Until recently, I hadn’t been to No.51 Stokes Croft for a while – with so many pizza places having opened in our neck of the woods (BS1), we’ve tended to keep it fairly local in recent months. But on a trip up to Stokes Croft in mid-March this year, I was reminded of just how much I love the place…
Downstairs, it’s very much about the drinks, with the downstairs bar hosting live music and DJs on a regular basis. It’s got a bit of a smell of stale beer to it but has a friendly and welcoming feel – we were headed upstairs, though, to their dining room.
As you walk upstairs, you pass the door through to the garden on the right-hand side, with plenty of covered areas for when the weather’s not great, and lots of sunshine in the warmer months – it’s a bit of a hidden haven, and surprisingly large too. Turn left, however, and you’re in the dining room: the bar on your right, the kitchen on your left and plenty of comfortable seating straight ahead.
Comfortable is the operative word here: there’s a real mix of furniture (including comfy sofas and armchairs), and varied decor, from exposed old brickwork to glitzy gold painted and textured walls. With the vintage-style lampshades and cosy corners, the upstairs dining room has a really relaxed feel, almost like you’re dining in someone’s living room.
Food and drinks are ordered at the bar – and as you head up there, you can peer through the hatch into the kitchen to see the kitchen team hard at work preparing and cooking pizzas and more. That’s a wood-fired pizza oven you can see on the left – and as you’ll see from the pizza boxes on the counter, takeaway’s a big part of No.51 Stokes Croft’s trade.
It’s the pizzas that make up a large part of their menu – and they’re proud of them too. “Our pizza dough is hand crafted with local flour and proved overnight to make it extra light”, proclaims their menu. Gluten free bases are available, and there’s a huge variety of toppings – including plenty of options for vegetarians. We love some of the names too…like the Stokes Squash, with roasted squash, garlic and herb soft roulade and toasted pine nuts.
Elsewhere on the menu you’ll find salads, burgers and sides, as well as a couple of dessert options. Mains are generally priced at around the £10 mark, making it pretty good value for a midweek night out, and there’s a list of regularly changing specials too.
On the night of our visit, there were two pizzas and one burger on the specials menu…and the combination of the name and the toppings meant that we both ended up choosing the “We are the champignon” pizza that evening…
It’s nice to visit places that offer more variety than most in their pizza toppings – and the offering from No.51 Stokes Croft didn’t disappoint. It was a thing of beauty, with plenty of colour, and the crust looked great when it turned up at the table (along with the offer of flavoured oils to drizzle over)…but what was the verdict?
Very, very positive. The base was still nice and fluffy underneath, and crispy and chewy around the edges, the way it should be – with a few darker patches from the wood-fired oven. There was enough tomato sauce (made in-house) to add moisture without the whole thing going soggy, and we were impressed with the toppings too. The squash still had a decent bite to it and added a sweetness that complemented the earthy portobello mushrooms, and the garlicky button mushrooms had just enough pungency without going overboard. The flavour of the spinach was a little lost (I’d personally have liked a bit more), but the Gorgonzola was an amazing addition…the flavour lurked in the background for most of the pizza, but hit you right between the eyes (in a good way) in places where it had melted in a thicker, gooier layer.
There may well be lots of new places opening up in Bristol, but a return visit to No.51 Stokes Croft certainly reminded me that it’s important not to forget the old favourites too.