Thornbury’s High Street is experiencing a bars boom. You’ve got yourself a baretto with Joanie’s, bocce with Pallino, wine and cocktails at Trumpy and now, whisky and craft beer at The Back Room Bar. It’s out the back of Carwyn Cellars, who are moving their retail expertise into the hospitality game.
There’s outside, on-street (or rather on-pavement) seating on communal wooden tables, and a large, well-lit interior thanks to the many hanging Edison light bulbs. You wouldn’t be the only person for mistaking this bar for a lighting store on the first look. The room has little decoration and is designed for groups to sit up on raised bars, sip and get a little bit joyous. You’re welcome to bring in a bottle from Carwyn Cellars out the front, but corkage is according to the size of the bottle, so unless it’s something particularly special like a bottle of Kriek lambic (a Belgian beer made by fermenting lambic with sour cherries) it’s best to keep with what’s out back.
And what’s out back is an ever-growing collection of whiskies, broken up by region or country. The count is currently at 150 spanning Islay, Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, the Islands, Australia and Japan. There’s a healthy selection of mescal, gins and tequila for those who like their spirits a little lighter. But, for those who also like to experiment, there’s also a section of the menu called “Moonshine and Other Crazy Shit We Thought Was a Good Idea” with items such as white ryes made with chestnut, gherkin and pepper.
The service is pretty open and casual. If you have a question, they’re more than happy to assist. If you’re after a cocktail, you’re in luck. There are only a few available, but they’re expertly done and are $15 apiece whether it be a Negroni from the tap or a Sazerac. Their Mezcal Paloma gets a shake-up with the Mexican soft drink Jarritos Grapefruit in place of the fresh juice and sugar syrup, and is served in an iced highball with a salt rim. It’s a perfect first drink in the sun when they open at midday: the juicy grip of the grapefruit will you to trick you into thinking it’s breakfast and the mescal is prominent enough to wake you up without smacking you in the face.
If you’re feeling peckish, they have simple pre-prepared offerings due to the lack of a kitchen. There are El Cielo Chips; Richie’s salsa, cured meat and cheese boards; or tins of preserved fish (tuna, anchovies, sardines) with grilled bread. Like most small bars in the area, Back Bar is calling in orders from the Moor’s Head around the corner to deliver you “inauthentic pizzas” with Middle Eastern flavours.
The Back Room Bar is part of a new wave of venues bringing the younger crowds to the once-neglected top end of High Street. And from the look of the crowds here, it’s going to be difficult getting a seat in the very near future.