As soon as we first heard that there was going to be a place specialising in pizzas, pies and ciders in the form of The Stable on Bristol’s Harbourside, our ears pricked up. When we heard that the cider list would consist of over 50 options, and that the pizzas would use local ingredients and be named after local places, they pricked up even further.
Since opening, we’ve been three times: once for the press launch, once for a friend’s birthday celebrations and once for a review meal, courtesy of The Stable themselves. All three experiences were very different, as you’d expect! The press launch was a great welcome to the brand, while the friend’s birthday allowed us to see how the venue coped with a group of 17 people. Finally, our review meal allowed us to enjoy a quieter meal for two.
The Stable is a beautiful venue, offering seating outside by the water, at long wooden tables in the main bar area, and at raised tables with booth-style seating – perfect for bookings for small groups. There is also a private dining room available which seats around 15 people comfortably.
The open plan kitchen adds to the hustle and bustle of the lively venue, and the bar is my idea of heaven. The Stable only offer two draught beers (well, it IS a cider place…!) and a few draught ciders, but the real highlight is the huge number of bag in boxes of cider housed in specially designed shelves, and the wide variety of bottled ciders in the bar’s fridges.
On our last visit, we enjoyed a cider tasting board each: five glasses each containing a third of a pint, and designed to introduce you to a range of ciders that you may not have tried before. At £7.50 per tasting board, it works out slightly more expensive than buying pints (which are all priced the same at £3.80), but it gives you a better experience if you’re keen to try new things.
When we went for our friend’s birthday, service was pretty slow – but we expected this, as a large group of 17. Some of our party were also a little disappointed by the pizzas, some of which were burnt around the edges – and the member of our party following a gluten free diet was glad that a gluten free base was available (you need to order gluten free bases 24 hours in advance), but wasn’t happy about the size of the pizza. While it looked significantly smaller than the “normal” pizzas, we were later told that the pizza had the same weight of dough and the same amount of toppings but a thicker base. It would have been good if we’d been told at the time, as it soured the evening slightly for him.
On our review visit, however, our experience was better: it may have been the fact that we were two diners rather than 17, or possibly the fact that the kitchen staff had more experience under their belt. We started with a garlic pizza bread (£4.50 – or £5 with cheese), loaded with garlic and parsley and covered in melted cheese. The toppings were fantastic, while the base was perfectly tasty but incredibly thin – more like a flat bread than a pizza base. So thin, in fact, that the crust broke off in shards when cutting the bread.
The incredibly thin bases also appeared on the two pizzas that we ordered to share. Both were attractively presented on wooden boards, with every pizza served with its own pizza slice to make cutting easier. We did have to wait a little while for our cutlery and napkins to be brought to the table, however.
Our first pizza was the Portishead Piggy (£10), topped with bacon from Chippenham’s Sandridge Farm, local field mushrooms, tomato and mozzarella. Those who have read my previous pizza reviews will know that I’m a fan of the egg as a pizza topping, and the free range egg that topped this pizza still had a beautifully runny yolk. No complaints whatsoever about the toppings, but again, I wasn’t convinced by the super-thin base…
Our second choice of pizza was the Four Cheese Special (£10), with each of the four quarters topped with a different cheese. A well-presented pizza, but one that was very difficult to share!
This is a pizza that comes with an optional tomato base, and starring local blue vinney, Westcombe Red, Rosary goats’ cheese and Wookey Hole aged cheddar as the toppings. We were impressed by the lovely strong cheeses used, and the toppings were generous – but again, we just weren’t convinced by the base.
All in all, a positive experience. I was very impressed with the range of ciders on offer, as well as the knowledge of the bar staff about their products: with a mother who owns a cider shop, there are few that I haven’t tried, but our barman managed to track down some new choices for me! Service was friendly and attentive on all of our visits, but was a little slow when dining in a large group, which is to be expected. While we enjoyed the pizza toppings, neither me nor my partner was convinced by the super-thin bases, but this is a matter of personal taste. I’m sure we’ll be back in the near future.
Please note: our review meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site. We paid full price for the visit for our friend’s birthday.