Normally when we visit Portishead we stick to the waterfront areas. Last time, though, we explored a little more. We’d heard that the Slade Road Play Area had recently been revamped and the child wanted to check it out. By the time we’d actually found it (it’s pretty well-hidden) and spent some time enjoying the equipment we’d worked up an appetite…and instead of heading back to the water, we chose to head into town for lunch.
The Precinct shopping centre, home to Iceland, a dry cleaner, a travel agent, a kebab shop and a nail bar, among other businesses, didn’t immediately strike me as somewhere to find a great lunch. In fact, it reminded me of the St Catherine’s Place shopping centre on Bedminster’s East Street…and we all know what happened there.
The presence of The Port Bar proved that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The Portishead Brewing Company’s family-run craft beer cafe bar is a bit of an oasis in its uninspiring surroundings.
The greenery and smart wooden furniture that create an outdoor terrace give the first clue that not all of this concrete jungle plays to its stereotypes.
It’s pretty smart inside too, with its exposed brickwork, wood-planked ceiling and sweeping counter, filled with cakes under glass domes and a colourful display of macarons.
The beer board behind the bar gives the first indication of what the place is all about: a list of 12 draught brews, available in half pint, 2/3 pint and full pint measures. Walk round to the right of the bar and the huge fermentation tanks will give you another idea.
The draught lagers, IPAs, Weiss beers and more are Portishead Brewing Company creations – and if you can’t decide on just one, choose their Flight Board. For £12.90 you’ll receive four quarter pints of either their beers or any guest beers, along with a bowl of mixed nuts, olives, salami poker’s of crisps.
The Portishead Lager (£5.60 a pint) was proclaimed to be light, smooth and refreshing on a warm afternoon. I went non-alcoholic with a bottle of Santal peach juice (£2.80), its sweet flavour and thick consistency reminding me of childhood holidays abroad.
It’s not just about The Port Bar’s own brews, though: there are two Newton Court ciders on draught, plus plenty of gluten-free and non-alcoholic bottled beers. With wines, spirits, cocktails and soft drinks – as well as a hot drinks menu (including coffee from Clifton Coffee Roasters) – also available, there’s something for everyone.
Food-wise, we could have gone for the sweet or savoury waffles that The Port Bar serves from 9am to 3.30pm. We could have gone for one of their sharing boards, which are served from 12pm to 9pm and include baked Camembert, a cheese board, a bruschetta board and nachos – or one of a choice of four salads.
Instead, we went for two stone-baked pizzas to share between the three of us.
The Texas Ranger (£14.90) featured a BBQ sauce base topped with mozzarella, spiced chicken, red onion and sweetcorn, finished with chopped chives and fresh Parmesan after cooking. We did think the toppings could have been a little more generous on one side of the pizza but the flavours were great. The BBQ sauce base was pretty sweet, though, which might put some off.
My choice was the Forest Queen (£13.90) with a tomato base, smoked Scamorza cheese, ham and porcini mushrooms, finished with fresh thyme and Parmesan after cooking. There wasn’t as much Parmesan on this one as on the other, and the thyme was a little lacking, too. The smokiness of the Scamorza came through strongly, though, perfect with the meatiness of the mushrooms and ham. The bases of both pizzas were perfect, too, holding up well to the toppings and deliciously blistered around the crust.
The Port Bar has been going strong since early 2020, and it’s easy to see why. With friendly service, a relaxing environment, its own on-site brewery and delicious food, it’s a good shout for anyone looking for a spot to eat or drink away from the busy waterfront.