Painting by Jay Collins
I pop into the Bristol Bar for a quick pint after work, planning to incorporate the experience into this ‘then-and-now’ write-up. Then I see the windowside tables with their fine view of the shimmering sea (we’re talking early May heatwave), and run my eyes over the great-looking menu, and I decide that I wouldn’t be doing the joint justice: it looks like the sort of place you’d want to linger over a two-course meal, with a fine bottle of wine (or two). I’ve been on the look-out for somewhere to host the in-laws, so I book a table for four, for May Day Bank Holiday.
In the meantime, a bit of research. The pub takes up the eastern corner of Bristol Court, a fine Georgian building put up in 1835 as the Bristol Court Hotel, then converted into flats and the separate bar exactly 100 years later. The hotel was built on land owned by Frederick William Hervey, then 1st Marquis of Bristol, part of an extensive estate he ran in the Kemptown area.
It’s seen quite a lot of life, over the years. In the sixties and seventies, run by Fred and Peggy Penfold, it was something of a student haunt, because of the nearby digs in Eastern Terrace. There was a pool table, and a talking parrot on the bar. In the fifties Max Miller was a regular: the greatest stand-up comedian of his age lived over the road... [read more]