The new Beckford Bottle Shop is just around the corner from my flat, so I’ve been walking past it for months, peeking in through the windows as it gradually took shape – and I had a sneaking suspicion from very early on that it was going to be my sort of place. When the planning information first went up on the empty unit, I thought perhaps it was just going to be a shop, but I was delighted to discover that it was to be a bar and restaurant too – and now that it’s finished, it’s a beautiful welcoming space, with a vibe that’s stylish but relaxed and cosy too, and a very tempting menu of small plates.
A counter and row of stools along the huge front window makes the perfect place for a spot of lunch on your own, with a good book and a glass of wine, whilst the snug cellar space downstairs features fat squashy velvet sofas and a wood-burning stove – just the place to lounge with friends for a long, leisurely dinner on a cold evening. Plus, of course, you can pop next door to the bottle shop itself and pick up something to take home, or have a few drinks in the bar with its huge, fabulous, three-cornered red leather sofa.
|Small but perfectly-formed plates are on the menu|
My recommendation, though, is that you try the food – there’s a short menu of small plates that changes all the time, and while the portions are small each dish is packed with gorgeous flavours and ingredients. My dining companion and I found it really hard to choose (always a good sign) but plumped for leeks in a Westcombe cheddar sauce, marrow fritti with aioli, red wine glazed ox cheek with horseradish, and a rabbit, black pudding and celeriac pie, which a friend of mine had already tried and had told me, in no uncertain terms, that I simply had to order. I’m glad I listened to her advice because this was unquestionably the standout dish for me – I’ve been thinking about it ever since and I don’t mind admitting that I’ve already been back once to have it again. The meat was incredibly succulent and juicy in a wonderfully rich sauce, with the meltingly tender black pudding and pieces of celeriac with a slight bite to add a little texture – every mouthful was heaven.
|Heaven is a rabbit & black pudding pie|
The leeks were another favourite for me – again, a rich dish, which is why it’s good that they’re all quite dinky portions – and the ox cheek was beautifully cooked, although it was a little heavy on the horseradish for my taste. The marrow fritti, meanwhile, didn’t seem quite right to me – depending on how it’s cooked marrow can be a bit lacking in flavour, and I thought it needed more seasoning – but I did really like the aioli. To wash it all down, our waitress recommended a glass of Cote du Rhone Domaine de la Solitude, although she was happy to bring us a taster of a few others to compare – and unsurprisingly, once we’d done so, we couldn’t help agreeing with her suggestion. The wine list at the Beckford Bottle Shop is helpfully arranged from the lightest to the heaviest wines, which makes it much easier to choose if you’re a wine novice – a nice touch.
|Almost too pretty to eat: the Beckford ice cream sandwich|
Although we were pretty stuffed (I told you, the dishes might be small but they pack a punch) we had to try the dessert too – there was an ice cream sandwich on the menu and I can never resist one of those. When it arrived, it was the prettiest little thing and very delicate – a really rich and creamy vanilla ice cream topped and tailed with a very thin, crisp biscuit made with lots of different seeds, almost savoury and the perfect thing to counteract the sweetness of the ice cream, as was the quenelle of tangy berry sorbet served on top. It was an utterly scrumptious dessert – well worth keeping an eye out for, although it wasn’t on the menu when I went back the other day, so it may make special guest appearances only.
All in all, I’m delighted to have the Beckford Bottle Shop just around the corner, and I suspect it’ll become a new favourite place to meet friends for a casual dinner (I’ll be popping in for a few of those solitary lunches with a good book too). Just remember, if you go, be sure to order that rabbit pie – and don’t offer to share it with anyone.