The Apple, Welsh Back: Review

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There’s no denying that The Apple on Welsh Back is an institution. Even friends of mine from outside Bristol have heard of the “cider pub on a boat”, and it was one of the first drinking venues I was taken to when I first moved to Bristol. I’ve enjoyed drinks at The Apple many, many times over the last 5 years: sometimes at the picnic benches on the cobbles, sometimes on the upper deck, warmed by patio heaters, and sometimes nestled into one of the sofas below deck, conveniently close to the bar. Service has sometimes been a little slow, but with a new outdoor bar now open, it’s unlikely that this will continue to be a problem.

The only REAL problem with the place, for me, is the toilets – unisex offerings with saloon-style doors that don’t particularly appeal – especially on a busy Friday or Saturday night…

We were there at a midweek lunchtime, though, having arrived bang on 12pm when the doors opened. Rather than an all-day drinking session, we were there to sample the legendary ploughman’s offerings for which The Apple, along with their cider, have become known.

Saying that, it would have been rude not to have enjoyed a cider while we were there. With eight draught options and around 30 bottled ciders and perries to choose from, The Apple really is a cider-lover’s paradise. As it was a weekday lunchtime and I didn’t want to completely write off my afternoon, I opted for a pint of the 4.5% Happy Daze from Welsh cider maker Gwynt y Ddraig: a light, fruity and very easy to drink medium sweet still cider.


Cider - The Apple


The food menu at The Apple has changed slightly over recent years: from a “create your own ploughman’s”, where you select individual elements to add to your plate, to a pre-set ploughman’s menu – albeit not your traditional options. Take a look at the menu and you’ll see a wide range of options incorporating different cheeses, cured meats, chutneys and other savoury elements – there’s something for everyone, priced from £8.50 to £9.75. And if you’re in a sharing mood, try the £19.95 Farmhand’s Sharing Basket, which serves two and even includes sweet treats for pudding.

I’m a bit of a Francophile, so the choice of the Frenchman’s ploughman’s was a no-brainer. While the menu price of £8.95 may seem on the more expensive side for a ploughman’s, you certainly get your money’s worth: it barely fits on the board. A huge wedge of creamy Brie sat alongside a slab of peppery duck pâté with a beautifully coarse texture, a large pickled onion, fantastically fresh salad, a handful of biscuits and two generous slices of Herbert’s bread. There were also two small ramekins: one filled with a beautiful fig relish, the other with an almost caramelised onion marmalade, the sweetness of the two combining well with both cheese and pâté alike. This was one seriously good ploughman’s.


The Apple - Frenchmans Ploughmans


As for my dining companion, he ordered the Spaniard’s ploughman’s: the same biscuits, salad and bread, but accompanied with Serrano ham, Mexicana spicy cheese, wild garlic and basil mixed olives, a red pepper and tomato salsa and a chilli jam. His verdict?

“A lovingly-presented platter, this meal packed a punch far stronger than a humble ploughman’s. The Mexicana spicy cheese lived up to its name: hot, hot, hot! Best not to mix it with the gorgeous red pepper and tomato salsa, which actually combined beautifully with the subtlety of the finely sliced Serrano. Good quality bread from Herbert’s and highly seasoned wild garlic and basil olives always get my seal of approval. The chilli jam is served in dangerously large portions when one considers its power and heat! Washing this hearty lunch down with a pint of Happy Daze while perched on the benches outside The Apple made for a real treat.”


The Apple - Spaniard's Ploughmans


If the above isn’t enough to tempt you, then you’ll also be pleased to hear that The Apple are committed to using local suppliers where possible: Herbert’s for their bread, Tracklements chutneys, The Real Olive Company olives, leaves from Reg The Veg in Clifton, meats from Murray’s on Gloucester Road and cheese from Hawkridge Dairy Produce in Devon.

On a sunny day, all you need is a cider, a traditional British lunch and a great spot in which to soak up the rays…and The Apple is a prime place to do so. Definitely recommended.


Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.


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