Opened in 1846 as a tea garden, Beeses is still one of Bristol’s most unique and must-visit venues during the summer months.
It’s also one of the most tucked away and unless you know where it is, there is little chance you would just stumble upon it.
Perched on the banks of the River Avon next to the Eastwood Farm nature reserve, this bar and restaurant looks across to the beautiful Cotham River Park and is accessed via a winding track next to a park in a quiet residential street.
Apart from the occasional distant ambulance siren or fleeting glimpse of walkers on the footpath across the water, it’s as tucked away and peaceful as can be, despite being barely a 15-minute walk from the Bath Road.
If you aren’t driving, walking or cycling to Beeses, there’s always the boat option. At the bottom of the lovely tiered garden and decking, there’s a private jetty for anybody arriving by water.
The Bristol Packet organises boat trips from Wapping Wharf to Beeses throughout the summer - can there be a more stylish way to travel to a meal?
As well as a bar and restaurant, Beeses also runs events and live music. There’s a gin festival on June 10 and a cheese and wine festival on July 1, with Italian, Moroccan and Croatian dining evenings also listed on the blackboard.
I couldn’t have timed my visit to Beeses better. On Friday lunchtime, the sun was beating down and by 12.30pm, most tables on the terrace were occupied. It was glorious and I could have stayed there all afternoon.
Of course, this is a weather-dependent venue and best seen in the sun, although I’ve been stuck there in an autumn downpour and it’s equally as magical.
It does feel as if Beeses capitalises on its unique location a bit as the prices of the drinks and food have crept up this year. I know pubs and restaurants are struggling with energy bills and rising costs but some of the prices at Beeses will raise an eyebrow or two.
The cheapest draught pints are the North Street Cider and Thatchers Haze, both at a reasonable £4.70, but once you get into the beers and lagers, you may need to remortgage the house.
Although Butcombe’s Underfall lager is £5.10 and Butcombe Original £5.20, my pint of Bristol Beer Factory Infinity was £5.80 and Bristol Beer Factory Independence is a whopping £6.20. That’s nudging posh Mayfair pub prices.
There is similarly ambitious pricing for the cakes on the counter. Slices of lemon drizzle, chocolate brownie and homemade scones are all £5. Really?
On a busy, sunny Friday lunchtime, the kitchen staff were clearly struggling to keep up with demand and a few of the dishes were already unavailable, including the coconut chicken curry I had my eye on.
Mains are priced from £14 for the smoked salmon salad to £16 for the double beef burger I ordered. This is not fast food.
My burger took half an hour to arrive, although that was quicker than the soup ordered by the woman on the next table. She had ordered long before me and it arrived after mine, only to be sent straight back as it was only lukewarm not hot. She wasn’t happy.
On another table, a chap who ordered a chicken burger was presented with a chicken salad. His family had already scoffed their food by the time the burger turned up, although the waitress was deeply apologetic and took it off the bill.
Still, my burger was worth the wait, the two juicy beef patties sandwiched with slices of Monterey Jack cheese, crisp smoky bacon, well dressed leaves, thick slices of beef tomato, gherkins and a tangy sauce. The paprika-dusted chips were decent, too.
Premium prices, wrong dishes and lengthy waits for food - OK, Beeses isn’t perfect but then which venue is these days?
But with the sun shining, the river lapping at the edge of the terrace and a cold pint in my hand, I’m prepared to forgive Beeses for almost anything. It’s still one of the best spots in Bristol. Just don’t tell everyone.
Beeses, Wyndham Crescent, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 4SX.