Date and Time: 19th March 2011, 14:30
Name of Establishment: Picture House East
Location: 85 Whiteladies Road, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Catch-up and nosh-up with the BFF
Despite being well past the luncheon hour, Picture House East (PHE) was buzzing with couples, groups and families, most sitting on the sun terrace in the March sunshine. As well as the outside area, the restaurant is built over two floors giving it an airy and spacious feel. Inside, a real effort has been made to provide a grand yet comfortable atmosphere. I noted that the space was pristinely clean, art work hung from the walls and tables were adorned with candles and flowers – all features which secured a great first impression. BFF and I were given the set menu from which we both elected to have the two course option with a drink. It's content was surprisingly varied (set menus can often be rather sparse) and everything sounded inviting but it just so happened that the same two dishes particularly stood out to both BFF and I; Merguez sausages with tomato and flageolet bean stew for main and the chocolate fondant with whipped cream for dessert. With choices made and stomachs rumbling, it was disappointing that the service, although polite, was seriously slow. We had to approach the bar in the end to prompt the staff to visit our table and then, upon ordering, learnt that the kitchen had run out of the chocolate fondant. Initially, we were miffed but the offered alternative of triple-layered chocolate delicé soon made up for it.
Another nudge for service saw the arrival of our bread board and soon after, our drinks. Two plus points here; the 'cloudy lemonade', ordered by the BFF, had been made behind the bar with freshly-squeezed lemons and was reported to be wonderfully zesty and fresh. Secondly, the generous portion of bread we were given (which we were told had been baked on the premises that morning) was delicious. We were treated to three varieties of dense, rich-tasting soda bread presented in alternating chunks and slices; traditional white, a seeded wholemeal batch and my favourite, a green-olive roulade. Butter encrusted with sea-salt made for a perfectly indulgent accompaniment. Our mains were brought out by the chef himself and I noted that they were presented beautifully. I really enjoyed the hearty feel to this dish - the warming spice of the sausages combined with buttery and rich-tomato flavours were offset with the bean's course texture creating, in my opinion, the satisfying familiarity of comfort-food. A glass of crisp white wine was the perfect accompaniment to this and I was pleased that we had left some bread to mop up the leftover sauce of the stew as the salty-tang of the green olive roulade accented the sunny Mediterranean undertones of this dish perfectly - yum!
Plates cleared and two apologies from the waiting staff later, our desserts arrived. This time, the delay we experienced built a sense of anticipation, anticipation which led to an anti-climax when the chocolate delicé was served. Despite this dish being dreamy in terms of its consistency, gooey in all the right places and topped with crunchy praline pieces, and, with the lingering richness of good-quality dark chocolate, the bite-sized portion we were given was disappointing. A man could have consumed this dessert in two mouthfuls and with my sweet tooth; the chocolate fix was far too momentary!
Overall, I enjoyed my late lunch at PHE; the decor was smart and the furniture comfortable. I think perhaps adding to the staff presence would improve the service and as a result, the ambiance created (it did feel a little disjointed at times during our visit). As for the food, it was all very tasty, carefully prepared and obviously cooked using good-quality ingredients. The dishes we had ordered fit with the ‘fine dining’ ethos as stated on the website but for me, bordered on the concept of 'Nouvelle Cuisine', a concept which, as a lover of decent-sized portions, I tend not to support. Perhaps dining from the A la Carte menu may warrant a different experience, and if you are not strapped for time in any way I encourage you to find out because, after all, PHE did deliver food of an excellent standard - I just wanted more of it!
And now for a second opinion…
BFF gave PHE a rating of 7/10 and when asked to describe the experience overall in three words, chose 'tasty, but slow'.
On to the Old Picture House/Tiki…
After a little post-meal stroll, BFF and I decided to complete our Picture House experience with cocktails at the Old Picture House/Tiki. This is a two-tiered bar on the opposite side of the road to PHE (44 Whiteladies Road to be exact), with a great jungle-come-voodoo theme - think totem poles and bamboo! We opted to sit in the main bar area despite the comfy-looking sofas downstairs due to the loud presence of rugby on the big screen. This bar certainly seemed to be a favourite with Clifton's student population and from the chirpy bar staff (each brightly dressed and finished with a Hawaiian Lei) to the laid-back atmosphere of the venue as a whole, I could see why. The cocktail menu was considerably extensive, boasting a huge range of original combinations as well as giving the classics a welcome twist. Despite only having five cocktails available in the two-for-one 'Happy Hour' offer, the creations we tasted from this list were notably imaginative and of high quality. We started with the Kir Petillant which mixed prosecco with cassis liqueur - a subtle spin on the familiar Kir Royale! This cocktail was served in a champagne glass and had a light, fruity taste - I enjoyed the sensation of the delicate bubbles one would expect from prosecco and it certainly made for a decedent choice.
The arrival of The Boy meant that food was ordered and explains the masculine addition to the image below, (the pint is Bath Ale's Gem if you were wondering). So, as BFF and I ordered our second cocktail from the bamboo-effect menu, the Boy's nachos arrived which were certainly a man-sized portion! They were topped with all the usual suspects, sour cream, melted cheddar and guacamole, with the addition of freshly diced and lightly spiced tomato - all in all this was a very generous (and reportedly tasty) snack for only £4.50. The second cocktail chosen was the girlish-sounding 'Floradora' which blended distilled London gin with raspberry liqueur, ginger ale and freshly-squeezed lime. This combination resulted in a refreshing, lightly-fizzed and fruitful composition which I could have sipped for the rest of the evening!
I will definitely return to Tiki , mainly due to its upbeat vibe and the exciting cocktail menu, (there are certainly a few combinations which I have earmarked to sample in the future).The website* is currently under construction in regards to this half of the Picture House experience but take my word for it, this bar ticks all the boxes. Overall, I feel that offsetting the restaurant was a smart move from the people behind the Picture House enterprise and the contrasting venues provided me and the BFF with an afternoon of fun and food-related delight!