Preview: Bar 44 Bristol

by Crumbs

31 July 2018

Here’s what you can expect from Clifton’s newest tapas bar...

Wednesday 1 August will see Bristol’s Bar 44 open its doors to the general public for the first time. It’s the first site outside of Wales for the award-wining restaurant group, whose original tapas bar was opened back in 2002.

Siblings Owen, Tom and Natalie Morgan are behind the now-five-strong restaurant group, with Tom and Owen having lived in Bristol when they were young’uns, attending Clifton College. Taking on this empty restaurant space on Regent Street in the Village, then, has been a bit of a homecoming.

Bar 44 is all about modern Spanish-style dining; specially imported ingredients as well as British produce are used to create a large selection of tapas, sharing and main dishes. The drinks list, meanwhile, is Spanish through and through; expect a variety of sherries (Owen is actually one of only a few certified wine educators in the UK, and was named Restaurant Personality of the Year by Imbibe for 2018), wines, gins and cocktails from across the Mediterranean country.

So, what’s the new joint like? The interior has been done out in chic Spanish style, with tiled walls, tufted banquette seating, rustic wooden tables and charcuterie hanging from the wall. The dining areas have been divided up and arranged thoughtfully which, along with the dim lighting, gives the large space a cosy feel. There are a couple of private dining rooms as well, down in the cellar, which are set to open in the coming months.

Right then: the grub. Head chef Tom Maynard has come over from the Cardiff bar to take the helm in this new kitchen. He’s put together a brand new menu too for the occasion, informed by the team’s research trips to Spain (now there’s some research we could fully get on board with.)

Being a bit jammy, we recently had a little preview of what’s being knocked up in the kitchen at this Clifton newbie. Sherry ordered (the staff are really on-it with the shez, so feel free to ask for their help choosing one), the meal kicked off with some snacking tapas (which the selection ranging from £3 to £5). The big, plump gordal olives were some of the best I’ve tasted, and the sobrasada on toast was given extra dimension with the addition of a well-balanced hit of sweet honey. Instead of anchovies, the boquerones dish instead starred fat, meltingly soft Barbate sardines, tangy and well seasoned with vinegar.

There’s also a selection of cheeses (£4.50 each); the creamy textured ash-rind goat’s, and a really pokey and distinctive blue made with Jersey cow milk were two favourites that are worth giving a whirl.  

Crisp-on-the-outside croquetas contained a mix of fluffy potato and roast chicken and were served with smoked morcilla crumb and pea purée, while a pea tortilla was golden yellow and wonderfully silky and loose inside. There were piquillo peppers stuffed with rich, tender sherry-braised oxtail, and buttery, jumbo-sized Judion beans with Spanish sausage made for a comforting bowl.

There are larger, more extravagent sharing platters too (starting at £18) of seafood, beef and pork, the latter involving meltingly tender slices of slow-cooked belly.

And, as for pudding, you could so a whole lot worse than a scoop of PX Espresso Martini ice cream, ’kay?