I’d previously been a little apprehensive about visiting The Square Club which, situated on Clifton’s Berkeley Square alongside its boutique hotel of the same name, always seemed rather too exclusive for little old me! Yet, when my social networking addiction led me to discover the upcoming Wine Fayre and Aussie-style barbecue in their ‘lower-deck’ cocktail bar (at a mere £10 a ticket), I just couldn’t resist shunning this preconceived concept of being a square peg in a round hole and instead, decided to work outside the box….!
Date and Time: Thursday 18th August 2011, 19:00
Name of Establishment: The Square Club*
Location: 15 Berkeley Square, Clifton, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Wine Fayre attendance with the Girls!
Entering The Square Club through the hotel’s plush reception area and being at once led through the lounge and kitchen to the top of the spiral staircase (which, we discovered, descended to the ‘lower desk’), it became increasingly apparent how a touch of luxury had been consistently ensured. Grand, lofty and ornately decorated this venue, as well as exhibiting art work (hosting collections from over fifty artists since 2007 to be exact), instantly oozes elegance which, transcending to the cocktail bar below, brought about a feeling of entering various pockets of decadence. Pockets, we found, that were rather different from one another as although upstairs constituted careful minimalism, downstairs clearly eschewed this in favour of an Aladdin's cave of textiles in an overwhelming array of colours; colours which, richly striped against each-other and bathed in a reddish-glow, indulgently underpinned all aspects of the space. Furthermore, heavy velvet curtains contrasted the delicate draped silk overhead and the odd chaise longue had been temptingly arranged amidst other appropriately lavish furniture. Plump cushions had been dotted about the place as had copies of glossy ‘Lansdown Links’ magazine which, intended for the 'discerning affluent reader'* somewhat facilitated the initial posing of the classy versus pretentious debate; hence, were we a little out of our depth here after all? With that aside and a little more curiosity-driven exploration under-way, I enjoyed the oddity that here, Judy Finnegan identifies the ladies' loos and Johnny Cash the gents – how these two figures are in any way related is beyond me, answers on a postcard perhaps…! From here and despite the rain, I just had to check out the terrace which has been recently voted 'the best outside dining in Bristol' and proved an angular, intricately textured space with plenty of spot-lit nooks and crannies in which to chill. Although to avoid actual chill, you can borrow a blanket from the bar under which to snuggle up to your loved one(s) - lovely!
The wine tasting itself was great fun; casually arranged so that one could saunter up to the table and liaise with an expert regarding regions, grapes and palatability. It was here that the aforementioned question of pretentiousness came to a head as, despite a handful of the clientèle proving a little aloof, the welcoming nature and overall friendliness of the staff made the girls and I feel at ease. Thus, even the most uninformed of vino-related musings were met with a smile and an encouraging explanation as opposed to a 'what do you know' kind-of scoff! With that in mind, I think it's fair to say that the New Zealand Sparkler (Lindauer Brut NV, Gisborne) was the star of the show for me with its tiny crisp bubbles and fruity-come-acidic twang, although the Stonier Chardonnay (2009 - Mornington Peninsula Australia) came a close second. The girls both enjoyed the Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc (2010 – Marlborough, New Zealand) with its host of fruity vibrancy; in particular, its gooseberry tartness. With all this Antipodes action going on, the table of wines from elsewhere in the world hardly got a look in and yet, I simply had to sample the only rosé within the twenty-strong line up. The Chateau St Baillon Rosé Reserve (2010 – Provence, France) was the dainty colour of rose petals but with a dry bite that clung to the palate (but in a good way I can assure you!) Elsewhere, it was suitably noted that the cocktail menu offers a great range of creations averaging £6 each; classics such as the Bramble, Manhattan and 'the nation's favourite' Mojito as well as some imaginatively put-together concoctions which, listed under 'Square Club Blends and Bartender's Favourites', included the Sosho Cooler which shakes Finlandia Mango Vodka with muddled grapes, passion-fruit, dry white wine, fresh lime and apple juice – oh, yes please!
On to the food and to soak up the wine consumption (as unsurprisingly albeit unprofessionally, few people opted to use the spittoons!) barbecued skewers of meat, fish and vegetables were amply plated and served. Featuring prawns, scallops, rump steak and spiced chicken alongside grilled peppers, aubergine, cherry tomatoes and juicy mushrooms, these were delicious and certainly suggested the quality of the upstairs cuisine. Whilst we're on the subject of food, the girls and I couldn't help but drool over the advertised tapas-style baby plates (reasonably priced at three for £12) which you can enjoy in the bar or out on the terrace; I particularly liked the sound of 'cheddar cheese and leek fritters with cider sauce' as well as 'brochettes of chicken with a mint and lime yogurt dip' – yum! Meanwhile the live jazz singer was in full swing - for me, her soulful tone seamlessly blended into the buzz of the space which although suggested that the ethos of this venue had been perfectly identified and adhered to, also resulted in the performance itself being a little lost.
With the evening drawing to a close, the girls and I were unanimously complimentary about this venue with its exciting exclusivity and indulgent décor. Overall though, it was the value for money that really provided the wow-factor as we were actually astounded how generously we had been wined, dined and entertained considering the events marginal £10 price tag as well as our monetary-related preconceptions regarding this calibre of establishment. I'm not sure that I would fork out £200 a year to be a member (despite the wealth of offers and benefits that this bestows to you) but I will certainly keep my eye out for further events at The Square Club – not to mention return for the tasty tipples and food stuffs that have caught my eye...And so, after a good night all round, I couldn’t help but conclude that I may be a square peg but incidentally, I fit perfectly within what turned out to be an entirely square hole?!
And now for the girls' opinion....
They gave The Square Club 8/10 and in three words, chose 'fun boozy BBQ'!
Quote taken from 'Lansdown Links' Facebook page – you can also follow the publication on Twitter @LDLMagazine