Friday 7 May 2010

Bristol Lido

It’s not often that I can say I've eaten somewhere before one of the top tier food journalists pays a visit. But just this once, I’m rather smug and self satisfied in saying that I’d visted Bristol’s Lido a couple of months before Jay Rayners review this week. (Although, admittedly, its been open for quite a while).
When I visited back on an unseasonably hot day in February it was only to sample the desserts. The ice creams served in Moroccan glassware are rightly lauded, and I sampled half portions of more or less, the lot. Without exception they were all lovely, although the Pedro Ximenez & Raisin and Salted Butter Caramel flavours were particularly good.

I left extremely impressed, and knew I’d have to come back and try the food proper at some point. And so, at the beginning of this week on a beautifully cloudless hot spring day I rocked up for another bash at the menu.

The Lido itself is an interesting place. Dating from 1850 and just escaping the wrecking ball by the skin of its teeth, (It was scheduled for demolition to make way for flats until fairly recently), it has been lovingly renovated and is now a fantastic place to go for a swim on a hot day. The restaurant proper is upstairs with views of the pool itself along one entire length of the room, there is also a bar area downstairs and decked areas outside where you can sit and eat metres away from the strenuous water splashing activities of the more virtuous.

The menu has an interesting, Middle Eastern slant to it. The Head Chef Freddy Bird having spent some of his career at Moro in London, and looking down the list of dishes, the influence has clearly rubbed off.
A wood roasting oven features heavily and sitting outside, basking in the sun on the decked area by the pool – tantalising aromatic wafts of exotic wood roasted delights drifted around me, in fact – if I didn’t know different, with the sun and the beautiful food aromas I could have sworn I was sitting outside somewhere in the Mediterranean, there’s a definite elusive holiday feel to the whole experience.

Adding to the happy vibes, at lunchtimes there’s a two courses for £10 offer on, consisting of small plate starter and a main courses, it’s a bit of a steal.

The pool and azure blue sky reflecting in my Sunglasses, I sipped lazily on my pint of lager, and tore into the rather good proffered bread and olive oil whilst awaiting my starter of Labneh, slow cooked artichokes and sweet herbs on toast. (Labneh in case you’re unfamiliar is Arabic strained yoghurt). Despite it being a smaller version of the standard menu dish it was perfectly sized for a starter. The whole plate of food was tasty, light and fresh and it didn’t take me long to finish it off.

Meanwhile dining companion ‘E’ was tucking into Salt Cod Croquetas with aioli. These were also very good, crisp with a nice salt cod flavour, complimented well by the garlicky splodge of aioli on the side.

Plates cleared and impressed, I returned to lazing as a handful of swimmers shattered the surface of the sun-dappled pool with their exertions.

My main of Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb, Cabbage, Tomato and Bulgar pilaf, Walnuts and Yoghurt arrived, and it looked bloody fantastic. I thanked my good fortune for taking advantage of the bargainous lunch deal.
I’ve cooked a few things from the various Moro cookbooks and the influence in this dish was apparent from just one taste. It was gorgeous, the rustic looking lamb was tender and beautifully cooked, the whole plate of food was very impressive and the highest praise I can give is by saying that I really, really enjoyed eating it.

‘E’s plate of Seared Trout, warm cherry tomatoes, muscatel vinegar and red onion looked equally impressive, and was “very good”, although she also said that it could have done with just a bit more cooking, the very middle being slightly undercooked.

While we were eating, the majority of the Lido’s restaurant staff were taking part in some kind of medical training, leaving the two waiters on duty running around and looking a bit harassed. Subsequently our side dish of wood roast potatoes was forgotten, and although the waiter apologised profusely upon realising the error and said he’d get them out as soon as possible, they arrived after we’d finished our food. We ate them anyway. They were pretty good, and to the waiter’s credit, he took them off the bill without being asked which is an indication of good service.

It had to be ice cream for dessert, and I went for the White Chocolate with pomegranate syrup flavour. ‘E’ chose a Blood Orange Granita. As when I’d eaten here before, these came up in Moroccan style glassware, and although to my mind £5.50 for ice cream may appear to be a bit steep, the flavours are so bloody nice and the portions so generous I can see why they are priced as they are.

What else is there to say other than The Lido is a rather lovely venue to spend an afternoon at, eating and drinking. Extremely pleasant, especially if the sun is out. I’d imagine on a balmy summer evening it would be an equally attractive place to while away the hours. The food is interesting, imaginative and very nicely cooked. I love the Middle Eastern vibe and despite the couple of minor niggles mentioned, I left very happy with the lunch I’d just eaten.

Oh, and once again – the two courses for £10 lunch deal is a serious bloody steal. If you’re in the area, you have to take advantage of that!


Oakfield Place
Bristol BS8 2BJ

Telephone: 0117 933 9533


PDH said...

Looks good Dan,

Particularly the shoulder of lamb, really hard to get wrong but that does look great.

Dan said...

Paul - Honestly, eating outside by the pool, with the sun blazing down and the smell from the woodburning oven - was frigging superb....and the Lamb was delicious.

meemalee said...

Lovely sunny post, Dan - and I want those ice cream glasses now!

Lost in the Larder said...

Great post, really put me in a summertime mood. Lovely photos and really like seeing the swimming pool in the background. I'll be stopping by next time I'm in Brizzle.

Kavey said...

Aah my Bristol friend went here recently and said I must get myself down there next time we go to Bristol. Thanks for a great review!

Dan said...

MiMi - Thanks, It was a an incredibly hot day, in fact - I got bloody sunburnt!

Lost in the Larder - Thanks very much, the photos came out suprisingly well - great light and the pool in the background really adds something :) Yep, next time your in Brizzle you need to pop in here.

Kavey - Cheers, your Bristol friend is bang on the money :)

Unknown said...

These photos almost look like you were in another country - amazing. Is this the day you got sunburnt? Hilarious!

uma said...

Thanks Dan for great review. And wonder of wonders not a million miles from home, so will definitely check it out. Hope to get a tan out of it too!

Hollow Legs said...

I really must do some more cooking from my Moro book, those dishes looked great (I rather like my fish ever so slightly undercooked in the middle...)

Dan said...

Gourmet Chick - Thanks, and yep - this was the day I got sunburnt.

Uma - yeah, didn't realise, not a million miles away from your neck of the woods! Well worth a visit when you're next in Bristol.

Lizzie - The Moro books are all great, I've cooked loads of great things from them.