Updated: Sep 8, 2020
An oldie but a goodie – dinner at one of Bristol’s most iconic Harbourside restaurants is still as fresh and fabulous as ever.
With Bristol’s fast-moving foodie scene, it can be easy to get swept up in the novelty of the new, but to overlook the classics is to miss out on some truly fabulous dining experiences. One such pillar of the city’s culinary community is Riverstation, a glass-fronted monolith within strolling distance of Queen Square, overlooking the harbour’s rippling waters.
Having opened its doors around 20 years ago, Riverstation came under new ownership last year and underwent a tasteful makeover to boot. Today, framed vintage posters, midnight walls and brass pendant lights bring its nautical interior bang up to date – this building was once the river police station, after all. And beyond those window walls, a quintessential Bristol scene – a rainbow Regency terrace to the left, the iconic Thekla boat to right (once home to Banksy’s famous Grim Reaper), and Bristol’s listed cranes saluting downstream.
Arriving on a sunny weekday evening, we passed the buzzy ground floor bar, ascended the spiral staircase and settled in to the elegant, well organised first floor restaurant. It wasn’t quite warm enough for the olive tree dotted terrace that day, but our window-side table offered a front row seat to the rosy sunset.
Around us, other diners arrived, greeting the staff like old friends – from professionals meeting over dinner to friends catching a pre-theatre supper. Little wonder, our waiter clearly knew his stuff and offered the kind of service often lacking these days… The kind that knows what you need before you even ask.
With a refreshing Muscadet on the table – chosen from an extensive and varied wine list - we were soon tucking into complimentary rosemary focaccia with soft, salty butter. A rare treat these days, but one that always sets the right tone for dining out.
Choosing from the set menu (à la carte is also available), my delicate grilled mackerel starter was picture perfect – a vibrant blue plate offset the yolk-yellow hollandaise and dill sauce, as well as the sweet grilled lemon slabs and tangy gremolata. It all tasted rather good too. Across the table, a well-seasoned nutty mushroom soup offered an impressively rich, robust start to the meal.
On a different day, I might have ordered the lamb loin chop with jersey royals and mint salsa as my main course. But, as the sun reflected on the water and condensation gathered on my white wine glass, I couldn’t resist a taste of summer. Enter, the beetroot risotto with fennel, mascarpone and goats’ cheese. Being in season, the sweet, plump beetroot offset the sharp goats’ cheese a treat.
Puddings ranged from refreshing light bites to all-out indulgent. I went for the former, a firm coconut and lime mousse with macerated pineapple and salted popcorn. For the sake of balance (I’m sure), my friend went for the latter, tucking into a decadent crème caramel – syrupy, boozy and all the more appreciated for it.
By the time we waved goodbye to the delightful team, the sun had set but Riverstation was alight with sociable tables and chatter. Not to be missed, not matter who the new kid on the block might be.
Writing & Photography Credit: Melissa Burfitt