“Clifton neighbourhood bistro, serving moderately priced rustic cuisine” is the somewhat understated description offered by Shop 3 Bistro’s website. I suppose it’s technically true, Shop 3 is nestled away at the Thali end of Regent Street in Clifton Village and has a short but exciting menu with an emphasis on local and foraged produce.
I’ve been meaning to give it a try since its opening in December last year, but somehow it never quite made it to the top of my list. An error on my part…
We visited on a particularly busy sunny Saturday lunchtime, having made reservations earlier in the week. With a couple of tables outside, a couple more on the ground level and larger rooms for groups on the first floor and lower level; it’s a peculiar layout but does allow for greater flexibility. We were seated with another couple on the ground floor whilst the first floor was filled with a large private party. The décor is understated but pretty with flowers (I assume picked locally?), candles and wine bottle menu holders dotting the tables. The ground floor is particularly light and airy and a great spot to people watch – there was a rather fabulous Scottish wedding party processing past about halfway through the meal which stole my attention! I also liked the look of the lower level room (I had a quick nose when venturing to the bathroom) filled with cosy tables and flickering candle light. It was empty on such a beautiful day but would be perfect on a winters’ night, especially as there was a rather beautiful old fireplace.
We were presented with lunch menus which were short but interesting, with lots of fresh and unusual ingredients on offer. I was so nearly tempted by the ‘four rock oysters’ (£12) from the starters – your choice of natural with shallot vinegar or battered with tartare sauce – but as we were slightly restricted on time had to pass that by. One for next time though. While we perused our options we were presented with some beautiful almond focaccia, served warm with oozingly soft butter. Soft, chewy and tasty it was a promising sign of things to come.
Main courses range from around £10-£20 with a selection of sides at around £4 each and a summer special at £12 including a glass of wine. I was nearly swayed by the vegetarian option – Harbourne Blue goat’s cheese soufflé, tempura courgette flowers, heritage tomato panzanella, gooseberry & basil sauce verte – but the summer lunch special seemed too good an opportunity to miss so Mr TGE and I both plumped for it. Described as “Corn fed chicken ravioli, foraged Scottish girolles, hen’s egg, broad beans, roast corn”, I was completely unprepared for the beautiful plate of food that would shortly arrive. Feeling decadent we also ask for a side of “Hispi cabbage, bacon and goosefat” (£3.50).
Champagne was served to the tables around us as it seemed to be that kind of a Saturday, whilst we sipped our elderflower cordials (I’m currently growing a human which is really interfering with my champagne intake). They were wonderfully refreshing and sweet without being sickly. And then the main course arrived…
It was so pretty I even forgave the description of ‘hen’s egg’ (I assume it’s a hen’s egg guys, you only need to mention it if it’s not a hen’s egg. Ducks egg, sure mention it. Dinosaur egg? Make it a feature! Hen’s egg? That’s just a standard egg then. Anyway I digress.). The ravioli were generously filled with plump and flavourful chicken and sat upon a slick of rich and savoury sauce. Girolle mushrooms were dotted prettily around the dish while disks of ripe roast corn hid beneath flowers. A confetti of broad beans sprinkled the dish adding to the range of textures and colours – it’s one of the most attractive dishes I’ve eaten in a long time, it’s fairly Instagram worthy!
Importantly though the taste more than matched the appearance with little bursts of delight in every mouthful. It felt like astounding value for £12. The side of cabbage was so delicious it shouldn’t be allowed, we wolfed it down, fighting over the last spoonful. Bacon and goose fat are exactly what cabbage has been missing it turns out.
As we had piously avoided the champagne it seemed only fair to indulge in a little dessert at this stage. Although we’re usually very good at sharing deserts we were on such a roll we decided to try one each. I opted for the summer fruit and frangipane tart with white peach sorbet, orange blossom sponge, fennel and lavender sugar (£7.50). Mr TGE was feeling rather adventurous and opted for the curiously named, “I asked for chocolate and I got it… with mushrooms” – dark chocolate mousse, vanilla ice cream, cookies soil, sponge, mushrooms and moss (£6.90). We were both intrigued to see what the mushrooms would add to the dish and it turns out… not much in our humble opinion.
The chocolate elements were sensational and as with everything we were served, it was beautiful to look at. The dark chocolate mousse had an intense rich flavour, whilst the sponge was light and airy. The mushrooms were… mushrooms. They didn’t particularly add anything to the flavour and the texture was a little rubbery – it was a culinary bridge too far for us. Next time we’ll ask for just the chocolate.
My summer tart was fungi free and (nearly) faultless however! A little jewel box of brightly coloured delightful things, it was a pleasure to eat. The tart was a lovely mix of tangy fruit and sweet frangipane which was beautifully matched by the orange sponge. The white peach sorbet was light and refreshing – I quite fancied it in a cocktail glass with a shot of gin over the top. There were little puddles of fragrant citrus gels which I swished the tart through for an extra pop. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the slick of fennel sauce which I didn’t notice on the plate until I swiped the sponge through it. I’m just not a herby pudding kind of girl, it’s just not my thing, I find the herbs always overwhelm the other delicate sweet flavours. I know, I know, peasant tastebuds.
Rogue mushrooms and fennel aside it was a truly outstanding meal for an incredibly reasonable price. Service was attentive, friendly and relaxed throughout, we’re already looking forward to going back. And if the Christmas menu I saw is anything to go by, then Shop 3 Bistro only has more delicious surprises on the way…
Check out Shop 3 Bistros full menu HERE