Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Review: The Old Bookshop

The Old Bookshop is one of the latest additions to 'the other end ' of North Street and a very welcome one too.  It opened it doors in autumn 2011 on the site of what used to be Circle Books, hence the name.

I liked Circle Books, which started out as a secondhand bookshop, but which expanded into a cafe, and was sorry to see it close.  A fondue restaurant opened and closed almost immediately before Ben Gatt transformed the corner shop into the exciting cafe/bar/restaurant/music venue it has now become.

The decor, outside and in, is vibrant and eclectic - antlers, old photographs, vintage typewriters, a wind instrument chandelier, bunting, mismatched crockery, a menu painted on a gold tea tray ...  It's tiny but every last inch is employed without giving the impression of being overcrowded.

The Old Bookshop is open all day every day except for Mondays when it is only open in the evenings.  I regularly pop in with my friend for a cuppa on our way home from South Bristol swimming pool, but today we stopped for Frunch.  This is a new lunchtime menu where, for the extremely reasonable price of £5, we were offered the choice between four dishes with a Gallic influence.  Actually we were only offered three dishes, the Cru Bag(?) (Brixham crab with Scottish smoked salmon, salad leaves, cucumber and a light horseradish lime mayonnaise) being unavailable.  My fellow diners went for the Coq Madame with Coronation Mayonnaise (roasted corn fed chicken breast in a tangy curry, mango and mayonnaise dressing with Mark’s bread) while I (prevented from eating meat by my Lenten fast) opted for the Moules et Frites (mussels in a thyme and cream sauce with chips).  The fourth option was a sweet potato, lemongrass and coconut chowder, again served with Mark's bread.

We requested tap water to drink and it arrived in a bottle with glasses containing ice and a sliver of lemon which was a nice touch.

The dishes arrived promptly.  The presentation was homely but the portions were generous and the quality was good.  My friend and daughter were both pleased with their chicken, the only criticism being that there was too much chicken.  This was from my daughter who has a small appetite so I wouldn't take it too seriously.  My mussels were juicy and there was plenty of creamy sauce.  I could have done with a spoon to sup it, and feel certain I would have been given one had I asked, but I made do with a mussel shell and a crust of my daughter's bread.  My only only criticism  would be that the chips although thin and well cooked were not crisp or crunchy.  In fact, were I to return, and I'm certain I shall, I would ask for a hunk of Mark's delicious bread instead of the frites.

After I'd cleansed my fingers in the bowl of water with lemon provided, we shared a pot of tea before setting off home.

In addition to Frunch The Old Bookshop offers a £5 Curry Night on Mondays, an ever-changing tapas menu from Tuesday to Saturday evenings and brunch at the weekend.  There are regular Saturday night gigs and on Wednesday evenings punters are invited to bring along their own classic LPs to share.

All in all a welcome new entry.

Photo courtesy of Bristol Culture

PS  I'm hoping reviews of watering holes/feeding stations I've visited will become a regular, if infrequent, feature of my blog.

PPS  For a second opinion read Mark Taylor's review in the Evening Post.


  1. It sounds like an interesting place & we'd be pushed to find a starter for £5 in Cornwall, as you probably know...

    Kay :)

  2. We're fortunate to have a number of reasonably priced cafes and restaurants on our doorstep, and all of them small independents, which is encouraging. I'm out again tomorrow evening, so look out for another review!

  3. I will have to keep this place in mind when I visit Bristol. Looks really lovely, sorry it had to close originally as a bookshop, but so happy it has re-opened under a new guise.

  4. Hi Shaheen. The Old Bookshop is definitely worth a visit - at any time of day. Why not let me know and we can meet for a cuppa!