It’s no secret that Gloucester Road is home to some of Bristol’s best loved bars and restaurants… from The Gallimaufry to the Urban Standard it’s not hard to find somewhere good to have eat and enjoy a pint or 2/3/4… you know how it can be. So when Edit opened on Cheltenham Road I was curious to find out how Bristol’s first audiophile bar would fair and whether it had enough going for it to make its way into my foodie heart.
Walking through the door, it’s not what you’d expect from your average restaurant. It’s dark and slick inside, the walls are covered with tree patterned wallpaper and everywhere you look there life is breathed into the venue with the abundance of plants. I am met my restaurant owners Rhiannon and Dan Wild who serve me up a pint before I’d even sat down and I’m already sure I’m gonna like it here.
You may recognise the name Dan Wild, 12 years ago from the infamous Just Jack nights that to this day they seem to be consistently one of the most popular house events in Bristol’s music calendar. But this venture into the world of audiophile gives Dan and wife Rhiannon the opportunity to put their love of house to one side and take on a much more grown up role.
So, how did you come up with the concept of Edit?
Rhiannon: Now we’re getting a bit older we’ve realised that there’s actually not many places you can go out for a meal and carry on your night in the same place. There’s so many restaurants serving amazing food but once you’re finished you’ve got to find a bar or a pub to continue drinking. At Edit the idea is you can come in for some food, have a few drinks but you have your table for the entire time so you don’t have to worry about losing your spot. We have the entire bottom area we can rent out to groups so they can stay till 1 in the morning without having to find anywhere else.
Dan: I still love a rave and house and techno will always be my first love but I can’t do that all the time. It’s a once in a while things now and a lot of our friends feel the same way, we wanted somewhere a bit more relaxed, a bit more grown up. It does a get a bit more groovy later on in the night but people are still eating and enjoying the music rather compared to other venues which can get pretty rammed!
How is it different for a DJ playing Edit to say Crofters or Cosies?
Dan: A lot of the djs are playing for 6 or 7 hours at a time so that in itself can be quite challenging. I feel challenged when I have to keep a flow for 7 hours through loads of different genres. I suppose I naturally gravitate towards house music but I can’t really play that here so i’ll do a couple of hours of really ambient stuff then slowly move on to jazz or some afro carribean vibes.
How do you decide who’s going to play?
A lot of djs have got these record collections but they only ever get booked for club gigs and actually when you speak to them they really want the opportunity to play outside of what they play at clubs and festivals. Like Lucas for example who’s here tonight from Alfresco Disco. He was like “ahh i got this huge record collection, can i come down and play?” so i was like yeah of course!
Why are people keen to try Edit?
Rhiannon: There’s so many music venues in Bristol it’s quite difficult to compete but there’s not actually that many around here that play the sort of music we do. When people order drinks it’s interesting that we don’t sell much wine, we sell a lot of Japanese whisky, beers and Sake. The whole aesthetic challenges you, it’s not your average bar, it’s a bit weird and people are surprised by it.
How come you went down the Japanese route with the food?
Rhiannon: Basically we loved this place in Berlin, we went to it all the time because they did the most amazing dumplings. When we go we will eat there a good 3 or 4 times, like there’s just no comparison between those dumplings and ones we’d experienced anywhere else in the UK so i guess we just wanted to bring that to Edit. The sharing aspect of doing small plates also encourages people to stay longer, have a snack, have a drink, listen to some music and enjoy the night rather than being like here’s your starter, here’s your main, here’s your dessert, now fuck off. We want people to feel at home here. Also I guess Audiophile bars are a big think in Tokyo so we kind of have that Japanese link.
What makes it an audiophile bar?
Dan: It’s the quality of sound. There’s a couple of audiophile bars around for example Spiritland in London and Brilliant Corners. Spiritland’s sound system for example cost them half a million pounds, our Klipsch speakers didn’t cost anywhere near that but this guy’s dream was to build a sound system and he had the money so that’s what he did. Brilliant Corners is much more similar to what we have invested in sound.
