I’ve just been with a friend to Aqua’s new Grand Café brasserie and bar that has opened up in Whiteladies Road after a short period of refurbishment and rebranding into what is now a stylish and comfortable all-day dining French Bistro and cocktail lounge.
We went for lunch and the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable. I chose the dressed crab with rye bread to start with which came in a sea-fresh, no-nonsense, generous portion and was utterly delicious. My friend had the perfectly hand-carved, smoked salmon with gravadlax and rye bread. We each tried the others and simultaneously went ‘ooh la la’ with eyes rolling to the heavens in blissful appreciation.
Mains were the calf’s liver & bacon with a creamy mashed potato and perfectly pink, French trimmed, lamb’s best-end cutlets with savoy cabbage and a red wine jus, which was exceptional. Anyone calling it gravy should be taken out and publicly humiliated, as I was told by head chef Jamie Edward, that this is the result of six hours of simmering meat and vegetable stock with roasted onions and carrots in a good red wine followed by a gradual reduction process over three days, such is the attention to preparation, detail and taste that he and his team insist upon. C’est manifique!
After a period for digestion, still sipping the glorious, cold Sancerre and a couple of glasses of fine Bordeaux, came the desserts! A selection of mouth-watering chocolate fondant, apple tarte tartin, and a couple of delicate madeleines, all delicieux! and from a much wider choice on the menu.
You could have been in the heart of Paris, Lyon or the West End with the polite and attentive uniformed staff, the white tablecloths, cool and relaxing jazz in the background and the charismatic and charming owner and Maitre D’ Ben Smithson, warmly greeting you in between quietly overseeing the smooth running of the operation.
This is a unique venue in Bristol and in my opinion precisely what the City needs. Many congratulations to Ben and his team as they’re on to a winner. Sante!
Aqua Grand Café, 153 Whiteladies Road, Redland, Bristol, BS8 2RF, England.
Tel: +44 (0)1179 733 314
Aqua Grand Café is a 15-minute drive from Temple Meads train station. Regular buses go up Whiteladies Road from College Green and the No. 1 drops you off almost opposite. Parking’s available along Whiteladies Road (excluding rush hour) but check the ‘pay at meter’ and free times notices. There is also parking on nearby side roads, and you can park on The Downs at the top of Whiteladies Road and walk down.
Type of Restaurant: French Brasserie and Bar
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Open all day for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with a relaxing and intimate cocktail lounge area.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Jeremy Fraser is a much-travelled writer who specialises in relating experiences from within the hospitality, travel and motor industries.
Photographs by Jeremy Fraser