Michelle Grady spends a chilled-out day at this Clifton institution…
Although Bristol is a laid-back city compared to some, it can still be a relief to get away from the traffic, crowds and general hubbub of the centre every now and then. Luckily, hidden away in an unassuming corner of the leafy suburb of Clifton, there sits a stylish urban oasis complete with a glistening pool, invigorating hot tub, reviving sauna and steam room and a first-class restaurant – basically, everything you need for a chilled-out summer retreat.
The Lido is one of the oldest of its kind in the UK and dates back to 1849. After the years took their toll and it closed down in 1990, residents and developers battled over the site for 13 years: the former wanted it to restore it, the latter wanted to demolish it and turn it into flats. In the end the local campaigners were successful, and the site was awarded Grade II* listing in 1998 and fully refurbished in 2006. In the years since its revamp, the Lido has become a Bristol institution and is well known not just for its lovely outdoor pool and spa facilities, but its 75-seater bar and restaurant too.
The restaurant is situated in the old viewing gallery and retains many of the original features, with the addition of contemporary floor-to-ceiling windows which allow diners to look out over the pool. The daily changing main menu features inventive dishes inspired by global flavours – for example, you might start with jamon with white peach, goat’s curd and mint, followed by a main of wood-roast plaice with mussels, clams, tomato, oregano, chilli, new-season garlic and samphire. There is also a tapas menu offering delicious bites such as crispy baby squid with alioli and zaalouk.
We took advantage of their Swim, Tapas & Wine package and, after making the most of our swim and spa time, we headed to the modern downstairs bar for some tasty tapas. The package included three tapas dishes each and, cynical as I am, I suspected they might be on the small side, but I was definitely proven wrong on that score – the portions were hearty and filling, and fresh bread and olives were included in the price too. We initially made the rookie error of ordering two or three of the same dishes because we all wanted the same things, before remembering the whole point of tapas is to share and quickly changing our order so we could try as much as possible. In the end, we plumped for rich and spicy chorizo and morcilla; punchy padron peppers; classic patatas bravas; a fresh, crisp cabbage and Parmesan salad; flavoursome Syrian lentils; and succulent wood-roast scallops served in the shell in a sweet herb and garlic butter.
Even though we had been at the Lido for about six hours by this point, we decided to stay just a little longer and indulge in a coffee and a slice of cake each: chocolate cake for me and carrot cake for my friends. All in all, the Swim, Tapas & Wine package was excellent value – we felt like we had ample time to enjoy the lovely facilities, and the food was plentiful and really tasty. I’d certainly come back just for a meal in the restaurant or coffee and cake in the bar – dining while watching people swim is unusual, I’ll admit (there’s nothing like watching someone swim 20 lengths to make you feel bad about eating chocolate cake) but it’s strangely calming too. If you fancy a day of wining, dining and relaxing, visit the website to find out more about the Lido’s swim and dine packages.