Living in a small town after a couple of decades in London brings with it a very different pace of life. But what we have also noticed over the last few years has been a remarkable improvement in the quality of eating out opportunities near to our Keynsham home. Since a Google search currently suggests our town to be a culinary desert, and some of its eateries are ignored by the local Venue guide to Bristol and Bath, it may be helpful for visitors to have some recommendations.
Old Manor House is the best restaurant in town, on the Bristol Road. Located in an atmospheric 17th century old abbot's house, its cosy bar, excellent brasserie and friendly staff offer as good an evening out as anywhere in Bristol or Bath. The food is consistently of a high standard, with a changing but imaginative menu. With a bottle of wine and three courses plus coffee, expect to pay £35-£40 a head. Sunday lunches are splendid, too. It has monthly mid-week jazz dinners and guestrooms. Booking essential.
Farrell's, which describes itself as the Irish Italian. Aside from some splashes of Cashel Blue cheese across the menu, and Guinness on tap, the food is largely Italian and the music Irish, a happy mix. The open kitchen and modern decor breathe confidence. The food is excellent, with good pizzas and pastas, and beautifully cooked steaks. It is ambitious opening such a big new restaurant on a High Street that has suffered too many closures, but it has been very busy in its first weeks and deservedly so. Expect to pay about £20-25 a head for three courses with wine, a bit more for steaks. Tel 0117 986 6330 - booking advisable.
* The Ship Inn, on Temple Street, has new management and a great new chef. It is a much nicer place to eat since the smoking ban, and is probably Keynsham's cosiest pub. Great two course Sunday lunches for £10; an excellent evening menu with good value wines; and excellent sandwiches and paninis. Expect to pay £15-£20 for three courses and wine, a little less with £12 specials on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tel: 0117 986 9841 - weekend booking a good idea.
* The Wine Bar on the High Street has now taken over the premises of what was Bar One Nine (and some time before The London Inn). It has a modest though interesting selection of good wines and fizz available both by the glass and the bottle, and has a reasonably priced lunch and dinner menu, with steak, Pieminster pies and speciality sausages among the mains. The owner-chef is seeking a home-cooking ambience, and the bar has been given a more intimate makeover which works better than the starker decor of Bar One Nine. There is free wi-fi. Lighting is a bit dim during the day, however. Expect to pay about £20-£25 for three courses and wine. Tel: 0117 914 3153.
* The Brassmill, on Avon Mill Lane, though linked to the Village Inns chain, has the feel of a good country pub. Despite its size it is cosy and homely inside. Located in the old Keynsham brassmills (which were an important industry until the 1920s), it has a good and changing menu, an excellent range of great value wines by the glass and no booking. Since it has plenty of space, you can usually get a table at weekends. It is child-friendly though is no longer the ghastly 'family pub' that once occupied the site. Expect to pay £20-£25 for three course dinner with wine. Tel 0117 986 7280.
* The Lock Keeper (left) on the Bitton Road has always been good for lunch, and has expanded into providing atmospheric dinners, with fish specialities. Located by the canal, it is a particularly good place to sit out on a summer's day. Expect to pay £20-£30 for three course dinner with wine. 0117 986 2383
* The Cinnamon restaurant on the high street is a first-rate local Indian restaurant, with great specials and friendly staff. It is hugely popular locally, particularly at weekends, when booking is essential. Expect to pay £20 a head including beer, a little more with wine.
(Prices are what we expect to pay per person for three courses, sharing a bottle of wine, and with mineral water. This is an updated posting.)