Often frequented by Bristol's younger drinking crowd, the 'Slug and Lettuce' has historically been a venue I would have associated with messy student nights-out, promotionally-priced alco-pops and cheesy chips! However, I had been informed that the 'Slug' had recently turned over a new (ahem…lettuce) leaf with an aim to widen its appeal and so, in the name of fairness, nostalgia and the lure of a two-for-one cocktail offer, I decided to find out for myself!
Date and Time: 8th March 2011, 18:00 approx.
Name of Establishment: 'The Slug and Lettuce'/''Slug''*
Location: 26-28 St. Nicholas Street, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Investigation of Slug's revamped image
My first surprise upon entering the Slug and Lettuce was the welcoming reception by the bar staff who both, ushered my friend and I to vacant seats, and informed us that he would be back to take our order shortly. My negative preconceptions of this venue were instantly dispersed by the promise of polite table service - I was impressed. Before deciding that we were hungry enough for food, mojitos were ordered from the extensive cocktail menu. Mojitos are notoriously difficult to perfect and I have sipped many a disappointing creation. Fortunately, Slug’s version was a pretty good attempt – satisfyingly zesty with a good measure of Bacardi with fresh mint stirred through crushed ice. In fact, the only missing ingredient was a sprinkle of brown sugar which gives this cocktail that familiar rich-tasting crunch. That aside, I enjoyed my mojito and was already lining up my next cocktail choice – at roughly £6 each and on a buy-one-get-one-free deal, it would be rude to stop at one!
By this stage, my friend and I were starting to eye up the food menu which constituted an array of choice: pub-grub favourites, pasta and rice dishes, tostadas, sandwiches and wraps. There was even a two-for-one dessert menu, an offer advertised to be available all day every day - a concept all too tempting for my sweet tooth. There was almost too much choice but I finally settled on the Char-Grilled chicken and mozzarella tostada which was melted with cheddar, red pepper tapenade, tomato and grana padano cheese shavings. My friend opted for chicken souvlaki which was served on skewers with red onion and peppers. The skewers were served with humous, a cucumber and mint dressing as well as a flatbread to wrap. Both dishes sounded a lot more complicated than they appeared on the plate but portions were generous and looked appetising. My tostada was basically a thin flat-bread adorned with pizza-like toppings - I particularly enjoyed the melted mozzarella but thought that the addition of cheddar was unnecessary. The chicken was not too dry but didn't taste hugely char-grilled, yet I enjoyed my meal and thought that for £7.95, it was acceptable. My friend reported that, with tender marinated chicken, char-boiled peppers and humous tinged with garlic, her dish was a light and tasty choice and again, a snip at £6.95.
Back to the cocktail mission and I had decided to try out Slug’s take on the classic Cosmopolitan whereas my friend had ordered a ‘Bombay Breeze’ which had proved a tempting entity of the menu’s ‘gin’ section, (FYI, the majority of cocktails are listed under headings relating to its base spirit; either vodka, rum, gin or whisky). This cocktail was certainly the favourite of the evening – wonderfully pink in colour and deliciously fruity due to the strawberry purée and squeezed lime juice yet with a surprisingly strong kick of ‘Bombay Sapphire’ gin - yum! Overall, I was impressed that despite the low prices, care had obviously been taken with the preparation of our drinks, their presentation had been considered and measures had certainly not been scrimped upon.
So, the Slug had gone up in my estimations and I felt a little bad that my preconceived view of this venue had been a little harsh. However, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the level of service and quality of the food/drink we had received would be in any way hindered by the Friday and Saturday night masses. I hoped not but then, it wouldn’t stop me visiting for a spot of lunch with The Boy or an early-evening cocktail (or two) with the girls – after all, my messy, student bar-hopping days are over, and perhaps Bristol’s revamped Slug and Lettuce is also moving away from being a part of this culture. With a relaxed atmosphere, comfortable seating, value for money and food and drink menus to cater for all tastes, this venue, in my opinion, has successfully widened its appeal although perhaps in trying too hard, has lost its sense of identity somewhat. I couldn't work out whether mixing drink promotions and pub-grub from Slug's former existence with the introduction of table service and barman tipping worked - give Slug a visit and see what you think!
And now for a second opinion (The Boy was not not present on this occasion)...
My friend gave the 'Slug and Lettuce' a rating of 8/10 and when asked to describe the venue in three words chose: cheap, cheerful and quick!