Georgette McCready enjoys a hearty plate of bangers and mash with a difference
When lunch has been what is these days termed, aldesko, ie a Tupperware box of watercress, pea shoots and tinned tuna eaten while you work, with little joy and barely touching the sides, you find yourself looking forward to something hearty for dinner. And on a dark winter’s evening, with the rain bouncing off the pavements, and soaking the parts of your body between umbrella and boots, what you really, really want is to come in from the cold and tuck into some good, old-fashioned, unpretentious comfort food.
The Clifton Sausage restaurant, in one of Bristol’s most desirable districts, has been dishing up its unfailingly classic bangers and mash to its legions of loyal followers for over a decade. Then, just a few weeks ago, when fellow Bristol business The Cowshed, quit its Bath city centre restaurant premises, The Clifton Sausage owners Simon and Joy Quarrie saw this as their chance to take the brand out to a second city and moved into the beautifully refurbished and extended premises in The Paragon.
If you go in daylight, do take a look at the view they’ve opened up at the back of the building of the green hills on the other side of the River Avon. Luckily for fans of The Cowshed most of the staff, including the chefs and the front-of-house team have stayed on. They are also continuing the tradition of excellent (and popular) Sunday roasts, of two courses for £18. You might want to book though.
You could argue that you can make a good plate of bangers and mash at home. Well, of course you can. But The Clifton Sausage goes one big step beyond, beginning with the ingredients which are all carefully sourced. With bangers as big as a Bonfire Night firework and properly meaty, tender and tasty, even the most cynical diner will be won over, as we were.
There’s a shortish menu, best described as modern British. Starters include Cornish mussels with smoked bacon and cider, or there’s the grazing platter of mixed charcuterie and salad for two. I sampled the Cornish squid, cooked with salt and chilli and well matched with cubes of tasty chorizo, while John thawed out from the cold (the restaurant is lovely and warm) with a large bowl of soup of the day, which happened to be white onion, served with fresh bread. At £6 this would make a sustaining lunch in itself.
There is a wide range of sausages to choose from, including lamb, mint and apricot, beef and Butcombe ale and the seasonal reindeer and cranberry (just don’t tell Father Christmas). John opted for classic Gloucester Old Spot while I decided to try pork with award-winning Bath Soft Blue cheese. We could have chosen the toad in the hole option, which a couple at a neighbouring table were tucking into with enthusiastic gusto, but instead went for champ, which is mashed potato studded with chopped chives. And although our large bowls of steamingly hot food came with a generous serving of onion gravy, you could really taste that this was made from actual potatoes, properly mashed. A really filling sausage main course is £10.45.
If you can’t decide which sausage to go for there’s a tasting plate with beef, pork and lamb, plus the choice of a rolling mash of the day, which when we visited was black pudding.
To help our five-a-day, we shared a large bowl of cauliflower cheese (£4), easily big enough for three as a side dish. This was perfectly cooked with none of that wateriness you sometimes get with restaurant cauli. I’m still not sure if fermented grape juice counts as part of your five-a-day, but we decided that to be on the safe side we’d have a rich and fruity bottle of Chilean organic Cabernet Sauvignon (£23), a wine which proved plenty robust enough to stand up to the big, meaty flavour of the sausages. There’s a choice of mustards too, just so you know they’re catering for all home comforts.
If you’re vegetarian, or dining with vegetarians, worry not. There are special meat-free sausages, served with shallot gravy, or a pumpkin, spinach and goats cheese pie. Or you might have a friend who eschews the sausage, in which case they can pick the fish dish of the day or tear into an old school steak and chips.
The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, the service efficient and despite serving what might be considered traditional fare, the overall vibe is contemporary.
To stave off heading back into that dark, coalblack night, we ordered one pudding and two spoons. Sheer greed, but that almond cheesecake with a poached pear and amaretto ice cream was damn good.
So I’m back at my keyboard, with my dutiful mixed salad box ahead of me for lunch, thinking wistfully about that big, comforting bowl of sausage and mash.
The Clifton Sausage is a welcome addition to the Bath foodie scene. I just wonder whether, given its address and its pride in serving the best of British, it shouldn’t rename itself The Paragon Sausage.