You’ll notice the speakers are on huge concrete blocks and that’s because they’re not designed for bars, they’re designed for homes where you’d be sat on the sofa lounging back so that the top of the speaker is inline with your ear.
Rhiannon: I didn’t even realise that’s why they were on concrete!
What came first, the music or the food?
Rhiannon: We wanted a project, we were getting married and wanted something to work on together. We’ve been together nearly 13 years, I actually introduced Dan to Tom Rio when I was at uni with him and that’s how it all started.
Dan: it’s all Rhiannon’s fault!
Rhiannon: It’s true, I got us into this. But we’re both massive foodies, we were talking about a restaurant, then a bar but we’d never really done anything about it. Speaking of, shall we order some food?
Those words were music to my ears. I put the job of ordering food into Rhiannon’s capable hands, I’d happily have eaten everything on the menu. We opted for the Cucumber Salad (£4.95), Sticky chicken, honey, soy and sesame (£6.95), Steamed chicken dumplings with a chilli and sesame dip (£5.75), Sticky Pork Belly with asian salad £6.50) and the warm noodle salad (£5.75). As the plates carried on coming, I was overwhelmed with all the yummy smells, I didn’t know what to try first. The dumplings were definitely some of the tastiest i’ve had and the cucumber salad was so crisp and fresh I could’ve eaten the whole bowl! I would say it isn’t the cheapest place to eat out but the small plates really give you the opportunity to try lots of things and what better way to socialise than sharing food.
Dan: I was always checking for spaces and I actually ended up finding an advert for the former Amici on an estate agents in Bolton, we tried to contact the owner but couldn’t get through so we came to have dinner.
Rhiannon: We’d seen this place getting quieter and quieter, we walked past it for years like if that comes up we need to get it! It’s a great space and we love it but it wasn’t a straightforward process securing it.
Dan: It should’ve been a lot simpler but the owner was very old school, he didn’t really email or answer his phone so I had to come down here with every piece of paper work he needed to sign.
It’s a good thing you live close by then! You also had to compete with a massive chain, tell me about that.
Dan: So basically it was between us and Nandos fighting for the spot. We were lucky that the owner who had worked here for 17 years met his wife here and had a real attachment to it so when we came in and told him we’re getting married in September and we wanted this as our first project he saw a lot of himself in us. It wasn’t until later we found out about Nandos!
Did you have any difficulties competing with Nandos?
Rhiannon: It’s really interesting, we’ve experienced first hand how hard it is for independent businesses to start up. When you have no track record, no cash flow and no evidence of how your business has performed it’s so difficult to get a landlord to take you seriously and give you a chance.
I’ve got a corporate background doing marketing for a big bank and Dan has his credentials, we have a house to secure it and financially we’re doing alright but I feel like that’s not fair. We struggled and there’s actually very few people in the same circumstance we’re in, how is that going to help the high street?
Is there any help or legal advice out there for people wanting to start their own business?
Dan: Not really… there’s the princess trust if you’re under 30 but we’ve miss the boat on that one! There’s no business rate reductions for independent business, the system is completely rigged in favour of corporate backgrounds who have a solid history and can guarantee success. Just a bit of legal advice would have been really helpful.
Since opening, Rhiannon has become part of Bristol’s Independent District Committee and hopes that the money local businesses put into the scheme will one day help start ups like Dan and Rhiannon get the help they need to take those initial first steps. After all, what would Gloucester Road be if not independent?
Edit isn’t what you’d expect and i’m sure there will be a fair few people who beg the questions, ‘is it a club or a restaurant?!’ but for anyone who is willing to immerse themselves in the weird and the wonderful, Edit gives you the opportunity to experience to something nowhere else in Bristol can offer. With the focus on sound quality rather than sound level and comfort over covers, I’m intrigued to see how this quirky venue will make it’s way into the hearts of music and food lovers across Bristol.