Many moons ago the good people of Clifton were promised a definitive answer to the question which undoubtedly haunts their every waking and sleeping hour: where to book tonight? Lido or Flinty Red? When it comes to arguing about food, the Cliftonian is not a species to toy with – they become easily irritated and aggressive (and frankly a little pedantic about geography), as the comment section here clearly illustrates. Both Lido and Flinty have recently graced the pages of the fooderattie favorite опекун. Flinty in the aforementioned cheap eats special, and Lido in a slight more upscale version of the cheap eats section, with Jay Rayner calling it one of the ten best values in Britain! So, it was with considerable fear of the Clifton Border/Foodie Police (once again, see aforementioned comments section) but less of Barclays new and highly punitive overdraft policies that I set off on a chilly spring night with the Bristol team, IHG and KL, to properly inspect at long last the Lido. We were fortunate enough to also be accompanied by International Ice Cream Critic/Partisan and suspected Venetian separatist FT. For the sake of full disclosure, a few preliminary comments. Things between me and my beloved Lido have been a bit rocky as of late. First, the member’s discount was reduced from 15 to 20%, and then only if you had 2 courses from the à la carte menu. The days of 20% off the early bird fixed price menu are gone like…adequate funding for public primary school education (just to give an example).
To add insult to injury, the free members champagne has been replaced with Prosecco! I will not comment further on this latter point as it depresses/enrages me to even think of it. The final slap in the face came with the discovery that what I had convinced myself would be a new members only lounge at the far side of the pool in is fact simply an extension of the bar, where the day spa-ing hoi polloi in their flip flops and blue gowns are welcome to come and giggle over the fact of eating at a restaurant in their robes (yes it is inappropriate and rather revolting), after opening the sauna door 12 times over 15 minutes and dog paddling horizontally across the pool during rush hour! OK, I digress. This is about the food, the food and only the….breath deeply.
The evening started oddly. FT mysteriously ordered an entrée consisting primarily of some poshly named onions with a Romesco sauce. It is the dish that every time I visited this winter I asked, ‘what is that?’ and then thought ‘who in their right mind would order that?’, while nodding politely during the explanation, which I would then proceed to immediately forget. I ordered a roast quail which was served on a bed of cabbage – everything on a bed of cabbage seems to be the chef’s theme this season, not that I am complaining – with a saffrony (I think) aioli. It was good, although I found the aioli an odd accompaniment. Still, given my feelings about mayonnaise – queen of the condiments – I was happy to see a varietal of it on my plate, for what cannot be discounted as entirely unideological reasons. Back to FT’s onions. They were good, very good, in the way that a well kept secret is very good when you finally tell someone, surprisingly crunchy and a bit nostril clearing, everything a secret onion should be. Suddenly I felt foolish for not having ordered them even once following the many explanations of the dish that I had been given. What kind of amateur food polemicist am I? I began to question my qualifications for deciding on behalf of a whole post code which restaurant they should prefer, let alone my capacity for undertaking the much grander challenge – from which the Lido vs. Flinty Red question was but a pleasant diversion – the search for the Américain par excellence. Luckily this feeling was short-lived and any sense of inadequacy was astringently washed aside by a mouthful of free mid-range Prosecco.
The plat was beef all around. I asked for it rare and it came that way, which is so often not the case in the UK where blu
means pink and just right means slightly over. Now I know that in previous posts I have complained about goat not being goaty enough – when I say goat, I mean it – but this beef was a bit too gamey, it smelled ever so slightly on the wrong side of alive for the plate. There was probably some cabbage involved in the dish somewhere, which was probably excellent, but I couldn’t get over the goatiness of the beef. Had this cow been cavorting with mutton for so long that it couldn’t shake the smell? I remember some perfectly cooked spinach and some kind of root vegetable also being involved, but what has really stuck with me is the goat, I mean beef.
We were all a little on shock after this, but it was nothing compared to what was about to come. KL, IHG and I have often enjoyed and cooed over the Lido’s ice cream. “The best in the west” we’ve smugly chuckled while tucking into the 6 or is it 7 scoop (does it even matter anymore?) ice cream plank. So, we were eager to show off our icey acumen in the presence of a man (FT) who had once mixed some of the finest gelato north of 41.9000°. It took only one taste and the verdict came down upon us like the chilly pounding hammer of a brain freeze…”‘it’s ok, for England”. Never were such cold words spoken of ice-cream – Mr Whippy groaned from the grave. And it continued…”decent texture, but no real flavour”. I thought KL would cry, IHG sobbed, I stared blankly into the cold eyes of this gelato assassino. The blood orange and Campari sorbet surprisingly passed muster…too little too late. I’m sticking to meat and mayonnaise from now on. Service was as always excellent. Three courses + wine with 15% discount came out to around 40/person.