With a big frontage onto Welshback, a stone’s throw from Brewdog and Glassboat, Mercure Bristol Brigstow Hotel’s newly refurbished restaurant and bar, Buttermilk & Maple, occupies a prime waterside spot.
On its opening lunch service it was fairly quiet, with just a couple of tables occupied by suited and booted hotel guests having a cheeky look at the cocktail menu ahead of that afternoon meeting. There was plenty of interest from office workers passing by on their lunch break, craning their necks to have a look in.
Inside, decoration was chic and understated, with dark furniture and an eclectic collection of prints. The only slight oddity were the slogans printed around the tops of the bar’s pillars: the names of Banksy pieces, the barman explained, and we shared a look of slight bemusement.
A big bar occupies the centre of the room, with seating all the way around. Tables and chairs were set for formal lunches, while I opted to perch on a high, padded leather chair around a long table looking out onto the street and the water beyond, that seemed as if it would be a communal and chatty space in the evening.
There was an extensive cocktail menu in a booklet reminiscent of a school exercise book, with a sugar paper cover printed with technical drawings of herbs and plants, some of which filled the tall planters outside. With the floor-to-ceiling plate-glass doors folded back, these planters formed a shield between the drinkers and diners on the tables inside and outside – though not against the diesel grind of delivery vans reversing up and down Welshback.
But, with the traffic gone, and with Americana easy-listening low on the stereo, it was very pleasant to sit in a sheltered spot, breathe some fresh air and watch cyclists trundle past in the sunshine.
‘Bristol’ cocktails (from £8.50) included a Cider Kiss (gin, passion fruit, lemon, cider) and a Blue Glass Old Fashioned. With 16 tequilas on the menu (ranging in price from £3 up to £7 for a single measure), a similar number of gins (£3-£5.50), and two whole pages of the menu dedicated to whisk(e)y (£3-£13), Buttermilk & Maple seems to be setting itself up to be a place to get drunk slowly and in style.
As it was a little early in the day, I stuck to the soft stuff and perused the menu. Brunch ranges from eggs Benedict variations – with added kale for the health-conscious (£6.50) or with lobster (£9.80) for those happy to splurge – to the house full English (£9.50) and pancakes with maple syrup and bacon (£6.50). Main dishes, served from lunchtime until 10pm, include a quinoa burger (£9.80) and – in case you hadn’t had your fill – a grilled lobster sandwich with soup (11.50).
I opted for the club sandwich (£9.50), and it soon arrived, towering and impressive, crisp bacon criss-crossing a deep orange egg yolk, accompanied by a bowl of skinny fries and a slab of lightly-toasted bread to cap it all off.
It was warm and delicious, the yolk oozing out over maple bacon that was so crisp, it snapped audibly with the merest touch of a fork. Beneath it sat ripe avocado chunks, melted cheese, a smoky chicken breast, fresh tomato and crisp lettuce. The bread was soft with a floury crust, hitting all the comforting lunchtime carb spots.
You’d need a kebab skewer rather than a cocktail stick to keep this one in check: compared to the dainty triangular club sandwich, this was its hefty cousin from the countryside, and it got a big thumbs up from this bumpkin.
The fries were hot and tasty – a good-sized portion, light and not at all greasy. I wiped the plate clean with the last bit of crusty bread as a ferry went past along the water, and luxuriated for a moment with a satiated belly.
There’s a lot to be said for sitting in your hotel room in your pants eating something unhealthy without fear of being judged. But with a chic restaurant, good service and a supremely well-stocked bar, prepare to see more of Mercure Brigstow’s customers venturing out of their rooms of an evening. Hopefully with some trousers on.
Buttermilk & Maple, Mercure Brigstow Bristol Hotel, 5-7 Welsh Back, Bristol BS1 4SP
0117 929 1030
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