Community pubs: the Alma Tavern

Is it a pub, is it a theatre? We don’t know, but we’ll have another gin while we decide…

The Alma Tavern is hardly an average pub. For a start, it’s also a theatre, not to mention a guesthouse, too. Its auditorium (where you can find well-established and up-andcoming productions on stage, as well as charity events), along with its residential location on Clifton’s Alma Vale Road, means it’s a pub with real community spirit and a welcoming attitude. It even puts on the annual Alma Vale Street Fayre every summer, where local producers and artisans trade, music acts play and dog shows (yes, you heard) take place.

It’s a stylish local, too. When the Zazu’s Kitchen team took it over back in 2017 – saving it from closing – they gave it a thorough refresh, and now it’s all rustic wood and wall panelling painted in a Farrow and Ball-style midnight blue.

That said, with the summer weather in full blaze, there was no other thought than that of heading outside to the terrace (wooden chairs scraping on decking is the sound of summer, right?). Completely removed from the city, this little spot of tranquillity is laced with green foliage and flowers, and there’s not a whisper of city noise.

The backbar is as well-stocked as you’d like your local to be, with thoughtfully chosen, quality wines, a rotating range of beers (the bar is Cask Marque accredited) from the local likes of Bristol Beer Factory and Arbor, and a whole range of top-notch spirits (the selection of gins is particularly decent, with around 17 varieties). We made the most of said collection by kicking off with glasses of William Chase Pink Grapefruit Gin with tonic, to really boost those holiday feels.

Sipping on our ice-cold aperitifs, we checked out the food menu – there is a full restaurant-style bill of fare on offer here, for when you’re done navigating that list of spirits. And – spoiler alert – this is not just standard pub grub.

Barbecue cauliflower (£6) is served in a Mason jar with moreish jerk-spice sauce, and marinated chicken winglets (£7.50) are coated in a light, golden batter and dressed for summer with fresh salad and sharp blackberry ketchup, for instance.

Moving on to more fitting lubrications for the main courses, we chose the Italian Arpeggio Catarratto; a fruity white that’s smooth, delicious and complements the sunny weather as well as the food

Line-caught and pan-fried cod fillet (£14.95) was expertly executed: tender, easily flaking under the fork and, crucially, well-seasoned, with crisp skin. Vegetarians can rest assured that the same level of care and imagination has gone into their options: all hail the flamed red pepper burger (£10.95), which I couldn’t stop talking about.

We barely noticed the sun lowering in the sky as we chatted into the evening, still working on that wine. The Alma’s terrace is somewhere I’ll be coming back to, and not just for summer; I can imagine a winter’s evening out here, before a show, snuggling under a blanket with a hot chocolate and surrounded by twinkling lights.