February 2018 marks the 7th anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Hole in the Wall – The Grove, Queens Square - Bristol

An impromptu meet-up with friend, 'D' brought about the classic scenario of opting where to dine given our differing criteria and, quite frankly, just where to choose in light of the city-centre's plentiful and wonderfully diverse collection of reputable eateries...We finally decided upon The Hole in the Wall; a popular gastro-pub offering, what we agreed to coin, home-cooked comfort food with a sophisticated edge. What's more, with a menu whereby light bites and full-on feasts go hand-in-hand, we anticipated that it would no doubt facilitate our individual wants for the evening's natter n' nosh-up...

Date and Time: Wednesday 1st February 2012, 20:15
Name of Establishment: The Hole in the Wall
Location:The Grove, Queens Square - Bristol
Reason for Visit: Mid-week dinner date with friend 'D'

Named after the spy hole that enabled 18th century sailors and smugglers to keep watch for customs men and press gangs, (no doubt in light of its former glory as the 'Coach and Horses' which, as prime recruitment territory for the Navy, would function as the watering hole for prospective seamen) The Hole in the Wall has managed to achieve a warm and inviting ambiance despite proving rather minimalistic in terms of its décor. Its interior is dimly lit and, to be fair, a little on the dingy side but proving both spacious and comfortable with clusters of leather-effect seating arranged sporadically about the space, it has retained a charming demeanour; accentuated perhaps by the open fire that warms its clientèle during the Winter Months and it's vibrant location which is crowded with al fresco diners/drinkers in the Summertime. Friend 'D' and I opted for a table in the downstairs bar...well, not quite opted as the upstairs restaurant seemed mysteriously out-of-bounds and the downstairs dining area was already at full capacity but regardless of the specifics, we were really rather spoiled with an over-sized and extremely cushy booth which, situated close to the well-stocked bar, allowed us to promptly call in the next round and yet, when it came to cuisine, order 'à la carte'.

First though, that aforementioned bar and indubitably, the brains behind this establishment take their thorough line-up of beers, wines and spirits very seriously. The wine list is revised seasonally and a 'Cask Marque' accreditation ensures a proper pint – furthermore, there is a rather tempting selection of sparklers, an imaginative cocktail menu which lends a few twists to the tried-and-tested classics and, for the discerning drinker, a VIP Wine Club which, once joined, bestows to its members exclusive offers, events and networking opportunities, (oh yes, sign me up!) To that end, I ordered a sizeable measure of the Pinot Grigio della Venezie, Rosé (£5) which was as fruity as it was deliciously creamy – heaven. Friend 'D' took advantage of the numerous continental lagers on tap – Heineken, Peroni and Beck's Vier to name but a few!

Moving on to the cuisine and the menu itself which adheres to the concept of the modern British classic - offering a broad spectrum of dishes from light-bites and sharers to a tempting array of main courses; 'from the land', 'from the sea' and 'from the garden'. Kiddies have their own dedicated menu and a range of money-saving offers run throughout the week: most notably for us females, Wednesday's Ladies Night whereby three courses are just £15 – bargain! Besides this the (rather more manly) Thursday-night Rothschild Grill deal with two-courses (with steak as the main event...obviously) and a glass of vino for £15.95 and Fish and Fizz Fridays whereby you can accompany your two courses for £14.95 with a bottle of champers, yes...the real deal...for just £19 – roll on Friday! Back to the evening at hand though and after a reassuringly long wait, our dinner made an entrance. For me, the Chicken Supreme (£8.95) which although elsewhere may constitute a chicken breast crudely doused with a claggy measure of barbecue sauce and slathered with melted cheddar, here, brought about a thoughtful combination of varying tastes and textures...The chicken had been marinated in a sticky lemon, ginger and chilli glaze which, reminiscent of a palate-warming sweet chilli dip, was both fresh and flavoursome. Plus, topped with a medley of salsa-style salad and accompanied with dressed roquette, this dish was as nutritious as it was tasty and, had the fries been replaced with, say, sweet potato wedges or fluffy new potatoes, would have proved downright saintly as well! Praise too for the duo of pan-fried fishcakes (£7.95) which friend 'D' suggested stood out as a lighter alternative to other main courses; a notion supported upon ordering whereby the chap behind the bar suggested a side-dish to accompany the main event....Politely declining however, 'D' was more than satisfied with the dish set before him; reporting that the fishcakes were simply delicious and packed with good-quality fish as opposed to padded out with potato. A salad of mixed leaves completed the arrangement alongside an ample dollop of crème fraîche which, accented with the zing of citrus, added a refreshing angle to the light appeal of this ensemble.
Not your average Chicken Supreme...!
The Light Choice - Fishcakes

And from one modest appetite to eyes bigger than belly, I decided to cap off the evening's festivities with pudding; feeding my chocolate addiction with the Belgian Chocolate Brownie with vanilla ice cream. I'm sure there's no need to tell you that, on the large part, this decadent dessert appealed to my sweet tooth...and yet, as brownies go, this version was somewhat mediocre – not quite warm enough for my liking and so, lacking what I colloquially refer to as the 'squidge factor'! As well as this, the addition of a handful of chopped nuts wouldn't have gone a miss! Thus, although I didn't struggle to finish it, I don't think I'd order this dessert again...though with ten (yes, ten) other options to choose from, there is plenty to tempt those in need of a serious sugar-hit!
The shadowed area depicts my attempt to dive in...!
Overall, an enjoyable evening all round. The Hole in the Wall is an atmospheric space with friendly staff and top-notch pub-grub which, in all fairness, exceeded our preconceptions of home-cooked comfort food. A great deal of thought has clearly been allocated to the menu's content (both in terms of the fare and the beverages to accompany one's meal) and the fact that good-quality produce has been sought, and locally-sourced where possible, bodes well for the overall dining experience – even if you're denied the privilege to sit in the actual restaurant! I think the only criticism is that there is almost too much going on in light of the shear number of dishes to choose from and, given the notorious quality versus quantity debate, it can be questioned whether 'D' and I were merely 'lucky' with our gastronomical adjudications or if consistent attention to detail warrants all-round success despite the multitude of plates the kitchen must have to contend with. And so, in our predominantly decision-based culture whereby the procrastination which reared its ugly head in light of choosing where to dine in the first place gave way to deciding what to choose from The Hole in the Wall's extensive menu, it seemed that, on this occasion, our conclusions served us well and, in fact, all that's left is to determine is who will join me for the next Fish and Fizz Friday...ah, decisions decisions...!

And now for the male opinion...
Friend 'D' gave The Hole in the Wall a rating of 8/10 and in three words, described the cuisine as 'light', 'tasty'...'recommended!'


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