Food and drink

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Review: The Atrium, Nailsea


Guess who came to dinner in Nailsea?

Former politician turned television presenter Michael Portillo took Sunday lunch at The Atrium with a film crew from Great British Railway Journeys.

Looks like Nailsea & Backwell railway station could feature in series seven which began filming this year for broadcasting in early 2016.

Programme researcher Caroline Sciama booked the table for six but owner Ellen-Louise Pirret had no prior knowledge the former Conservative cabinet minister would be among the party.

Ellen said despite turning 60 this year Mr Portillo looked really debonair in a lime green jacket and turned quite a few heads especially among fellow female diners.

Ellen said: “He was quite handsome and several women at the bar were in no hurry to leave – they were swooning.”

The restaurant has been attracting five star reviews since it opened earlier this year at The Courtyard off the High Street for its first rate food mostly locally scoured and cooked on the premises.

The controversial Cambridge-educated former defence secretary has been married to his wife Carolyn since 1982 but has admitted to being bisexual in his youth.

Mr Portillo has forged a successful career in the media since he famously lost his seat at the 1997 general election and stood down as an MP for good in 2005.

As well as his long-running series celebrating the romance of classic train journeys in the UK and beyond, he has regularly appeared on BBC politics discussion show This Week and BBC Radio 4 ethical debate programme The Moral Maze.

Travelling around Great Britain by train, he uses a copy of Victorian cartographer George Bradshaw's Railway Companion to compare and contrast modern Britain with that documented by Bradshaw in the 1840s, visiting recommended points of interest noted in Bradshaw's guide book, and where possible staying in recommended hotels.

George Bradshaw was a cartographer who in 1840 became the first person to produce a comprehensive timetable and travel guide of the railway system in Great Britain, which at the time, although extensive, still comprised a series of fragmented and competing railway companies and lines each publishing their own literature.

It takes two days for Mr Portillo to film each 30 minute episode so, for each week seen on television, 10 days is spent filming it.

Long before the GBRJ series, Portillo also presented an episode of the earlier Great Railway Journeys, a similar BBC Two travel documentary programme.

We will bring you more details of the railway show nearer the broadcast time.



I also went for Sunday lunch at The Atrium but not I add hastily on the same day as Mr Portillo.

The comfy ambience of The Courtyard restaurant off Nailsea High Street is really welcoming.

Previously we had celebrated my husband’s 60th in the wine bar with family and friends.

North Somerset MP Liam Fox and his election posse also attended – he came to Rob’s 40th so it seemed only right that he should mark another milestone birthday.

The wine and conversation flowed and every canapé known to man (and woman) plus chips was served!

It was so good a close friend held one of her ‘big’ birthday celebrations (she had several) at The Atrium so a tradition has been set.

But we hadn’t done a Sunday lunch so not wanting to be outdone by Mr Portillo three of us turned up unannounced on a July weekend.

Two Conservative district councillors Anne Heappey and Jan Barber also enjoyed Sunday lunch at the Atrium on the same day as Mr Portillo but as the television presenter was on an earlier sitting they missed meeting him.

It was a super warm summer’s day when my husband, granddaughter and I ate.

This is what we thought:


"The dining room is reached thorough two arches which separate it from the bar area.

Everything is clean, crisp and new.

Sitting under the blue sky glass roof with clear glass goblets glistening on beautifully laid tables it has a formal but not intimidating feel – good for couples, good for families.

The seating is comfy and the service attentive but not intrusive.

The tables are laid beautiful and diners can chose between one, two or three courses for Sunday lunch priced at £11.95, £14.95 and £17.95.

The Atrium seems to have a menu for all seasons as  it offers morning coffee and cake, lunchtime meals, Monday and Tuesday early bird offers and special occasion catering.  

The menu includes a range of delicious meats and seafood all from North Somerset suppliers plus a great selection of wines, desserts and coffees.

On Sunday there was the choice of six starters, five main meals (four roasts and one vegetarian option) and six desserts.

We plumped for two servings of olives and bread for starters.

These were very generous helpings.

This we followed by the roasted chicken breast served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, mixed vegetables and gravy.

The chicken leg on the bone was perfect soft and melt-in-the-mouth, vegetables crisp – just how we like them – but the crunchy Yorkshire pudding was a little overcooked on the edges.

I would have preferred the gravy to have come in a separate jug as it formed a dark lagoon on my dinner plate and completely surrounded the food.

Two puddings were ordered – a warm chocolate brownie served with vanilla ice cream and a apple tart with cream.

Both were delicious.

We loved our lunch and lingered for two unhurried hours chatting and eating.

Our bill for three including drinks came to £61.60 which we thought was good value for money.

We will definitely be back.”

Carol Deacon

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