Great times for Bristol at the moment, with a raft of new bars, cafes and restaurants springing up. After our visit to the new Red Lion Wine House in Clifton on Saturday, we decided to head south of the river on Monday night to check out The Old Bookshop, a cafe-bar and live music venue that opened on Friday, October 28th.
The brainchild of Ben Gatt, the venue – formerly the Circles bookshop and cafe – had its official launch night on Saturday, November 5th. It’s Ben’s first foray into the world of bar management. Having previously worked as a barman at the likes of The Bierkeller, The Hatchet and Thekla, he decided to have a go himself, aiming to create a venue that’s not just known for its food OR its drink OR its events, but all three combined.
It’s certainly an interesting venue, at the end of North Street that’s fairly quiet. A fairly compact space it may be, but Ben’s managed to achieve a lot with it, even creating a feature of the small space between the main bar and the toilets, now to be known as “The Lodge”, where we decided to sit on the night.
The walls, ceilings and shelves are adorned with a variety of items that create a sensory overload for diners and drinkers: an eclectic mix of pictures, shelves by the front door lined with vintage teapots, oars, flying ducks, books, hi-fi’s – quite a selection. Particularly impressive is the light fitting above the bar, made from a selection of old horns and trumpets.
The bar itself is well-stocked with a wide variety of spirits, with Thatchers Gold, Peroni and Guinness on tap and a selection of bottled beers and lagers including Peroni, Red Stripe, Bath Ales, Bristol Beer Factory and more. Coffee is provided by Clifton Coffee, and you’ll find a selection of cakes from Crumpet Cakes at one end of the bar.
Sadly they don’t serve food on Mondays, so we’ll have to make a return visit to give it a go! Ben wanted a similar model to that of The Canteen for food: dishes that aren’t your standard pub grub, which are locally sourced, seasonal and all under £10, with a menu that changes each week. We were told that the bestsellers of the previous week were there chicken, chorizo and bean stew (perfect for the cold weather!) and a three cheese tart with homemade potato salad – and they sold out of roasts on Sunday. Not bad for a business that’s only been trading for a week.
Live music will be a key feature for the cafe-bar, with Ben aiming to get bands in on as many nights as possible. With blues/jazz/funk in mind, one corner of the main bar area is dedicated to a small stage with top of the range equipment. Sheelanagig played at the launch night, and he’s hoping to attract a range of both electric and acoustic acts. All details will be available on the Gigs page of their website.
Vintage sales and the like are also on the list of events to be planned, and there are moves to launch a “free pizza for students” night on Mondays.
It’s always good to see places opening that are not just independent, but offer something completely different to their neighbours. I have no doubt that the self-designated “newest port-of-call for discerning ladies and gentlemen of Bristol” will be a success.
Find The Old Bookshop on the Bristol Bites Directory…