It's fair to say that the event of remembering an unused Living Social* voucher - which entitles its holder to what basically constitutes a ‘free’ three course dinner - is comparable to finding a tenner down the back of the sofa! Thus, when the Best Foodie Friend (BFF) informed me that, on the day before pay day no less, we would embark on an evening of fine dining at No. 4 Clifton village – which, situated within a beautiful Georgian mansion, is not typically the kind of venue that one would associate with the end-of-the-month money situation, my response was underpinned with a similar sense of serendipitous joy!
Date and Time: Thursday 23rd August 2012, 19:15
Name of Establishment: No. 4 Clifton Village*
Location: Rodney Place, Clifton
Reason for Visit: A resurrected Living Social deal
No. 4 Clifton Village is an award-winning restaurant and, as part of an independently owned and operated venue (which includes the Rodney Hotel), embodies a timely flair that fittingly adheres to its prestigious surroundings. Lofty sash windows, ornate ceilings and solid oak flooring have been married with sophisticated décor and at both the front and rear of the building are sweeping, well-kept gardens that both facilitate the many wedding photographs that are taken within them and provide a pleasant backdrop to the intimately-arranged (and really rather cosy) bar area. In fact, the BFF and I initially assumed this very position – nestling between the abundance of scatter cushions and bagging ourselves a glass of the Sicilian Borsari Inzolia each which at £5.50 for 230ml, fared rather well as an aperitif given its crisp citrus notes. And, after this brief stint in the bar – during which time, we were invited to peruse the menu in order to whet our appetites for the courses to come - the BFF and I were ushered into the restaurant where the continuation of an unfaltering stateliness (plus the subtle soundtrack playing out overhead) constituted a relaxed, almost serene ambiance – which, we noted, became less and less apparent as the evening progressed and the space became increasingly well-attended. Disappointingly, service was rather nondescript as the girls who waited our table, although polite and efficient, demonstrated as little interaction as they could verbally muster which I’m sure for some, wouldn't have been a problem (preferable perhaps) but to me, was perceived as stand-offish and at times even a little awkward.
The menu adheres to the concept of quality over quantity with a small yet varied selection of dishes which, facilitating local produce and drawing upon seasonal influences, has a distinctively modern European slant. To start, both the BFF and I ordered the chunky ham hock terrine (£6.25) which had been jewelled with carrot and celery; a technique which besides adding splashes of colour, provided an innovative contrast in terms of texture and taste. The melange of soused vegetables were a delicious accompaniment; though the teeny tiny pickled pickles were almost too cute to devour! The 'home-made focaccia', billed to arrive in the place of the crisp bruscetta that had been plated instead, was the object of a little shameless sulking on my part and, despite proving well-executed and tasty, said bruscetta didn't quite measure up in terms of what was otherwise considered a fantastically structured arrangement of edibles! With plates polished, we moved on to the main event; the slow cooked belly of pork (£16.50) for the BFF and the baked breast of chicken for me (£13.95) – both of which were beautifully presented and generously portioned. I was duly informed that the pork was melt-in-the-mouth delicious and the crackling offered admirable crunch, minus the danger of teeth-shattering tenancies! I found the chicken to be a little on the bland side and although the skin had been crisped to perfection; it lacked the presence of a much-needed sauce or marinade which would have perhaps added that necessary dimension of morishness. The rosti potato with its herb-infused drizzle was the real star of this ensemble however, with its deep, smoky undertones; flavours which seemed to appropriately compliment the sweetly glazed Chantenay carrots that the BFF and I had opted to share between us. Whilst we're on the subject, side dishes (at £3.00 each) are undoubtedly a good move given that main courses are not plied with vegetables as standard - the green beans for instance are particularly tasty – served al dente in a butter accented with garlic and shallots – yum!
|Ham Hock Terrine|
|Breast of Chicken|
Finally, let's move on to the hotly anticipated dessert course and the epic indulgence of the white and dark chocolate croissant pudding (£4.95) which, although sounding a little like a Sunday Lunch slop-it-and-see special, was an absolute triumph. Yes, this was unprecedented pudding porn in all its glory and with the swirled ying-yang effect of the chocolate, an intricately layered and surprisingly light disposition, not to mention the undeniable attention to detail whereby a delicate (though almost undetectable) Bay Leaf Anglaise secured its appeal, it was deemed visually delicious before even one bite had been taken, (to be fair I’m not sure why I expected anything less given the calibre of the courses thus far). The BFF ordered the Key Lime Pie (£6.50) which she was bemused to find had been flourished with what can only be described as a salad leaf – yet, despite this mismatched garnish fail, she enthused that her dessert was as refreshing as it was delicious – the flavours well-balanced and pronounced – hence, perfectly paired with the fluted Prosecco that (as part of the deal) had been served to conclude the proceedings.
|Key Lime Time!|
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at No. 4 Clifton Village – the juxtaposition of what is clearly a top-end dining establishment with a refreshingly laid-back ambiance as well as the presence of an unmistakably high level of culinary expertise made this an ideal venue for a classy catch-up with the BFF. I’m not sure that this is somewhere I’d choose without a money-off voucher in tow however as, smack bang in the heart of the village equals that unparalleled Clifton-style mark-up, thus placing it (for me at least) securely within the ‘special occasion’ remit. Nevertheless, do not let this put you off...for, if you have the pennies, this is an ample outlet in which to part with them!
And now for the second opinion....
The BFF gave No. 4 Clifton village a rating of 9/10 and in three words, chose to describe it as, 'intimate', 'elegant' and 'refined'.