We found our way to The Old Bookshop via a music event we wanted to attend which took place on a saturday afternoon, and which was surprisingly well attended for a non-evening gig. The venue is located south of the city centre, in Bedminster though it's easily reached via the 24 bus which stops nearby and travels between here and the Centre every 12 minutes or so during the day. It's also a short walk from Bedminster Railway Station. This has traditionally been something of a poor relation to the city itself, but there are signs of the area becoming a little less down-at-heel and somewhat more hip at present - not least in the presence of business like The Old Bookshop. North Street feels a little more vibrant generally with some interesting street art, junk shops and other nooks and crannies to explore.
The building is a corner store which has expanded into the neighbouring former restaurant building. Thus it has a somewhat haphazard interior, with steps up and down to the various areas. The bar is small, but very well stocked with three or four often local guest ales which are perfectly kept and well chosen for the season. There are also a range of freshly made soft drinks, including lemonade which was selling very well on the hot afternoon when we visited. Above the bar hangs a chandelier made from decommissioning brass musical instruments. That sets the tone for the eclectic decoration around the place, which runs from Victorian tiling to sinister taxidermy covering most bases in between. One drawback of this unusual building is the smaller than usual provision of bathroom facilities. Expect to queue for a few minutes - guys and girls alike!
The staff here know the drinks on offer well, and manage a large crowd in a noisy place very well - which is rarer than it sounds! I've seen one or two reviews which focus on the 'style over substance' angle - I think the thing is, whoever you are, the staff of The Old Bookshop are probably going to be hipper, younger and more attractive than you. Since I abandoned any attempt to be all three of those things years ago, this didn't worry me at all. The important thing is you'll get good service! The atmosphere is friendly, welcoming and laid-back and the clientèle seem to really love their local.
We didn't get a chance to sample the food as we were here for an afternoon gig, but we'd definitely like to return and sample the interesting sounding menu.