Prior to being informed that the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) had purchased a Groupon* entitling the two of us to freshly-made crêpes and house vino for a minor monetary set-back of just eight-pounds, The Greyhound, or The New Greyhound as it's currently referred to, had remained somewhat undetected upon my culinary-radar. Yes, although located within the stylish buzz of Clifton Village; an area extensively explored on my part, I'd no doubt unwittingly passed this establishment on a number of occasions...and, I’m afraid to say, without a second glance. Though, with its blink-and-you'll-miss-it exterior you can hardly blame me, for what, upon first glance, looks like an old-school watering-hole for the older generation, fabricates a comfortable, modern yet undeniably quirky space which ultimately proves that looks can indeed be deceiving...!
Date and Time: Sunday 19th February 2012, 15:30
Name of Establishment: The New Greyhound*
Location: 32 Princess Victoria Street, Bristol
Reason for Visit: A timely online offer allowing The BFF and I to celebrate Shrove Tuesday on a Sunday and thus, minus the distractions of one's working-week ...
I'm not quite sure how best to sum-up the overall ambiance of The New Greyhound...for what is, in essence, a pub also embodies the distinct characteristics of the typical Clifton-based bar and yet muddies the waters with its laid-back, indubitably continental, café-style culture. With exposed timber giving way to the contrast of a vibrant red and magnolia colour-scheme, the décor can be described, in my view, as tastefully aloof. Nevertheless, with sunken leather sofas nestled within intimate alcoves, free Wi-Fi and a chilled-out soundtrack overhead, this is a space encompassing that stay-a-while vibe – heightened further by the ever-friendly disposition of the staff. Originating from across the channel (or, France, for the geographically challenged), owner Sylvie Dagallier and her team are chatty and welcoming; engaging in a little banter should it arise (especially, we noted, with those propping up the bar) and as a result, eradicating those unjust stereotypes that we often hear when people refer to 'The French'. This also explains the nature of the fare which although in turn justifies one of the more unusual aspects of the establishment, does not sum up the plethora of oddities overall. Take the focal art work, for instance which, skilfully applied to the wall itself, mirrors the ambiguity of the space to perfection – yes, what could have been a rather classic interpretation of Clifton's prestigious 'Royal York Crescent', is complicated (I believe for the better) with the image of an elderly gentleman sporting stilettos and walking a pig... Beyond this is the back room or 'snug' as it would have once been known which, facilitating open mic nights, gigs and karaoke (Phoenix Night's style), includes a stage replete with baby grand piano and fairy-lit 'bottle bar' – this is certainly not a venue in any danger of being cast off as vanilla, on the contrary, it has plenty of potential to add that 'je ne sais quoi' to the after-hours Clifton scene!
Moving on and after cashing in our Groupon, The BFF and I were asked for our preferred shade of vino – both opting for white, we were quick to commend the crisp, refreshing bite of what could have easily been a sophisticated Chardonnay – just lovely and not too pricey either (given the curse of the Clifton price-tag) at £3.50 for a 'petite' glass or £4.70 for 'un grand'. The menu, split between galettes (savoury pancakes made with buckwheat flour) and crêpes (enveloping a range of sumptuously sweet fillings), is facilitated by La Bonne Crêpe;* a business which has been operating in Bristol since 2007, (though originally from a trailer based in Castle Park) and offers its wares at The Greyhound from 5:00pm – 9:00pm on a Wednesday, 12:00 noon – 8:00pm on a Saturday and 12:00 noon – 5:00pm on a Sunday. Back to the afternoon at hand though and, served in intervals, our late-lunch made an entrance. Although it was a little irritating that I had almost finished my dish before The BFF had barely begun, this staggered approach to service did hint at the authenticity of the crêpier’s technique; a notion that our server confirmed, though with an apologetic smile! 'La Classique' folded ham, emmental and a fried egg between the creases of a single pancake which, I’m pleased to report, was perfectly executed with a light and fluffy disposition. And, though it's fair to say that I practically inhaled my food given my self-inflicted, post work-out appetite, I was expecting a rather more generous portion especially as, without the luxury of a pre-paid print-out, you wouldn't receive much in the way of change from a fiver – the tiny side-salad accompanying the ‘main’ event failing too to compensate for its lack of substance. The BFF chose the 'Tartiflette' which appeared a little more meaty in terms of its arrangement; quite literally too as it had been scattered with lardons which, combined with crispy onions and emmental cheese, resulted in a flavoursome, well-balanced ensemble. However, given that this particular visit followed a rather vigorous gym session and our savoury numbers hadn't quite hit the spot, we opted to bypass dessert in favour for something a little more substantial elsewhere – a shame but I think we may have perhaps misjudged the nature of the fare which, in reality, constituted a simple snackette rather than the hearty cuisine that one would normally associate with an establishment intending to supplement the effects of its well-stocked bar. That said, there were some rather indulgent-sounding options when it came to a second course; 'Nana's Cottage' (£3.50), for example, with the warming combination of apple sauce, raisins and cinnamon as well as the appropriately titled 'Lovely One' (also £3.50); which, fundamentally a battered Bounty, marries chocolate sauce with coconut and whipped cream – indeed, in the event of having to calm the unruly wiles of my sweet tooth, the latter may just well be the optimum remedy.
|'La Classique' - £4.90|
In conclusion, a rather mixed bag. Whilst I enjoyed the comfortable yet charismatic status of this space (a space attentively arranged in light of what appears to be a predominantly female input), I think that it needs to establish a greater sense of identity. At present, it can be likened to a single revel (seriously...stay with me) in that its content can not be predicted from its exterior – exciting for some perhaps but not when it comes to attracting clientèle as most people, present company included, wouldn't necessarily step into what looks like a traditional boozer for a dainty crêpe complete with side-salad – a concept you may well liken to those who will not delve into that familiar orange packet for fear of biting into a coffee-flavoured centre! Analogies aside though, I think that the brains behind restoring this 'much-loved local' need to re-design its outer-wear which, to be fair, doesn't currently do its justice. I mean, what about 'The Greyhound' and its somewhat depressing motif (which is essentially an under-nourished-looking canine) says come hither, drink affordable Chardonnay, dine on crêpes?! At least borrow a little of the continental flair from within ('Le Chien Rapide' or even 'Le Greyhound' if you will) and for goodness sake, give the damn dog a beret...just kidding, but you get my point?! In regards to the cuisine, The BFF and I agreed that there was nothing wrong with the quality of the galettes we ordered given that they were both fresh and tasty but, on the other hand, they required a good dousing of miracle grow to warrant their usual £5 price-tag...To that end and in light of the above, I'd consider a return visit but only when the uncertainty of The Greyhound becomes a little more black and white.
And now for the second opinion...
The BFF gave The New Greyhound a rating of 6/10 and in three words, asked for, 'bigger portions please!’…. It could have been worse, her three words could have been; 'a little crêpe'! Ha!