2010 has been a great year for new bars; take a bow The Bank of Stokes Croft, Whitelock & Grace and Hyde & Co. One of the most substantial openings of the year was The Brass Pig on the Clifton Triangle, still finding its feet. But our number one goes to a Spanish bar as authentic as anything you will find in Spain, now open for more than four years and like a fine wine continuing to improve.
1) El Rincon, Southville
Great music, great food (including a huge paella every Sunday), great wine, great beers, great atmosphere. El Rincon is a little corner of Spain in Bristol. This year, El Rincon has been as good as ever, winning plaudits for its food as well as continuing to offer the feel of an authentic tapas bar and offering Spanish language classes in its upstairs rooms. One of my own moments of the year was being interviewed live on BBC One’s Points West before the World Cup semi-final, pretending to be a Spaniard.
2) Hyde & Co, Clifton
You may have walked within a few yards of Hyde & Co hundreds of times and never knew of its existence. For those who do find it, however, the first time you ring the bell and are ushered through its front door will be a moment never forgotten. What makes it more special is that it is so close to the Triangle’s hubbub but is also a world away. Hyde & Co feels like an illicit speakeasy in prohibition America. And like those, keep it hush.
3) Under The Stars, city centre
In other cities, a bar on a boat would be a revelation. Here in Bristol, we are spoilt for choice. Under the Stars opened this year near the Cascade Steps, Bristol’s newest bar to open on water. One of its best selling points its variety. Its top deck is a great place to drink in warmer months, and downstairs each night is different, with popular films shown on Wednesdays, one-off events on Thursdays and live music on Fridays.
4) The Bank of Stokes Croft, Stokes Croft
The former bank vault downstairs can be reserved for private parties; original canvases by some of Bristol’s foremost graffiti artists including Andy Council, Paris and Nick Walker hang on one wall; the bar is covered in colourful stencils and the wooden bar stools painted a vivid shade of yellow; in one corner, turntables and CD decks allow the Bank of Stokes Croft to invite cutting edge DJs to play well into the wee small hours.
5) Whitelock & Grace, Clifton
Whiteladies Road has got more drinking establishments than you could shake a cocktail stick at, but until the arrival of Whitelock & Grace it did not have an upmarket establishment to serve you that cocktail and stick. This new “drinking and thinking establishment” is not as well hidden as Hyde & Co, nor do you need to ring a doorbell to be allowed in, but it does share its philosophies and love of fine wines and cocktails.