Back in November of last year, four friends of varied expertise re-launched The Red Lion as a specialist wine-house amidst the residential tranquillity of Clifton's Worrall Road. Dating back to 1846 no less, this wonderfully atmospheric watering hole now offers an extensive range of fine wines alongside the best in locally-sourced (and in some cases award-winning) cheeses, charcuterie and artisan breads. Consequently, when the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) spotted an online offer* which entitled its purchaser to a combination of this venue’s wares at a ludicrously reasonable six-pounds-a-pop, she promptly made the necessary arrangements for us to visit…
Date and Time: Friday 16th March 2012, 19:30
Name of Establishment: Red Lion Wine House*
Location: 26a Worrall Road, Clifton, Bristol
Reason for Visit; An online offer which warranted a rather timely end-of-the-week treat...
Inviting and quaint, this is the kind of establishment that one usually stumbles upon; becoming at once enticed to further explore the space within its charming exterior. And, with black slated flooring, polished table tops and an assortment of neatly arranged furniture, (intended both for dining - at the front of the establishment - and lounging - at the rear); it’s fair to say that the Red Lion has been significantly modernised; though, effectively channelling the charismatic qualities of its former standing – a balance suitably removing it from the confines of the swanky centrally-based bar stereotype that, given the array of top-end tipples and prestigiously-sourced nibbles on offer, it could have so easily fallen victim of. Yet, with candlelit cosiness and the resounding buzz of an ever-present clientèle alongside the predominantly neutral décor which had been punctuated with an eye-catching collection of wine-related memorabilia, plus, from where we sat, the fragrance of lilies emanating from the arrangement on the bar, it was clear that the aesthetics had been perfected so to appeal to one's senses and consequently, ensure an engaging (and comfortable) drinking and/or dining experience.
The BFF and I were initially invited to peruse the wine list which has been knowledgeably composed and suitably supported with friendly, on-hand expertise. I have to say that it was lovely not to be rushed to a decision and the seemingly commonplace practice of offering tasters, which can, of course, facilitate a rather more ambitious approach to the picking process, was particularly well-received. For me, the crisply-noted Ardechois Chardonnay 2010 which, based on my criteria of fresh acidic zing, certainly hit the spot; its subtle undertones becoming increasingly apparent as the cheese from our board was devoured...but more of that later...! The BFF chose 'Les Terrasses Grenache 2010'; a light, palate-pleasing Sauvignon Blanc which, in fact, was so drinkable, that we purchased a bottle to share between us to take us further into the evening at hand. Meanwhile, the third member of our Friday-night foray had arrived, arming himself with a sizeable glass of Andeluna Malbec 2010 which he reported was both full-bodied and fruity; so rich in terms of its composition in fact, that he managed to dye his mouth an attractive shade of purple! Besides the reds, whites and rosés on offer, there is also an ample selection of ports, sherries, sparklers and dessert wines to choose from as well as a couple of locally brewed beers and ciders; the latter meant perhaps to satisfy the customary 'non-wino' of the group, (come one, there's always one!)
Now for the cuisine and from the back-lit deli-style counter; which is incidentally, the unmistakable focal point of the establishment, one can make three selections (from a plentiful display of cured meats and cheeses) for £11.50 or six for £20. Both options are supplemented with a board of mixed-cut, freshly-baked 'Mark's'* bread as well as good-quality olive oil and a flavoursome home-made chutney. For us, the generously portioned 'house' selection which, as per our voucher, featured the likes of a thinly-sliced yet decidedly spicy chorizo and the mature bite of Keen's Cheddar. The distinctive 'blue' aroma of Stichelton and a gooey brie (that proved melt-in-the-mouth delicious) completed the bill of cheeses and a tasty salami and, even Vincent Castellano's* famous coppa, rounded up the meats. The latter was just as fantastic as I had remembered (in light of a previous encounter) given its rich flavour and well-seasoned finish – yum! My only gripe was that there wasn't quite enough bread to make the most of the oil which, with its authentically Greek appeal, was a real shame – our fault entirely though as, on this occasion, the BFF and I were just too 'British' to ask for a top-up!
In conclusion, an effective and rather novel concept that showcases the best in fine wines and provides 'finger food' of an exceptional quality. And, evident by the near-to-full occupancy, this notion, along with the presence of a laid-back ambiance and efficient service, obviously makes for an attractive night-out – proving too that you don't have to break the bank in order to secure exemplary edibles. For, despite the fact that vinos are branded with the dreaded 'Clifton price tag', the cheese and charcuterie boards are incredibly reasonable given the calibre of their components. Consequently, a new favourite for an understated evening of simple pleasures and undeniably, the best of its kind and a definite go-to for both the discerning drinker and the recreational reveller; highly recommended!
And now for the second opinion...
The BFF gave the Red Lion Wine House a rating of 8/10 and in three words, described it as ‘Clifton yet accessible’.
To note: Opening hours are 5:00pm – 11:00pm Tuesday – Thursday, 12:00 noon – 12:00am Friday and Saturday, 12:00 noon – 9:00pm Sunday and closed Monday.