The Watershed...coined 'the cultural cinema and digital creativity centre of Bristol' and yet, global media aside, I'm here to review the ever-popular Café/Bar which the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) and I recently paid a visit for a post-work, pre-knees-up bite-to-eat...
Date and Time: Friday 16th September 2011, 17:45
Name of Establishment: Watershed Café/Bar*
Location: 1 Canon's Road, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Post-work meet-up with the BFF
The first to arrive at our pre-planned destination, I made my way to the Watershed's lively bar area for a well-earned vino, (OK, so I know I said that this visit was fundamentally 'pre-party-time' but start as you mean to go on as they say...!) I chose a glass of the Strawberry Hill Chardonnay (£3.95) from the specials chalk-board and once seated and my beverage sampled, took it straight back! With an odd twang similar almost to a dry cider, this was not to my taste at all – luckily, excellent service ensued that I was promptly given a replacement. Second time around, I opted for the Three Choirs Seyval Blanc (£3.95) which, although arguably a safer choice, proved refreshingly crisp with its characteristically lemony notes. Whilst we're on the subject of alcohol, it can be noted that this venue stocks a great selection of top-notch tipples, in particular, local favourites; Weston's Organic Cider and Bath Ales, the latter including their Organic Lager which incidentally, I'm relatively partial to!
After this initial kerfuffle, the BFF made an entrance....We sat as close to the open windows overlooking the harbourside (and consequently, the fully occupied balcony) as we could, though by early-evening, it does become rather a rush to obtain a seat at all! That said, decked out with wooden floors and with high ceilings that bring about a typically airy feel, the space is comfortable and even when it's especially busy, retains a sense of spaciousness as well as a notably sophisticated ambiance. Scouring the menu, of which the main attractions are split between field, farm and sea, the BFF and I decided that we would wuss out a little and share a couple of the lighter dishes; namely the ham hock and apricot terrine (£5.35) as well as the bread, hummous and olive combo (£4.25). The latter was generously portioned and consisted of a rustic baguette which encompassed that 'fresh-from-the-oven' warmth, juicy olives with a wonderfully citrus zing and an oil and balsamic dipping pot. An ample quantity of hummous completed this dish and although its texture had that lovely home-made coarseness to it, we mused that it was ever so slightly bland in terms of its flavour. The terrine was the star of the show however with its rich contrast of salt verses sweet as well as a satisfyingly meaty density which just melted in the mouth – yum! After all, with a 'plot to plate' concept that focuses on wholesome (seasonally driven), locally-sourced and organic produce, the Watershed has an obvious passion for providing its customers with high-quality cuisine – a passion, the BFF and I found, that even transpires to the simplest of dishes. In turn, it was this finding which whetted our appetites for a return visit whereby it was agreed that we would sample something a little more substantial! In addition to this, the tasty-sounding breakfast menu (available each day until 11:45am), the promise of a decent cup of coffee as well as an interesting line-up of daily specials and the fact that any of the dishes on offer (where at all possible) can be created to suit a vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diet, further heightened the appeal.
Onto dessert and although the BFF decided not to partake, there was absolutely no resistance on my part; especially when faced with the temptation of the home-made chocolate pot with spicy ginger biscuits (£3.50). I was a little surprised when this arrived however as it constituted a chilled egg-custard style-pudding as opposed to the warmed stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth indulgence I was expecting! Not that the alternative wasn't wolfed as the creamy chocolate consistency was pleasant to say the least; especially when accompanied with the light, buttery crunch of the ginger biscuits which, for the record, contributed a spicy warmth to the dish, nuzzling the palate in that comfort-food tradition even after our table had been cleared!
All in all, a great choice of venue…the quirky and chilled-out staff-force underpin a distinctively funky vibe in addition to promoting a friendly 'stay-a-while' atmosphere which is clearly valued by its clientèle. Supported by complimentary WiFi, subtle 'mood-music' and a scattering of available literature, it really makes for a thinking-person's haven. For me though, the thinking was primarily of my stomach (no change there then) and I loved that the Watershed commits itself to the quality of its fare just as the venue plays homage to a world of digital arts; hence, the art of excellent cuisine has certainly not been forgotten...
And now for the second opinion...
The BFF gave Watershed Café/Bar a rating of 7/10 and in three words, described the cuisine as 'simple', 'fresh' and 'quick'.