Trade Secrets - Fresh Inspiration - The Albion, Clifton, Bristol

By Mark Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Kitchen Bread Bristol

This month, Mark Taylor talks to Elly Curshen, manager of the recently-opened Albion in Clifton, Bristol Bar snacks We serve bar snacks until 6pm....

This month, Mark Taylor talks to Elly Curshen, manager of the recently-opened Albion in Clifton, Bristol

Bar snacks

We serve bar snacks until 6pm. The most popular ones are the half dozen Devon rock oysters; pickled quails' eggs; pig twigs (homemade pork scratchings); bread and olives; and the selection of roasted nuts which we roast ourselves. We probably sell 50 portions of nuts every day. In the afternoons, a lot of after-work drinkers will order bar snacks before the evening menu starts. For people who come in for coffee in the afternoon, we also have homemade chocolate brownies and pastries.

Staff

We had a full week's training before we opened, which was really intensive - it was also a great staff bonding period. By the time we opened, everybody was acting as though they'd known each other for years. You can spend ages writing menus and choosing glassware, but it's not until the staff arrive and put on their uniforms that you can really see what the atmosphere of a place is going to be like, and we've got such a lovely team of people. We have a staff of about 20

and nearly every front-of-house person works both behind the bar and on the floor. Everybody is trained to jump behind the bar to pull a pint, take food out, make a cappuccino or change a barrel. We don't run the food and drink separately because it's a pub and everything should work together. We

go through the menus every day before service so everybody is briefed on any changes and also what each dish is.

Chef's table

We call the Albion a "public house and dining rooms" and the whole idea is that it's like being at someone's house. The chef's table is like the kitchen area of the house because it's in front of our open kitchen and people can watch the

chefs cooking. The chef's table is next to a big Welsh dresser and it seats eight people. It's on the flagstone part of the floor so it feels like a proper farmhouse kitchen. It's become a really popular table and it's also non-smoking.

Herb garden

We have our own herb garden on the roof of the pub. Our chefs, Toby Gritten and Jake Platt, made the six timber planters themselves. They are like big troughs filled with herbs. We bought the herb plants from Jekka's Herb Farm near Bristol and there are about 25 different varieties, including various types of mint, thyme and rosemary. We did a nectarine and rosemary tarte tatin and, because it's made to order, the chefs could run up to the roof while it was in the oven to cut sprigs of rosemary to put on top of the tarte.

Pub dog

Co-owner Ian Rayner's Jack Russell puppy, Molly, gets so

much attention it's ridiculous. Because she's the licensee's

dog, she's the only dog allowed inside and she follows Ian around the pub when he serves customers. The chefs feed her all the time - she had the cote du boeuf trimmings the other

day and on Sundays she has leftovers from the roast dinners. She's so docile and friendly, and a real pub dog - she's certainly not a ferocious guard dog.

Bread and preserves

We don't buy-in anything. Our chef, Jake, is really into breadmaking and pastry. Before we opened, he spent a couple of weeks with two bakers to hone his skills. As well as the four types of bread he makes every morning, he's been making Chelsea buns and cakes. The chefs also make their own jams, pickles and chutneys. We serve their cherry and thyme jam with sourdough toast for breakfast, and a special Albion

chutney for the Ploughman's. When we get the time, we want to sell bread and preserves to customers in the pub to take away. We've already been looking at designs for labels and packaging.

Courtyard

The courtyard seats 50 people and, because it's such a suntrap, it has become incredibly popular during the summer. Very few pubs have outdoor areas in this part of Bristol and it's also a dead-end so there's no traffic and children can play safely. We're just about to buy heaters and parasols so people can still eat outside in the winter.

Handmade furniture

Co-owner Owain George also runs his own design company, OGF, in London. He makes bespoke furniture and designed the furniture for the pub, including the oak settles, tables

and leather armchairs. His past projects include the Gate in Notting Hill and one off pieces for celebrities such as Bono

and Karl Lagerfeld.

Private dining room

Our private dining room upstairs seats 14 people. It has dark, peacock-blue walls, a big silver-framed mirror and

antique pewter jugs on a big Welsh dresser. People use the room during the day for business meetings and we get lots of birthday parties. When a group books that room, they get a designated waiter or waitress. It's like having a private dinner party.

Shared dishes

Apart from tapas, shared dishes are something I haven't

seen in Bristol before. We have done several starters,

main courses and desserts for two people to share, including oysters "done three ways" and the cote du boeuf with Pomme Anna potatoes, roasted summer beetroot, wilted greens,

horseradish ice cream and a jug of gravy, which is flying out the door. We also do a fish stew for two people, and that's one of our biggestselling dishes. We've done a couple of different tarte tatins - a Bramley apple one with bayleaf

custard and a nectarine and rosemary one. They're cooked to order and take about 15 minutes - they've been really popular. They cost £12, but it's enough for four people sharing really. People really enjoy sharing dishes because

it's like eating at home.

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