Artist Residence, Bristol
Will Ross, July 7, 2022
Now add to the list of recent hospitality trials a recent opening – Bristol’s Artist Residence hotel. Even before the Covid pandemic was in sight, the latest outpost from the Brighton-born hotel brand was beset with structural setbacks. Three years after the scheduled launch, Artist Residence opened its doors on Portland Square in November 2021, introducing an updated, double-frontage to the prestigious address on the southern edge of the culturally diverse St. Paul’s neighbourhood.
33 individually decorated bedrooms make up the hotel, spread over five floors and designed by Charlotte and Justin Salisbury, Artist Residence owners. Instead of adding interior furnishings to create a consistent style (and no doubt some economic efficiency), the idea was to peel back parts of the building to reveal original surfaces. Modern amenities aren’t neglected – when ceilings didn’t allow adequate space for a modern HVAC system, they came down. Thankfully ventilation flushes and flourishes.
One outstanding room that I stayed in during my second visit was The Lookout – a mezzanine room on the north-west corner of the building. It’s broad, private terrace overlooks the surrounding rooftops, wrapping around the building. Other rooms have their own details, each furnished with hand-picked furniture, reclaimed materials and authentic art.
A charismatic and varied downstairs lounge performs on multiple fronts – a setting for breakfast, afternoon tea (complementary), evening cocktails and moments between. A handsome dining table could appease a handful of hotdeskers, with more relaxed seating beautifully re-upholstered for small groups and the bookish.
Across the foyer from the low-slung lounge is another venue hewn by the Salisburys – an expansive bar that offers a new evening venue to Portland Square. This wasn’t open when I visited in February 2022, so yet to report on how much it serves as a distraction for athletic travellers on a disciplined agenda in Bristol. It’s bones suggest that chances are likely.
Bristol’s density of quality restaurants and coffee shops is impressive, among other cultural institutions not mentioned in this review. For a special evening meal, head to farm-to-table restaurant Wilson’s for the tasting menu. Looking for an efficient yet memorable lunch lunch? Box-E is an ergonomic, freight-container-bound venue with a novel take on modern British cuisine.
On coffee: Full Court Press is located in the city centre, and is one of a number of coffee shops to plug into your movements around town – also Department of Coffee, Pinkman’s and Hart’s Bakery, being the choice venue for grabbing a coffee being the train from Bristol Temple Meads. Little Victories to the south of the city centre (near Box-E) is a good jumping off point for bike rides to the Mendip Hills (more below).
Bristol’s parks and canals make up a large part of the endurance infrastructure for runners. The simplest option from Artist Residence is to hop north through Redland and make a route of Clifton Downs. Make a longer tour by crossing Clifton Suspension Bridge in Leigh Woods (National Trust patch). Following the canals opens up the town’s entrails, but requires a developed compass to ensure returning before the tide turns.
Cyclists should point their front wheel via towards the Mendip Hills. Aim for the villages of Chew Stoke and Wraxall to set out on a clockwise navigation. Wraxall marks a point where you can start cutting back on yourself, heading North via Priddy, Yoxton and Blagdon.
Swimmers staying at Artist Residence don’t have it that easy – the nearest decent public pool isn’t close to Artist Residence. Use Bristol University’s pool on their £6 pay-as-you-go pricing, rewarding yourself with coffee or breakfast at Wayland’s Yard on Whiteladies Road on your way back.
Visit artistresidence.co.uk for more information on the Bristol venue. I stayed in The Lookout room in February 2022.