As the first formal meal we’ve eaten together, you can imagine the agonising I went through choosing the right restaurant for my boyfriend’s birthday. I spent hours of my life poring over restaurant menus and online reviews, starting to feel nervous at any mention of an under-seasoned salad, or too much noise from the next table. A brief moment of disappointment I knew would weigh heavily on me as a personal failure. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never put any restaurant under so much pressure.
It was getting dark as we arrived, following a little lostness in Clifton, and the lighting from the pool outside created a wonderful atmosphere, special while feeling relaxed and unintimidating. Originally an old Victorian lido, the building has now been converted into a spa, restaurant and bar, and seems like it would work well for any function.
The only moment of almost-crushing disappointment came from the boy’s starter of beef carpaccio with hazelnuts and marinated green beans. It was a mild complaint that the richness of the hazelnuts made the flavour of the dish slightly overwhelming, easily solved by pushing them to one side. My starter was absolutely delicious – scallops in a herby butter sauce, with a subtle heat. If I’m honest, for around £10 a starter, I could have done with more than two scallops, but they were so well-cooked that I feel ungrateful complaining.
With the main course, however, it was the other way round, as the boy exclaimed over his wood-roasted poussin and I felt slightly underwhelmed by sea trout and escalivada. I had been warned that the sea trout wouldn’t be hot, but when it arrived, it made little sense to me as the dish would have been so much nicer hot. The escalivada surprised me with its strong yet fresh flavours, and the aubergines had a wonderful smokiness to them – the most flavourful I’ve had in Europe. As a starter, it would have been lovely, but I didn’t expect it to be over-shadowing the sea trout.
The prices weren’t ridiculous, however, and despite the minor points, there were so many flavours to my dishes that still come to mind now. The richness of the buttery scallops, and the delicateness of the perfectly cooked (albeit under-warm) sea trout. Watching people calmly pace the swimming pool made for a more unusual view than the usual Georgian buildings of Clifton. Somehow, too, it made the place feel more contemporary, which fitted perfectly with the modern European menu and the laid back atmosphere. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who wants the evening to feel special, without bothering with the pretensions.