February 27 2011
There’s always something heartening about returning to the city that you come from to find that not everything you cherish has completely disappeared. London is awash with characterless chain restaurants, and it’s even worse when you go to other cities of a certain size, such as Bristol, where ubiquitous names wrestle with long-established local eateries for custom.
So I was delighted to see that the River Station still remains. Opened in the mid-1990s by restaurateurs who’ve had other Bristol successes, namely Bell’s Diner, which started in the 1970s, it’s an independent harbourside restaurant honed out of a 1950s police river station. There’s a downstairs bar/kitchen, deli area with goodies to take away, and a smarter restaurant upstairs where the menu changes daily, reflecting the seasonal food. (After all, these days Bristol is home to the Soil Association.)
I’ve enjoyed many dinners à deux in the restaurant with my grandmother as well as birthdays with sisters and catch-ups with cousins. This time, though, we arrived at six for an early evening glass of wine downstairs. Because of the convivial atmosphere we decided to have a casual supper in the bar kitchen (second picture) taking in the twinkling lights of the historic Floating Harbour.
Having eaten in The Dock Kitchen in Notting Hill just the week before, the River Station felt similarly of-the-moment, while the kitchen fodder was also very good – pork rillette, pickles and sourdough toast; beetroot and feta salad with broad beans followed by risotto with butternut squash, chestnuts, parmesan and crispy sage (first picture; £14.50 without wine). And it wasn’t just a good experience that we took away with us. I bought a pot of Brindisa’s £1.95 Ibérico lard (third picture) that beats goose fat for roast potatoes, from a selection of deli specialities on sale by the counter.