What: A high-profile new wine bar and restaurant in Bristol’s affluent Clifton Village. To get around the city’s notoriously slow lunchtime market Wellbourne is a chameleon, offering small plates and open sandwiches by day and a more ambitious a la carte menu in the evening.
Who: Chefs Ross Gibbens and Michael Kennedy and front of house man Martin Irwin. The trio all worked together at Michelin-starred London restaurant Dabbous, which closed earlier this year. Like a number of other chefs including Elliott Lidstone (Box-E), George Livesey (Bulrush) and Jamie Randall and Olivia Barry (Adelina Yard), the Wellbourne crew have been attracted to Bristol by its thriving restaurant scene and comparatively cheap rents. “It’s a lifestyle choice as well as a business choice,” says Gibbens. “It’s a great place to live. I’ve got a family and I can afford a proper house here, in London we were living in a tiny flat.”
The vibe: Sandwiched between a Côte and the more recently opened The Ivy Clifton Brasserie, Wellbourne is a former curry house. The trio have improved would could have been a fairly poky space by replacing one of the external walls with floor to ceiling windows. A zinc-topped bar runs down the left hand side of the restaurant with a large feature stainless steel wine fridge above. The colour palette is contemporary. Walls are painted modish mid blues and greys and the metal, slightly industrial looking fixtures and fittings are tempered by light wood furniture and a solid oak parquet floor.
Daytime food: Wellbourne’s all-day menu is focused on open sandwiches and bar snacks. The offer has been designed to undercut Wellbourne’s nearby branded competitors. Priced at £6 a throw, sandwiches include flatbread, smoked cod’s roe, courgette & za’atar; and brioche with stuffed duck neck and sour wild cherries. Bar snacks include crispy pig’s ears with Piment d’Espelette (£3) and truffled quail’s eggs (£3.50)
Evening food: The evening a la carte offer is more ambitious but sensibly priced with starters around the £8 mark and generously proportioned mains priced between £14 and £20. Starters include mackerel tartar, cobnuts, gooseberry and plum kernel oil; and charred lettuce, south coast crab, peanuts and tagettes. Mains include roast turbot, Berkswell crust, girolles & coco de Paimpol; and veal, new season onions, mustard leaf and rapeseed dressing.
And another thing: The vol-au-vent is making a long overdue comeback at Wellbourne. In the right hands, it turns out the 70s staple can be a thing of considerable beauty: light little cases of puff pastry packed with a choice of three different fillings (the Cardigan Bay shrimps with smoked paprika and rapeseed mayonnaise is particularly good). Available at lunchtimes and as a precursor to the evening a la carte, the team says they’ve been a massive hit. One can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the pastry chef, though.