Date and Time: 28th February 2011, 19:30
Name of Establishment: Coal Grill and Bar*
Location: Cabot Circus (top floor), Bristol
Reason for Visit: Meal with work colleagues
Located in the midst of a number of chain restaurants within the Cabot Circus complex, I wondered what could set Coal apart from other such favourites as Bella Italia, La Tasca and Giraffe considering that they are practically door-to-door from each other. In response to this, I would suggest that the defining feature of Coal is the grown-up atmosphere which is created by a number of things including intimate table arrangements and low-lighting as well as an extensive food menu featuring a wide range of dishes to suit, in my opinion, a largely adult palate. I also noticed that there was a tempting list of cocktails including all the favourites (in addition to a couple of original creations) that I certainly would have indulged in if it hadn't had been a 'school-night'!
After purchasing our drinks at the bar, (which the group agreed were a tad on the pricey side) we were seated in a booth which although was a little cramped, felt comfortable. Due to the lure of the dessert menu, no one opted to have a starter on this occasion so we were pleased that our main courses were served in good time after ordering. I chose the 'House Pizza' which consisted of a thin and crunchy base generously topped with chicken, both black and green olives, parma ham and enough rocket to comprise a side-salad! I was impressed with the quality of the ingredients, a sentiment echoed by others at the table who had ordered such dishes as the 'coal burger', seared tuna loin and pork medallions, the latter two being accompanied by a choice of potato, (creamed mash, chips, gratin or sauté potatoes). The gratin in particular looked lovely - creamy and cheesy with a rich yellow colour. Other noted plus points were how hot the food was upon serving, the relaxed service and the cleanliness of the facilities! Minor gripes however, were the compulsory 12.5% service charge (when we thought that the standard 10% charge was ample) and the fact that some of the dishes had an unexpected spicy edge to them which although was acceptable to those who had ordered them, should perhaps be better advertised on the menu.
Moving on and as a table of predominantly women, it was no surprise that the dessert menu was eagerly anticipated. In fact, six out of the seven of us ordered a sweet and it was agreed that each dish was beautifully presented. I chose to have the sticky toffee pudding which was served on a square plate made of red glass and decorated with berries and drizzle. The pudding itself was a lovely texture, not too heavy and wonderfully rich in flavour. The only thing that let it down was that the ice cream was overly frozen in places but despite this, I managed to clear my plate! However, I think if I could have rewound the evening I would have chosen the Baileys Crème Brûlée which looked seriously decadent.
Overall, I enjoyed my evening at Coal - I believe that it poses some stiff competition to the other chain restaurants in the vicinity and I would certainly choose it over some of the other more family-packed venues on offer. Saying that, with the knowledge that Severnshed restaurant* is part of the Coal family and having dined there in the past, I think I would be more inclined to choose to go there considering the top quality experience I had - in fact writing a comparative review might give me just the excuse!
And now for the male opinion (I asked my boss to fill in for the absence of 'The Boy' on this occasion)...
'The Boss' gave Coal a rating of 8/10 and when asked to describe it in 3 words, chose 'definitely worth visiting'.