I remember someone telling me back in the summer that work was being carried out on what used to be the Red Lion pub on Clifton’s Worrall Road. Exciting news indeed – at a time when so many pubs are closing, it’s positive to see new venues springing up. The rebirth of the Red Lion was complete this week, with a launch night for locals on November 4th and the full opening to the public the following day…not as a pub, but as a specialist wine bar.
The new Red Lion is co-owned by a group of four friends – all equal partners in the business – who have known each other for years and have very varied backgrounds. Tony Amorone is the wine man – a sommelier under Alastair Peebles MW. The man in charge of the food is Simon Davis, whose background includes event catering, but who also used to be a dance music producer and DJ and performed around the world. Rob Crook’s background is in property restoration, and Dom Gaskell is best known for his role as Chinese Alan in Gavin & Stacey. As I said – a very varied group of owners, but a group who came together to undertake all of the work on the Red Lion themselves before launch.
While fairly small inside, the Red Lion is split into two areas: the front of the bar housing a seating area and the bar, the back with comfortable sofas, the cheese and charcuterie counter and the cellar – containing not just wine, but also various cured meats hanging from the ceiling.
There’s also a beautiful (non-functional) fireplace in the back area, which, Simon says, was found completely by chance, hidden behind a wall that they took down while renovating.
It’s a beautifully decorated place. Wooden tables are paired with mismatched wooden chairs, and furnished with a jam jar of wild flowers and a candle in a wine bottle – “Luddite”, in our case.
Walls are white, and adorned with all manner of wine-related memorabilia: wooden wine case lids propped up on the dado rail, wine-related paintings, a wine map of France and a large Laurent Perrier advert, among others.
The wine list currently features around 80 different varieties, and is likely to expand. “It’s been hard to stop, really”, says co-owner Tony, “because we keep finding other ones that we like. We had a basic remit of just trying to go across the board and across the world and give some examples of different countries and grapes.” It sounds like a tough job. “Certainly for the ‘by the glass’ wines we tried anything from 5-10 different samples in each sitting to try and find the one we liked”, says Tony. “It’s taken its toll, that’s for sure!”
The “by the glass” selection that Tony mentioned is chalked up on a board to the right of the bar, with these wines available in 125ml, 175ml, 500ml or whole bottle measures, starting from £3 for a small glass. Sparkling and sweet wines are also available by the glass, and bottle prices range from £21.50 to £75.
I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but asked for a recommendation for a white wine that wasn’t too dry, and ended up with a very satisfying 175ml glass (£6) of the Andeluna Torrontes 2010 – a lovely fresh and acidic Argentinian wine.
Non-wine drinkers can choose from a range of ports, sherries, cognacs and gins, or beers from Alhambra, Samuel Smiths or the Hop Back Brewery. There will be a Wye Valley cider available, but it hadn’t yet arrived when we visited. Fentimans and Bottle Green soft drinks are also available, along with teas from the Bristol Tea Company and coffee from TwoDay Coffee Roasters.
If you need sustenance to accompany your wine, you can choose from a selection of cheese and charcuterie from the counter at the back of the pub. A combination of three meats and cheeses will set you back £11.50, or opt for six for £20 – both served with chutneys and Mark’s Bread and oil. There’s also a selection of Real Olive Company olives available for £3.75 a serving.
I was massively impressed with their cheese selection – in particular the wonderfully runny Vacherin Mont D’Or. There’s something for everyone: two blue cheeses (Stichelton and Beenleigh Blue), Keens Cheddar, a variety of sheep’s milk cheeses from Wootton Organic Dairy, and several more. Far too much choice!
It’s just as difficult to make your charcuterie selections. Vincent Castellano‘s Coppa sits alongside a selection of products from Shropshire’s Forest Pig Charcuterie – a company established after the owners learned to make salami in Tuscany and imported a whole herd of pigs to the UK. I’d recommend their spiced walnut salami.
The Real Boar Company (who apparently supply to three of the top five restaurants in the world) also have their produce stocked at the Red Lion – if there’s any in stock when you visit (we may have finished the last of it on our visit…) then try the limited edition wild boar and sloe gin salami – outstanding.
There are more plans for food on the horizon for the Red Lion, with Stuart Seth (of Seth’s Kitchen) planning pop up Sunday lunches before the end of the year. There will be two sittings available on the Sunday, with the aim of encouraging groups of 4-6 diners to book, pre-order their meat and have it carved for them at the table when they arrive. Keep your eyes peeled for more details.
It’s a great little venue, and was already lively and buzzing on the first night, despite being tucked away down a side road at the very top of Whiteladies. It certainly impressed the wine lovers in our group, and we’ll certainly be planning a return visit. With a very different proposition to most, I can see this place being a success.
The Red Lion Wine House is open from 11am-11pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-12am on Friday and Saturday and is also open Sundays. Closed Monday.
Find The Red Lion Wine House on the Bristol Bites Directory…