Eats: The River Grille, Bristol

The River Grille at The Bristol Hotel recently relaunched their Sunday lunch menu, replacing its carvery offering with a plated service, allowing guests to sit on their bottoms and enjoy the view (and what views they are – but I’ll get to that). I was lucky enough to be invited along to review the new menu and set up, so took my Dad (lucky man!) on a beautiful sunny April afternoon to check it out.

The hotel is super central (all your usual Bristol landmarks such as Queen Square, The M Shed, Arnolfini etc are a matter of minutes away), so we decided to walk over from south of the river. My dad spotted (and commented upon) lots of boat trips passing while we were dining though, so I have a feeling he may prefer that mode of transport next time!

We were quickly seated at the far end of the restaurant nabbing a prime window spot, enjoying floor to ceiling views out onto the harbourside, including a view of The Horny Bridge (okay… it’s actually Pero’s Bridge – sorry Pero – but that’s what I’ve always called it). The menu was reasonably priced at two courses for £20, and three courses for £23.50, with traditional roast offerings (beef, lamb or pork) available each week and a changing list of starters and puddings, plus a fish dish and veggie options.

Checking our the drinks list I was happy to see a vast array of soft drinks – something I now worry about (the joys of pregnancy when you only really like water, cider or wine 🤦🏼‍♀️ ), with a great selection of mocktails on offer plus a variety of non alcoholic tipples from Schweppes, Fever Tree and Orchard Pig. The numerous choices made a decision difficult, but I really enjoyed my Orchard Pig ‘Apple Tingler’ (sparkling apple). Dad was equally pleased with the selection of wine available both by the glass and the bottle, and had my husband been with us there was plenty on the drinks list to suit him too (aka cider!)

On to starters, and Dad went for the soup – spiced butternut squash and sweet potato – and was pleased with the portion size, the pic doesn’t do justice to the bowl, which was deceptively large! He was also really pleased that it wasn’t overly ‘spiced’ (he’s not good with heat), with flavours more aromatic than overpowering.

I had the prawn and crayfish cocktail on soda bread. The prawns and crayfish were plump and full of flavour (can’t stand when they’re straight out of the fridge and taste of nothing), in a classic Marie Rose sauce and with a generous dash of paprika just as Mama would serve! I think perhaps the bread should have been sliced thinner to highlight the seafood more but that’s a personal preference really.

So on to the main event… The roast! This is for me is where it went to the next level. What a spread! Dad considered the Sea Trout, but being his ever demanding blogging daughter I wanted to know what he thought of the lamb as he sees himself a bit of a lamb aficionado, so who better to give a verdict? For me it was always going to be the beef, as while I’ll always protest I’m not a fussy eater, I don’t really like roast pork or lamb. Not fussy at all, honest!

I was initially worried when I spotted the fat on my beef, hidden under my sizeable Yorkshire pudding (woohoo, or I’d have asked for another). I needn’t have been though, there were four, thick slices of meat, and even once I removed the fat I was left with lots of delicious perfectly cooked (not too rare, not over done), roast beef. Dad was equally as impressed with his lamb, claiming it as ‘the best he’d ever had’ and being very happy with both the quality of the meat and the size of the portion.

On our plates in addition to our meat and Yorkies were greens, and a roast carrot and parsnip. We were given separate dishes of roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese, plus a jug of extra gravy without even having to ask! (As a gravy obsessive that generally has to have my own jug at home this made my heart flutter just a little.) The roasties were large, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside… and where I’m usually asking ‘can I have another please?’ (It’s a running joke at Christmas there has to be enough to last me all day) this portion defeated both dad and I!

The cauliflower cheese was scrumptious – freshly baked florets in a creamy, cheesey, golden brown sauce (I quickly nabbed all of the crispy bits on the top). We also had the option of all the usual sauces, including horse radish, mustard and mint for the lamb, which Dad took advantage of and said packed a real punch. I was really pleased that the plates and everything on them were piping hot – we’ve had so many roasts out where the food isn’t kept sufficiently hot, but this really wasn’t an issue here!

With the pudding I made a rookie error and didn’t read the menu properly – I took ‘custard and apple tart’ to be apple tart with custard, and asked our waitress could I have ice cream instead, which was she more than happy to oblige with and offered a variety of flavours… So I was a little perplexed when this very attractive plate turned up, no ice cream to be seen. I did try and eat it (it was very pretty) but I’m not a custard fan – suddenly realising maybe I am actually fussy – so when our waitress came back and I explained what had happened she quickly replaced it for an alternative, the also very pretty strawberry and champagne cheesecake!

The strawberry and champagne filling was light and airy and the base was spongey. This was the perfect dessert to finish off a mountain of a meal. Dad went for what I would consider the stodgy option – the sticky toffee pudding, and judging from the fact it was devoured before I’d even managed to mention custard gate, I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed!

Afterwards there was no hurry for us to leave, so dad had several cups of tea while we indulged in a spot of people (and boat) watching. When we had arrived (at 1) the restaurant hadn’t been very full, but it filled out nicely over the course of the afternoon and as well as enjoying the views we spied a number of delightful looking afternoon teas going out, which I sense my dad is very keen to return for!

I’d never visited The River Grille before, committing the cardinal sin and assuming ‘oh it’s a hotel restaurant it won’t be very good’ but I’m pleased to say this was not the case and Dad and I both thoroughly enjoyed! While this meal was gifted, Dad said before we even left the restaurant that he would have been very happy to pay full price, as everything was so delicious.

Something else I have to mention – there was a pianist! I’m a big fan of piano music, and this was a really lovely, relaxing accompaniment to our afternoon. He played a great mix of classical, along with more well known tunes, and it was at an unobtrusive volume so everyone could chat and still hear themselves think.

Overall, I’d definitely be happy to return, as would my dad! Fab food, ideal location with lovely views, great service and generally a great ambience.

The Verdict

Food: 8
Service: 9
Ambience: 9
Overall: 8.5/10

Where: Prince Street, Bristol, BS1 4QF (restaurant entrance on Narrow Quay)

As ever, many thanks for reading! 🙂

Lizzie xxx

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