Wednesday, 29 September 2010
The Victoria Park - Bristol
Bristol is a much big city than I first realised. I’ve been here a few months now and thought I was getting a real handle on the place, but every now and again I stumble into an entirely new area and am amazed that a whole swathe of the city could have eluded me for so long.
I found this just a couple of nights ago. I came across an entirely new vista of Bristol, visible in the approaching autumn dusk whilst climbing my way through the steeply hilled yet surprisingly serene and pleasant Victoria Park. I was with ‘E’ on our way to visit the park’s brand spanking new gastropub namesake.
The Victoria Park pub is situated slap bang in the middle of a row of Victorian terraced housing, harking back to the days when the local was seen as being an integral part of the community. It’s nice to see the ethos surviving here, (Although, I’m not sure I’d want to live next door to a pub, even one as upmarket as this).
The interior is decorated in the now fairly standard gastro-contemporary style, all muted colours, stripped floorboards and large battered old tables with a slick and well stocked bar down one wall. It’s pleasant enough, and it works but it’s interesting that what was once bleeding edge anti-styling in, say The Eagle, is now the standard format for all gastropubs. What will the avant garde bring us next I wonder?
On the Friday night ‘E’ and I visited, the pub was pretty busy and we struggled to find a seat, eventually cajoling and squeezing our way onto the end of an already inhabited large table. A quick glance at the chalkboard menu composed of a somewhat eclectic but interesting selection; my eye was immediately drawn to the Moroccan Chicken with cous cous, caramelised cinnamon onions and harissa roast garlic yoghurt, which was sold out (f*ck my luck, as always). Monmouthshire charcuterie with home pickled vegetables also intrigued, forcing me to adopt the highly intelligent, ‘is he thinking about astrophysics, chaos theory or just what to stuff his face with?’ pondering pose for which I am rightly well known.
Pondering complete, I went for a starter of chicken liver and wild mushroom parfait. Which, when it arrived was a pretty generous slab, beautifully made and creamy with some cracking toasted sourdough and a slick of what initially appeared to be ‘Daddy’s sauce’. “Hello”, thought I – chicken liver parfait and brown sauce, surely not? For this is a classy establishment, otherwise I wouldn’t be here…me being from Essex. My suspicions were proved correct when the waitress informed me it was a raisin and PX sherry reduction. “Indubitably” I replied knowingly.
At £4, it was ridiculously cheap and bloody superb, a great start.
‘E’ meanwhile was demolishing a plate of sautéed wild mushrooms, on sourdough, topped with a fried ducks egg. “Good” was her considered opinion, but not as good as the mushroom on toast dish at Graze near Bristol’s Harbourside, which currently holds the highly sought after accolade of ‘best pile of mushrooms on bread type thing Dan and ‘E’ have eaten to date’.
Onto the main course, and my plate of roast beetroot, thyme and parmesan risotto with candy beetroot crisps was the most amazingly lurid, scarlet hued plate of food I’ve seen in quite some time. The incredibly swirled candy beetroot crisps looked amazing. I loved it, and the photos don’t do it justice. “Does it taste as good as it looks though?” Was the question I asked myself, striking yet another ponder pose (to much admiration from surrounding diners I might add). Breaking the spell I’d cast over the pub to take a bite, all eyes were on me as I gave an achingly slow thumbs up, and the crowd erupted in back slaps and cheering, whilst the head chef collapsed on the floor in floods of relieved tears….
…. Which in an ideal world, is how it should be, but sadly no one gave much of a shit as I had a taste, decided it was pretty good and gave a solitary ‘yay’ to no one in particular, except ‘E’ who, in between forkfuls of her buffalo mozzarella, Italian tomato and bread ‘panzanella’ salad, glanced at me with a quizzical look and a raised eyebrow.
By the way, the ‘panzanella’ salad was bloody nice, beautifully put together and ‘E’ seemed more than happy with it.
A quick word about our side dish of tempura courgettes with tamarind sauce. The Victoria Park’s head chef hails from Bristol’s 2nd floor Harvey Nick’s restaurant, and here is where the influence shows. They serve the same side dish at the temple to all things fashion, which is equally delicious…but more expensive and not as generous. So get your tempura courgette fix at The Victoria Park, folks.
Desserts were particularly good, my ‘affogato’ honeycomb ice-cream, salted caramel sauce and an espresso shot to pour over it (from the excellent local coffee people at Extract, according to the branded cup) was everything you’d expect from a bowl of excellent coffee, melted ice-cream, salted caramel and honeycomb. That is to say, I was making contended mewling noises as I ate it.
‘E’s choice of pear Bakewell tart with star anise custard caused something of a rift between us. I loved it, after the initial surprise of the star anise flavour; I thought it worked really well with the stodgy, sugary pear tart.
‘E’ on the other hand wasn’t so keen, thinking that the star anise had no business being there, was too reminiscent of Chinese seasonings, and overpowered the delicate flavour of the tart. Pah! What does she know eh?
The Victoria Park is very good. It has a nice atmosphere, a nice selection of booze; it’s in a nice part of the city…. That all adds up to a heap load of nice. Add the food into the mix, which is ridiculously cheap and bloody excellent; and you’ll know where to find me when I’m next over that way. Liked it, liked it a lot.
The Victoria Park
66 Raymend Road
Telephone: 0117 3306043