Harveys Cellars

18 01 2012

Harveys Bristol Cream is one of Bristol’s most famous exports, the name of our city spread far and wide thanks to one of the world’s most popular sherries. In Harveys Cellars, the drink is given the respect it deserves, served over ice with flamed orange peel adding an extra citrus flavour.

Rather like Lahloo Pantry’s Bristol Brew tea, the Bristol sherries and sherry cocktails will be very popular here, especially those carrying the Harveys name, the aforementioned Bristol Cream, alongside Fino and four varieties of VORS.

On a visit to Harveys Cellars last night, as well as the Harveys Bristol Cream I also sampled a terrific cocktail, the Bristol Punch, made up of Bristol Cream, Licor 43, also from Spain, Pampero Gold dark rum from Venezuela, and Orgeat almond syrup, shaken with slices of lime and pineapple juice. Delicious and decadent.

12 Denmark Street has been steeped in the sherry business since 1796, when William Perry first used the cellars of a thirteenth-century Augustinian monastery to trade as a wine merchant.

Cellar workers used to push oak barrels down underground tunnels from the boats arrived from southern Spain, moored a few hundred yards away in the docks.

The Harvey family joined the business in the early 1800s, and it is their name that the cellars are most associated with, a wine museum once drawing visitors here, alongside the renowned Harveys restaurant, which closed in 2003 and was the last holder of a Michelin star in Bristol until Casamia in Westbury-on-Trym bagged one in 2009.

There are a few hints of what this place used to be, from the small display of Harvey’s memorabilia (below), to the restaurant cloakroom with its signage still in situ.

The drink selection is extensive, while for food I recommend the chorizo in red wine and the patatas bravas  that I sampled last night, easily as good as in El Puerto. Other tapas on offer includes a selection of Spanish cheeses and a sherry fruit trifle.

Accessed via a discreet door from a road not known for its charms, Harveys Cellars is made up of a maze of interjoining rooms, passageways, corridors and hideaways.

In what probably constitutes the main room, the bar is in the centre with high-backed chairs encircling it and a few tables against the walls. This is where my friend Kristan and I sat, but when I come again I will make sure that I explore further in to the cellars, as this is where things get exciting, with one feature wall made up entirely of Bristol blue glass bottles, and a smaller bar with barrels for tables.

Another room has a baby grand piano, while another still has a view of some of the items salvaged from the museum collection. There is also a gallery which will feature a changing collection of work from Bristol artists.

Harveys Cellars is a piece of Bristol history brought back to life, whether you remember it as a popular haunt when it was a restaurant, or if you step further back in time to when Bristol was one of the most prosperous ports in the world, with a sherry to match.

Harveys Cellars, 12 Denmark Street, Bristol. 0117 929 4812.




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