Review: The Historical Dining Rooms, Bristol

Historical Dining Rooms - inside the dining room

I’ve always really liked The Star and Dove – it’s a cosy little pub opposite Victoria Park in Totterdown and in winter has a bit of a smoky Dickensian vibe – plus they do butter beer, mulled beverages and a kickers roast, which notches it’s cosy factor up to a tidy ten.

With that atmosphere already established, alongside a commitment to some fine real ales and homemade traditional pub snacks (you Need to try their scotch egg), it didn’t surprise me one bit that the team had decided to open The Historical Dining Rooms in the restaurant space above the pub – the food in this building has been great for a good old while, so it’s about time they did something extra special with their upstairs area.

Behind The Black Door

‘Ring the bell and be transported’ is the catchphrase on their website, and once you make your way around the side of the pub and ring the bell at The Black Door, you already have a sense of anticipation about what lies ahead.

We were promptly whisked upstairs and sat in the pretty dining room – all period furniture, elegant upholstery (I never get to use that word!) and ornate wallpaper; you immediately have that sense of walking into a BBC Jane Austen adaptation, which is no bad thing.

That's a lovely bit of wallpaper, no?
That’s a lovely bit of wallpaper, no?

The menu on the night we went along was a selection of various dishes to give us a taster of what the restaurant is all about, however when you visit you choose from their 7 course meat taster menu (or the 7 course veggie version), or their succinct a la carte ‘Choice Menu’. All of the dishes come from various old English recipes, some dating back several hundred years.

First up for us after our welcome cocktail (it had a flower on it and packed quite the punch, so 5 stars on that front) was the parmesan ice cream, which I was a bit dubious of but went on to really enjoy – it was rich, creamy and came with a lovely parmesan wafer which added a good bit of texture.

Next up were the breads, served warm with butter and lard – one of the rolls contained cardamon, which went really well with the porky fattiness of the lard.

Breads, butter and lard - a deliciously indulgent combo.
Breads, butter and lard – a deliciously indulgent combo.

After that it was a trio of rabbit – the loin was perfectly roasted and so soft, and the rich ‘umbles’ (that’s innards to you and me) provided another rich and fatty addition; it was gout-inducingly tasty and my favourite course of the evening (even more than the bread and fat, and that’s saying something).

After that (yes I’m getting twitches in my liver just remembering all this rich food) it was on to the stockfish, which is a type of salted white fish, served with onions in buttermilk and pickled walnuts – another winner and an unusual blend of flavours that I’d never really tasted before, let along all mixed together on a plate!

All of the courses looked beautiful – decorated with little flowers or herbs straight from the restaurant’s little roof garden which is a mere hop, skip and a jump (if that) from the kitchen. Look how pretty it is:

The roof garden - it doesn't come more locally-sourced than that!
The roof garden – it doesn’t come more locally-sourced than that!

At this point it was on to the final two courses of the evening – first was Punch a la Romaine; a lemon sorbet topped with a lovely light soft meringue which is then topped up with hot brandy – it was like an executive Baked Alaska (I know, I’m such a philistine – just give me an Arctic Roll and I’m happy) and another of my favourites of the evening.

The final course was a light and delicate dish of ‘diverse strawberries’, ie. strawberries done in a few different ways – it was good to have such a subtle dessert at the end of such a rich meal, and although it’s probably not something I would have ordered myself (I’m all about chocolate or caramel when it comes to pudding – or anything guaranteed to send me into a hyperglycaemic coma), but it was very enjoyable indeed.

Punch a la Romaine - meringuey, boozy, warm goodness. YUM.
Punch a la Romaine – meringuey, boozy, warm goodness. YUM.

The Historical Dining Rooms are doing a great thing in not only producing excellent dishes with simple, local ingredients in a gorgeous setting, but the fact that they’re refreshing old recipes and traditions is something to be admired.

As the head chef said himself, we look to classic French or Italian cuisine as the benchmark of high quality traditional food, when really we have a rich history of dishes and ingredients across the British Isles – and I for one look forward to trying more of them.

The Historical Dining Rooms
The Black Door
Windsor Terrace
T: 0117 972 0366

Disclaimer doodle: This meal was provided free of charge, but we were not asked to write a positive review, or asked to send any copy in advance, or do anything else that would compromise our mega integrity and professionalism*.

*Apart from me using phrases like ‘gout-inducingly tasty’, obv.


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