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It’s not every day that a new fine dining venue opens in Bristol. Restaurant Fifty opened in Clifton Village on Saturday, July 30th, promising that “with their mix of modern cooking techniques they offer the Clifton dining scene a real treat”. Seeing the sample menus on their website and learning of the in-house smoker and credentials of owners Scott and Wendy Chance and head chef Dany Lancaster prompted us to book a table for dinner for the following Tuesday night…

Scott and Dany first met at the Braye Beach Hotel on Alderney, a business previously owned by Scott and his wife Wendy and where Dany was employed as chef. With a wealth of experience in the restaurant trade between them – including Michelin-starred venues in Dany’s case – they decided to start a new venture in Bristol, a city which they fell in love with on the occasions when Scott and Wendy visited their daughter at university here.

The menus (sample menus here) draw on the pair’s fine dining background and love of local and foraged food. Prices vary between about £25 and £40 for a three course meal, with two seven course tasting menus also available: a vegetarian option for £35, and the standard tasting menu for £55. A three course lunch menu is available for a very reasonable £15, with individual dishes also available during the day.

Since the closure of Blue Rhubarb, the previous incarnation of 50 Princess Victoria Street, some changes have been made inside. The restaurant still features the huge gated entrance and glass-roofed dining area, meaning that we were treated to lots of natural light during our meal, but the rest of the inside is more subdued. The purple wall in front of the semi-open plan kitchen now looks far more natural, and the metallic purple and gold decor that I’m told had previously adorned the toilets has now been replaced.

We were shown to our table by our very friendly host, who was incredibly attentive throughout the entire meal but not overbearingly so. He was more than happy to make recommendations from the menu (and we did go with these recommendations, for the most part), and was happy (and ready!) to answer the questions that we had about the menu.

Shortly after ordering our starters and mains (the tasting menu will have to be tried another time…), our host arrived at our table with a plate of canapés. The homemade potato crisps and thin slices of crispy cod skin were beautifully salty, and we liberally smeared the crisped seed bread with the whipped butter, fennel and seaweed accompaniment.

Our canapés also included mini truffle risotto balls, with the earthiness of the slivers of black truffle noticeable but not overbearing.

This was followed by an amuse bouche, the size of which we really weren’t expecting. It did more than just amuse…it was practically starter-sized! The Thai cod fishcakes, melt-in-the-mouth soft and with a bit of a chilli kick, were served topped with a succulent tiger prawn and a fab soy and ginger garnish. All of this before our starters had even arrived…

For her starter, Laura had chosen the fresh crab with watermelon, avocado, keta and chilli (£7.80). A beautifully presented plate of food, and lovely, fresh, summery flavours, but my feeling (based on the small mouthful that I tasted) was that the fresh red chilli somewhat overpowered the delicate flavour of the crab meat.

My starter of choice was the pressed pork belly with pickled heirloom vegetables and fried apple (£7.60). Sadly, the fried apple appeared to be missing from the plate, but what I was presented with was delicious. The slivers of pickled courgette, carrot and radish, plus the large piece of pickled fennel on which they sat were a nice contrast to the meatiness of the two huge slabs of pressed pork belly, which I think would have been far too rich on their own.

Onto the mains, and the fillet of local beef for Laura (£22.40), served perfectly rare as requested and accompanied by shallot-topped fondant potatoes, apple, green beans, chanterelles and a cider sauce. She described the beef as “tasty and tender”, and the plate of food was quickly demolished…

I’d decided to go for one of the two vegetarian options from the list of five mains, namely the salt crust baked potato with crispy duck eggs, beans and pulses (£15.20).

What appeared in front of me was a deconstructed baked potato: a mound of light and buttery mashed potato and strips of crisp salty potato skin. The “crispy duck eggs” had been cooked, breadcrumbed and deep fried, which unfortunately led to them losing a lot of their flavour. I did enjoy the beans and pulses, though, which were lovely and fresh and cooked just enough so that they retained some bite.

I surprised myself again when it came to dessert by not choosing the cheeseboard (£7.20). Laura did, however, and was presented with a slate of Montgomery Cheddar, Devon Blue and Bath Soft Cheese, served with a generous portion of both toasted and fresh bread and an onion chutney.

Our waitress had recommended the pannacotta (£5.95), normally of the tonka bean variety but vanilla on the day that we visited. A very light dessert, creamy and firm and served with rings of poached apple which could have done with a little more flavour. The sugar-topped slice of dried apple on top of the dessert was delicious, though, and we washed both cheese and pannacotta down with a glass of Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (£10.50 per glass).

Overall, an enjoyable meal that was well-presented and quite different to the other “fine dining” options in the area. Both the service and the food were great – it’s just a shame that we were the only diners in the restaurant on that evening. It’s still a brand new business, though, which hasn’t done much to promote itself as yet, so hopefully trade will start to pick up soon – with their enthusiasm, presentation and the quality of the food, they deserve to do well…

Restaurant Fifty

Website: http://www.restaurantfifty.co.uk

Telephone: 0117 973 3711

Address: 50 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4BZ

Find Restaurant Fifty on the Bristol Bites Directory…

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