Reopening on 20 May, Bar 44 Clifton is the ‘tapas y copas’ restaurant renowned for simple cooking with ingredients of the highest quality from Spain and the West Country. For #FoodFriday, owner Tom Morgan tells us how they’ve adapted through the pandemic and why we should all love sherry – especially their new Manzanilla 44.

I’m writing this in my ‘office’ at home, mid-lockdown number three. I’m trying my best to keep positive, with an eye firmly fixed on that point in time when the vaccine rollout reaches the majority of the population and we can once again open our doors in Clifton and welcome our wonderful customers back. 

It’s been such a tough 12 months that it would have been easy to just close the blinds and wait to reopen. But we decided to grasp the opportunity to get those projects which had been on the back burner off the ground in a big way.

Launching the Mercado 44 online shop

We started a local click and collect shop offering all of our favourite tapas and copas during the first lockdown. This quickly evolved into an online shop (Mercado 44) with a nationwide delivery service for our Bar 44 and Asador 44 (our sister restaurant in Cardiff – a northern Spanish Grill) experience boxes.

After a lot of hard work and buoyed by its popularity and demand, we have now completed construction of a fully integrated e-commerce website to make Mercado 44 a permanent offering. It’s proven extremely popular since launching and orders for those people wanting their Spanish fix are being delivered across the whole of the UK.

Jars of gordal olives from Mercado 44

It’s a crowded marketplace out there and we need to stand out. So we’ve spent a lot of time and energy since March launching our own Bar 44 range of retail products which are so popular in the restaurants. We bottled our own ‘Toro Blanco’ Spanish pale ale beer, jarred our famous 44 giant gordal olives, tinned our ‘Rama 44’ extra virgin olive oil and bottled our ‘Battle of the Bravas’ winning bravas sauce and sherry alioli all for retail.

A huge thank you must go to Bristol-based Spanish artist Andi Rivas for coming up with some truly eye-catching design for the products.

Appreciating sherry

One new product which we managed to finally bring to the market, which has been a real labour of love and something we’ve dreamed about since opening our first tapas bar back in 2002, is our Manzanilla 44. 

As many of you will know, we are completely in love with sherry wines at Bar 44.

A much-misunderstood wine (with such a proud heritage in Bristol), sherry wine is the ultimate food-pairing wine. There are several different styles ranging from the driest wine in the world (Manzanilla and Fino sherry) right the way through to the sweetest (Pedro Ximenez). These styles, along with the other varieties, mean that there really isn’t any food that can’t be paired with sherry.

If you aren’t sure what type of sherry to pair with different types of food, check out our guide below:

  • If it swims (all fish and shellfish, but also chicken, olives, jamon and almonds), pair with Fino and Manzanilla sherry.
  • If it flies (duck, pheasant, game, but also artichokes), pair with Amontillado sherry.
  • If it walks (lamb, beef, slow-cooked pigs’ cheeks), pair with Oloroso.
  • For desserts, sweet treats and blue cheese, pair with cream sherry and Pedro Ximenez, which tastes like Christmas Pudding in a glass!

One more tip: always drink sherry from a full-sized wine glass so you can fully appreciate it.

Introducing Manzanilla 44

Back to our very own Manzanilla 44. We were a bit nervous about launching this fantastically citrusy, salty light white wine as we had spent two years tasting and blending in the oldest Bodega in Sanlucar de Barrameda with our friends at Bodegas Baron.

Glass and bottle of Manzanilla 44 from Bar 44

It was the first time they had ever considered collaborating with someone on a new wine and we wanted to do them proud. It was also a huge moment for our very own resident sherry expert, Owen (follow him on Instagram and Twitter), whose passion for sherry knows no bounds and has put him right at the forefront of the sherry revolution in the UK.

We were overwhelmed with the response on its launch. Our first bottling (2000 bottles) sold out after two weeks. It was a very emotional day when we had to call Enrique from Bodegas Baron and order a second bottling as soon as possible! Many customers pre-ordered a stock of Manzanilla 44 and we are pleased to announce that it is now back in stock. It pairs perfectly with tuna, prawns, olives and is even the perfect accompaniment to dishes such as fish and chips, sushi and chicken tikka masala!

So, whilst the lockdown has been an unbelievable challenge, we have managed to navigate it and find some real bright spots. However, the day where we can serve you a chilled (large) glass of Manzanilla 44 to go with your tapas just can’t come soon enough!

Visit our online shop and you can browse a whole array of unique, hard-to-find Spanish products alongside our regularly changing experience boxes.

About the author

The 44 Group is the culmination of a 40-year love affair between Spain and brothers, Tom and Owen Morgan. Their style of food and drink reflects their own experiences borne from regular trips to different corners of Spain. Bar 44 in the heart of Clifton Village is the newest of their four restaurants across the West Country and South Wales.

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Bar 44 Clifton
Meat at Bar 44 Clifton

Bar 44 is a bar and restaurant that is accessible to all, a family friendly place, offering the highest quality ingredients that showcase their passion for Spanish food and culture