Backyard could be a glimpse into the future. Not just the iPads on every table on which you order your food and drink. Not just that they are the city’s first cashless restaurant. But also the fact that this new Bristol opening could in no time at all be replicated in cities up and down the UK.
Some serious money has been ploughed into this recently opened restaurant on the Clifton Triangle. And it’s got some serious pedigree behind it, headed up by the former chief executive and executive chef of Jamie’s Italian.
National expansion of Backyard would also be good news for Bristol artist Anna Higgie, whose colourful murals cover almost every inch of the interior, even snaking up the three flights of stairs to the toilets.
“Neighbourhood. Tech. Tunes. A new kind of food experience,” informs the Backyard menu.
It’s an interesting choice of word order for what the restaurant offers, with there not being much of a traditional neighbourhood on the Triangle. Perhaps it’s an indication of what areas of other towns and cities they hope to target next.
Backyard has opened in an area of Bristol that has seen some high-profile restaurant casualties in recent years. The unit it now occupies was previously Cau, with Byron and Jamie’s Italian nearby also no more – as Backyard’s bosses know full well.
The tech is clear to see, with iPads at every table. It takes a member of staff a good minute to talk through how to operate one, with another human checking if the order has come through from the kitchen correctly.
On a recent Friday lunchtime, the tech was easy enough to be understood and operated by my four-year-old daughter, who I had to keep a watchful eye on during the rest of our meal in case she made a rogue order of chicken wings dusted in 24 carat gold (yes, that is on the menu for £15).
As for the tunes, I picked up a snippet of Groove Armada while Lois asked if we could come back to Backyard tomorrow – a resounding seal of approval, in no small part thanks to the garlic buttermilk buns of which she could have eaten half a dozen.
And so to the “food experience”, and it was a good one; which began with complimentary kung pao chicken wings cooked with pineapple, ginger, sesame, coriander and honey glaze.
From the “appetiser and social sharing plates” menu, the pair of garlic buttermilk buns (£3.50) were served with their fried chicken and tarragon butter still bubbling, like a chicken Kiev whose interior had already oozed out.
Chicken is central to what Backyard do and you can have it in a dozen different ways: in soup, in wings, in burgers, boneless, grilled, fried and more.
Catering for veggies and vegans doesn’t look like an afterthought, however, with ‘power salad jars’ for £6.50 or £7 (which you can add chicken to if you wish) containing all the healthy stuff, a trio of different options featuring the likes of quinoa, kale and courgettes.
Back to the appetiser menu and our slightly dry Argentinian chicken empanadas (£5.50) were enlivened by a vibrant pico de gallo salsa; and avocado fries (£4.50) that had been seasoned in Tajin spice from Mexico could be dipped in a tongue-tingling sriacha chilli hot sauce.
At this stage, I would have reached for a beer (local selections include cans from Moor and Lost & Grounded) but we stuck to water, needing to call a member of staff on the iPad to ask her where it was on the touchscreen options; and then flag down a waitress when no human help appeared via the touchscreen.
From the non-chicken options, the beetroot nuggets (£5) were a highlight, with a beetroot and tamarind ketchup similar to that served at Woky Ko’s new Japanese-styles Kaiju restaurant at Wapping Wharf.
The tendency for new restaurant openings in Bristol is to open quietly and build a loyal customer base. With this prime location and investors to please, Backyard need to hit the ground running and at first glance they have done just that.
A slick operation and refreshing takes on old favourites means that their future looks promising.
Backyard, 72-74 Queen’s Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1QU
0117 428 0626
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