Restaurant review | The Red Church – "Industrial chic and good eats"

St George’s newest, cosiest restaurant opens just in time for a Covid autumn

Following the transformation of The Christmas Steps pub in the city centre, Tom Frost and Jake Applebee of the highly successful Crack Magazine and Dave Smeaton of Bedminster’s Spotted Cow gastropub have joined forces for The Red Church.

The Red Church, I soon find out, is not a church at all, but a heavily renovated Lloyds branch – there’s exposed brickwork from the original bank vault, high ceilings, jet-black walls, dark suede booths, vintage lamps and a massive 10-seater table with a sunflower
bouquet centrepiece.

It’s hygge-inspired with a slight edge and you can tell that Bristol’s coolest diners will be flocking to the restaurant this winter, corduroy kick-flares a-flaring, for a plate of orzo or a portobello mushroom burger.

The menu’s got some solid standards – you can count on affogato with honeycomb being really good, for example – as well as some slightly wilder cards like tomato, chickpea and mussel stew. Ingredients are locally sourced where possible and the prices are modest, with main dishes mostly hitting the £10 mark, with a 10oz sirloin steak for £17.95.

After sanitising and masking up, we’re taken to the mezzanine which overlooks the downstairs diners, bar and DJ decks. The newly-installed Pinewood Studios sound system with line arrays bigger than our table will host local DJs on weekends – the bookings already run to Christmas featuring funk and boogie connoisseur Jay L and WOMAD resident John Stapleton.

Covid has thrown a little spanner in the works – the restaurant was due to open in April and while  restrictions are in place the bar will close at 10pm, but one day the venue will be open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Fronted with a beautiful reclaimed wood counter, the bar is fully stocked with every spirit imaginable and local craft beer on tap from Arbor, Bristol Beer Factory, Lost and Grounded and Twisted Oak. There’s also an extensive wine list – we pick a dry Syrah rosé to start
things off. 

Head chef Simon Miller (The Ethicurean) has done an excellent job of curating a menu to transition the seasons, with dishes that combine sunshiney flavours with autumnal brothiness.

The heritage tomato salad tastes like a remnant of summer – juicy tomatoes and cubes of melon sit alongside creamy goats curd, complimented by basil leaves and topped by crunchy croutons. 

The braised shin of beef with crispy onions, fleshy mushrooms and pecorino romano manages to be meaty and light at the same time. The tomato, chickpea and mussel stew is fragrant and delicate, the mussel not at all overwhelmed by tomato.

For mains we have pizzas that are at once crispy and delightfully doughy, with rich, sweet tomato bases and smokey pepperoni. I go for a vanillery Beaujolais that’s so good I order it twice. The brownie dessert with tangy raspberry puree is lacking in fudginess, taking it more towards cake than pudding territory, but it’s vegan so I’ll let it off.

Book in at The Red Church for Sunday lunch with friends and family, or a mid-week date night.

The Red Church, 190 Church Road, St George, Bristol, BS5 8AE / theredchurch.net

Caitlin Bowring

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