This September, make like you're still on holiday: wine and dine in the glass-fronted poolside restaurant and bar/cafe, enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool, laze in the hot tub and sauna or have a massage in the spa
Nestled in amongst the pastel coloured Georgian houses of gorgeous Clifton in Bristol.
The pool opened in 1850 as ‘private baths for the convenience of ladies and gentlemen, a medicated bath for the use of invalids, and a spacious plunging and swimming bath’ and by the 1930s, was a state-of-the-art electrically heated outdoor swimming pool or ‘lido’. After falling into disrepair and on the brink of demolition in the 1990s, it was restored and reopened in its present Grade II listed glory – and with many of the quirky original features still in place – in 2008. With an outdoor heated pool, hot tub and sauna and super cool poolside wining and dining, it’s a true oasis in the city.
Tourists to the Lido de Venezia (the beach resort in Venice) probably brought the word lido (‘lee-do’) back with them in the 19th century but it was in the 1930s that the word ‘lido’ (‘lie-do’) was used for open air swimming pools in the UK and the entrance is pure Art Deco, with a tantalising glimpse of the pool beyond.
The pool’s enclosed by the main building – changing rooms, showers, steam room and treatment rooms – at one end, with sauna and hot tub at the opposite end; the two-storey bar/cafe and restaurant down one side …
…and the original changing cubicles down the other.
Put your clobber into a giant dress bag and shoe bag and the lovely people in the reception will look after it all for you. Handbags etc can be locked away in a big communal cupboard (I said it was quirky).
Pop on your blue Lido robe and flip flops, grab your towel, step outside and you’re off.
Maybe some lazy laps in the 24m infinity pool? Heated to between 21–25 Celsius, it’s ideal for after a sauna or steam room and you won’t come out with sore eyes as chlorine levels are kept low.
Lie back in the hot tub in the corner.
Heat up in the new sauna (there’s a steam room at the other end of the pool).
Cool off in the shower.
Or if you’re up to it, take the ice bucket challenge. Eek!
Head up to the first floor to a series of treatment rooms for a relaxing massage – available as standalone treatments or as part of a spa package – using their bespoke Lidospa oils (orange, lemongrass, geranium, ylang ylang and more). Ranging from the full body Classic Lido Massage, through Back, Shoulder & Neck; Facial Massage; Foot Massage; Exfoliating Treatment; Hot Stones, Pregnancy and Remedial massages, they’ve got all bases – and parts of the body – covered.
We opted for two treatments, the intriguingly named Bamboo Massage and the Classic Lido. With the first, the therapist uses different lengths of heated bamboo stick as well as her hands to apply a firm massage which was fairly intense over some parts of the body, especially the calves and fronts of thighs. The Classic Lido was more relaxing, an hour of soothing oil massage and gentle manipulation of limbs that leaves you floating out of the room afterwards.
Afterwards, sip refreshing Pukka herbal and fruit teas with hot water from a little samovar and flip through their pile of arty books and mags in The Lounge. Very civilised.
When you’re ready, hair dyers and mirrors up in The Boudoir.
Before you leave, don’t forget to…
SCOFF & QUAFF
Back in the day, an after-swim nosh was a packet of crisps and a coke but here, there’s a delicious menu with mmmmm-Moorish and Mediterranean influences – like octopus, Basque fish stew, Iberico pork yet Cornish ray – and it’s a restaurant in its own right. Come for coffee and cake, breakfast, lunch or dinner (you can just drop in to eat, you don’t even have to swim – but why wouldn’t you?).
It’s an anything goes sort of place, with couples, friends and solo diners lunching in towelling robes, parents with pushchairs, people working on laptops. Sit downstairs in the bar/cafe or upstairs in the restaurant in what was once the Victorian pool’s viewing gallery – floor-to-ceiling glass windows slide open in both – or poolside in the sun.
Punkah fans swinging from the ceiling keep the temperature down and the cool air circulating.
What a view.
We had the two-course set menu, with a choice of three starters, mains and desserts – probably about right in between spa and swim – but there’s an a la carte too. Chewy, malty sourdough rye bread all the way from The Angel Bakery in Abergavenny, with oil for dipping, was possibly the best bread I’ve ever tasted.
Then the starters. First, a pretty pile of juicy peach and tomato with crunchy toasted almonds, mint and fragrant basil, topped off with light and creamy goat’s curd – perfect for warm sunny days.
You could be a in a Spanish tapas bar with these albondigas (spicy meatballs) in a sweet pepper sauce and aged manchego and tangy pieces of pickled chilli to offset the richness.
The North African spiced aubergine, chickpea and green olive tagine, with pearly giant couscous, plump apricots and a sprinkling of juicy pomegranate, was robust and filling.
Butterflied mackerel perched on top of juicy wood-roasted beetroot came with a subtle herby yoghurt.
Iced coffee? Don’t mind if I do.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Meeting up with a pal or your partner and pretending that you’re on holiday, for a swim, spa package or coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner seven days a week. Come with kids between 2pm–4pm (one child per adult). Great gift idea (they do vouchers). Tuesdays are BYO days.
Not for: Rocking up on a sunny day without booking; it’s first come-first served for public swimming so if you don’t want to be disappointed get there early or book a spa package. Big groups – only groups of up to six allowed.
The damage. The only splashing out you’ll need to do is in the pool. Mon to Fri, 1pm–4pm, three hours in the pool, sauna, steam and hot tub costs £25. Swim & Eat packages (breakfast, lunch or dinner) are excellent value from £35 per person. Spa packages (spa with lunch, dinner or full day) from £95. Standalone massage: all one hour £65. Membership, giving access to everything 7am–10pm, seven days a week costs from £64 a month but you’ll need to add your name to the waiting list. Restaurant: Set menu £16 for two courses; £20 for three. A la carte starters £6.50–12.50; mains £17–22; desserts £6–7.50.
Breakfast from 8am to 11am Monday to Saturday, and from 9am to 11am on Sundays. Lunch from midday with a last sitting at 2.45pm; dinner from 6pm with a last sitting at 9.45pm.
The Bristol Lido, Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2BJ. Tel 0117 933 9530; 0117 332 3970 (restaurant). lidobristol.com