Prior knowledge of the somewhat liberal Happy Hour offered at roomy, river-side café-come-bar, Mackenzies, made it the obvious choice for an early-evening drinks and download session with good friend, 'D'. Though this review will also draw on previous experience of the venue's cheap and cheerful fare, the fundamental aspect of this particular visit - to indulge in a number of reasonably-priced beverages - will ultimately take centre stage...
Date and Time: Saturday 7th January 2012, 17:45
Name of Establishment: Mackenzies Café and Bar*
Location: Canons Road, Bristol
Reason for Visit: A Banter 'n Booze Bonanza!
Starting as we meant to go on, friend 'D' and I got the drinks in...Given that 'D' is predominantly of the pie 'n pint persuasion and in light of the fact that it was well within the remit of the aforementioned Happy (three) Hour(s), (which run from 5:00pm until 8:00pm Monday to Friday, all day Wednesday, and from 3:00pm on a Sunday; if you're after the specifics) it became inevitable that I indulge in a double-dose of Mojito action! Although admittedly this is, on the large part, my cocktail of choice, the BOGOF offer denotes that both concoctions must be the same variety and so, one is somewhat denied the luxury of 'mixing it up'! That said, the friendly, laid-back staff were more-than-happy to stagger my drink order so to eradicate the possibility of a crushed ice melt-down which could have so easily watered down what I found to be its rather generous alcohol content! Furthermore, although I doubt that the resident ‘mixologists’ will be winning any awards for their efforts, it's fair to say that cocktails are both accurately blended and respectably presented which, given their humble price tag, is commendable even outside of the ‘Happy Hour’ deal. Meanwhile, 'D' began on his pint of Amstel which, amidst the modern surroundings; featuring comfortable leather-effect furniture, a spacious ambiance and neutral décor, seemed to go down rather well. As the evening progressed however, it was noted how chilly the space had become, not to mention the distinct lack of clientèle. If truth be told, the night was young and I'm well aware that 'D' and I were visiting well before the onslaught of the late-night socialites and yet, given its harbourside location, (which incidentally, was a rather covetable destination during my teeny-bopper era given its reliable vibrancy) it was for me, uncharacteristically tame!
The next negative conveniently leads me to discuss the venue's cuisine – a low point due to the abrupt manner in which it ceased to be available (signalled promptly at 6:00pm with a flourish of menu collation) and not its content…surely offering Bristol’s hungry masses the option of affordable edibles well into their Saturday-night festivities would warrant a number more bums on seats and thus, the buzz that I found myself craving...no, expecting. The tapas-style mini plates at three for £10 and five for £15 are, by far, the highlight of the menu – three proving enough to share with a gal pal (during a previous visit) and including the likes of Lemongrass King Prawn Skewers (served with peanut sauce and mango salsa), Spicy Chicken Quesadillas and Calamari. Besides this, it would probably be easier to document what Mackenzies do not offer in light of their bulging menu which spans a number of culinary classics; from healthy salads, grills and burgers to stone-baked pizzas, Mexican Fajitas and the age-old tradition of sausage and mash. You can also opt for brunch (whereby the breakfast rolls, made with baked foccacia particularly caught my eye), Sunday lunch or even bring the kids who have a menu dedicated to their needs, (a thoughtfully arranged menu led by its nutritional content rather then the quick-fix of chicken nuggets and chips!) The dessert list was, in my view, seriously lacking any pizazz but overall, can we assume that this venue has fallen victim to the commonly found beast whereby attempting to achieve too much with the content of one’s menu can prove overwhelming for those choosing from it? If this is the case, it arguably spreads very thinly the care and attention applied to each dish and therefore, could potentially allow for an imbalance in terms of the quality versus quantity debate – yes, that old chestnut!
In conclusion, despite constituting the third 'Mackenzies' in the South-West, (the others, situated in Swindon and Cirencester, seeming just as well executed in terms of their fresh minimalistic appeal as per the images on the venue's website) it has not yet found its niche – instead, it proves a chameleon of an establishment which flits between the realms of affordable eatery, café and bar. There are promotions-a-plenty which attract families to its fare by day and a pre-club fan base to its well-stocked bar (and makeshift dance floor) by night. I think that visiting as an individual, outside of these anticipated bands of clientèle is perhaps where the waters become muddied – an ambiguity which could be addressed with a little consideration of the venue's intended ethos. In light of this, revising the opening hours of the kitchen may be the first step to ensure that the average Joe isn't left hanging in the event of yearning for a little snacketteTai, Cosmopolitan and Pina Colada to name but a few) as well as the pleasant surroundings which embody that relaxed, almost continental vibe, you could definitely do a lot worse!
And now for the male opinion...
Friend 'D' gave Mackenzies Café and Bar a rating of 7/10 and in three words, expressed his criteria for a return-visit – 'later tapas please'!