’s a children’s menu available too, with £3.95 buying you a plate with triple-cooked potatoes and bread, and a choice of two items from a list that includes dusted hake, pisto, Gordal olives, roast chicken croqueta and chorizo. That’s the kind of children’s menu I approve of…!

Back to the adults’ menu, and on the drinks front there’s a hell of a lot of choice. I’m definitely keen to go back and try and educate myself on sherry, but on the day, it was a mocktail for me (I’d just walked up Park Street in the heat with a buggy…), with the blueberry, apple, lemon and mint concoction (£4) proving beautifully refreshing.

 

Bar 44 - Blueberry and Mint Crush

 

And so, onto the food. The menu is divided into various sections: tapa to pick, cheese, cured plates, jamón ibérico, and then the tapas plates, with fish & seafood, vegetables & salads and meats all on offer. The Bar 44 team recommended 3-4 dishes per person to share – and there’s also three options on their Raciones menu: larger, meal-sized dishes such as sidra roast Duroc pork belly or a 350g salt aged sirloin to share amongst the table.

Tapas dishes are priced around the £4 to £7.50 mark – with the jamón plates understandably higher. I loved the way that the various sections of the menu also include recommendations for accompanying drinks, so you can enjoy your dishes in true Spanish style. Dishes are served as and when they’re ready, meaning that if you’re ordering hot dishes, these are likely to come out after any cured meats/cheeses ordered by your table.

First up for us, the cheese selection (£12), teamed with thin and crisp oil-drizzled toasts and a separate accompaniment for each cheese. It was great to see some choices that were different from the norm, and these guys clearly know what they’re doing – it was served at room temperature to really bring out its flavour.

An 18-month aged Manchego was served with its traditional membrillo pairing, while the creamy Ermesenda combined both sweet and nutty notes that were perfect with the PX raisins. The silky-smooth ash-coated Moluengo goats’ cheese was accompanied by intensely chewy dried figs, and the Torta de Barros – which was oozing over the plate – offered an intense pungency that was tempered slightly by the tomato and shallot relish. By far the star of the show, though, was the Airas Moniz Blue with a hugely intense yet elegant flavour…Bar 44 apparently have exclusive rights on this cheese in the UK for 3 months, so I’ll have to keep going back to get my fix.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Cheese Selection

 

Next to appear was our Morcón iberico de bellota (£4): tender slivers of chorizo from acorn-fed pigs, which melted in the mouth and had that distinctive paprika flavour.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Morcon

 

We followed this with a delicate plate of cured sea bream with cucumber and avocado (£7): a ceviche-style dish with plenty of zesty lime flavour (but not so much that it overpowered the fish), and the smoothest of avocado and cucumber purées that lifted the whole thing and gave it a light and summery feel.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Sea Bream

 

The patatas bravas (£4) were out of this world – large, skin-on chunks of perfectly cooked potato (including some lovely crispy bits) with plenty of smooth and sweet tomato sauce, and a zingy sherry aioli for dipping.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Patatas Bravas

 

Our final savoury dish was one of our favourites: crispy roast chicken croquetas (£5.80) with a smooth and creamy filling, and the perfect pairings of rich smoked morcilla crumbs and a silky sweet pea purée.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Roast Chicken Croquetas

 

So far, so good…but what about the dessert menu? Reviews I’ve read about Bar 44’s other venues have raved about their homemade ice creams, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The menu featured five different choices, and priced at £2.50 per scoop or three for £7, it would have been rude not to go for the latter. The fino citrus sorbet was heavy on the sherry (in a good way) and very refreshing, but the star of the show for me was the PX espresso martini ice cream, dusted with cocoa powder and reminiscent of a tiramisu. The peach and thyme was a novel flavour combination and wonderfully fragrant – and I loved the fact that the three were served in individual dishes to keep the flavours from running.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Ice Cream

 

My dining companion chose the tocino del cielo (£6), which literally translates as “heaven’s bacon”. It’s a Spanish dessert with plenty of history: it stems from Jerez in the 1300s, where egg whites were used to clarify wine, and the leftover yolks were given to the local nuns who used them to create this dessert. It was similar to a crème caramel or flan, but with no egg whites or dairy added, the custard had a lighter, airier texture. With the crunchy almond meringue biscuit, chewy crumble pieces, fresh raspberries and rich raspberry purée, it was a lovely summery dessert.

 

Bar 44 Bristol - Tocino del Cielo

 

Without drinks, the total cost of this lunch for two was around the £45 mark – and if you fancy trying it for yourself, we both agreed that it was definitely money well spent. Bar 44 Bristol has a beautiful buzzy setting, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable about the food (we had a slight mix up with desserts, but we were there for a soft launch…), and the quality of the food was outstanding.

If you live or work in Clifton Village, there’s also an express lunch offering whereby you can enjoy two tapas dishes for £7.50 from 12pm to 5pm, Tuesday to Friday, and I’m also keen to try their Sunday sharing roasts: a choice of sidra roast Duroc belly pork or sirloin of salt aged beef for two to share, along with a selection of Spanish-style vegetables and roasting juices.

Our verdict? Go. Definitely go. We’ll be back soon to work our way through more of the menu – and definitely for more of that blue cheese…

 

Please note: we paid 50% of the quoted food prices as we dined at Bar 44’s invitation during their soft launch period., but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the company did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

One Response to Bar 44, Regent Street: Preview

  1. Pingback: Bar 44, Regent Street: Preview – Bristol Bites – Food Blog

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