Many occasions call for cocktails: birthdays, long-overdue get-togethers, and any and all Fridays spring to mind initially. But what about simply hump day? Or a rainy walk home from work, when you could do with a stiff drink and a couple of minutes under a hand dryer?
The latter are just as valid as any celebration and are the kinds of scenarios that new bar Filthy XIII is, in part, geared towards. Sure, the cool, urban interior, with its glass-shaded pendant lights, marble-top tables and impressive mirrored backbar is a great setting for the more distinguished of occasions, but it also has a casual, inviting vibe – just what you want for those rant-about-your-crap-Wednesday-at-work drinks.
Filthy XIII (they also write it ‘Filthy Thirteen’) was opened in March by Ben Alcock – the guy behind HMSS in Clifton, known for its sense of humour, crazy garnishes and skilled mixology. The new outfit – staffed by a team with serious local pedigree – also steers clear of taking itself too seriously. That said, the menu here (the newest version of which has just been launched) is less tongue-in-cheek and more pared back. You won’t find musings on drinks, abstract concepts or long ingredients lists, just a dozen concoctions and four nonalcoholic versions with straight-up descriptions – no tooth fairy tears or unicorn horn infusions in sight.
Regularly rotating draught cocktails are also on the go – this is not a place afraid of an on-tap Piña Colada. The Lychee Martini (£8.50) is a subtle twist on the original, with gin, lychee and pandan leaf-infused home-carbonated water, and orange blossom to bring out the hero flavours. It’s gently aromatic, very subtly floral and has a soft tang. Good stuff.
The Absinthe Frappe (£8) proves nothing to be afraid of. The slushy-style drink, which arrives with a tuft of mint and glass straw poking out the top, is more mellow than expected, the anise flavour but a graceful whisper among the freshness of mint and melonade.
Designated Dave sips on a Palomarita (£6), which is lovely and grassy with ABV-free Seedlip Garden spirit and zingy with grapefruit and lime sherbet, and Ting. The best mocktail I’ve tasted. (Okay, I don’t drink them often, but it really was a corker.)
To soak all that up, you could do worse than the chicken tikka nugs (£5), with their coarse and crunchy crumb coating and generous mango chutney dip (if you aren’t craving them right now, I despair), or the buffalo cauliflower (£3.50), with florets thickly coated in gently spicy buffalo sauce.
There are plenty of great Bristol bars, but this one is quickly carving out its niche as a real laidback, social hangout with quality drinks and stomach-liners.
Filthy XIII, 208 Cheltenham Road, Bristol BS6 5QU