‘I don’t think I’ll taste a better dish this year’: TOM PARKER BOWLES reviews 1 York Place, Bristol

  • Tom tastes the joy with a hearty but haute European menu at a new Bristol hotspot 

Quality sells. Even at the butt end of January, when the weather is dour, the taxman cometh (for us freelancers, anyway), and those oft-promised ‘sunlit uplands’ are shrouded in eternal gloom. 

But at 1 York Place, the new restaurant from Freddy Bird, sitting on the edge of Bristol’s Clifton Village, the climate is forever sunny. And on this particular Wednesday lunch, the room is flooded by midwinter sun, every table packed.

Little French, his first restaurant, opened in 2019 and is still going strong. Proper, old-fashioned French bistro food, infused with generosity and an undeniable joie de vivre. 

Freddy Bird can cook.

Hot roast shellfish for two: ‘Every piece of flesh exquisitely cooked, all drenched in garlic butter’

Hot roast shellfish for two: ‘Every piece of flesh exquisitely cooked, all drenched in garlic butter’

Having trained under Phil Howard at The Square and Sam and Sam Clark at Moro, he understands both haute and hearty, the refined and the regional. And here, on the site of the iconic York Café (where I spent many a merrily hungover 1990s morning), the menu may be more broadly European, but the quality of the cooking is every bit as fine.

While the 1 York Place menu is no-nonsense, Bird’s execution is anything but. Winter tomatoes, pert and firm, are draped with smoky wisps of lardo. Queenie scallops, cooked translucent, are doused in garlic butter. Lots and lots of garlic butter. Then lamb sweetbreads, encased in a brittle batter, with a brusque salsa verde and deep-fried sage leaves.

Crisp, soft, rich, sharp. I don’t think I’ll taste a better dish this year, and we’ve barely even started.

For main course, hot roast shellfish for two. At £100. Not cheap, but dear god, the abundance of crustaceans and molluscs, in piles so huge I can hardly see my old friend Mark, who, as usual, gave me the tipoff about this Bristol gem. 

A whole lobster, split, palourde clams, more queenie scallops, razor clams and mussels, every piece of flesh exquisitely cooked. All drenched in garlic butter. With a pot of fierce, wobbling aïoli. Vampires, beware. A huge bowl of crisp French fries mops up any excess.

Really that should be enough. But there’s cotechino, too – lovely, fatty, luscious sausage, with horseradish and lentils and more salsa verde and curls of mostarda, to keep all that richness at bay.

For pudding, a sharp, lemon set cream. And marmalade steamed pudding. What a menu. What a restaurant. What a joyous escape from the ceaseless, relentless doom and gloom.

About £40 per head (without that shellfish platter). 1 York Place, Clifton, Bristol;

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