Note: This review originally appeared in issue 60 of Flavour – click here to read online.
The Anchor in Ham Green hasn’t had the best run of luck over the last few years, but all of that now appears to have changed. After seeing four landlords come and go over the last two years, Mezzé Restaurants have now signed a 20-year lease and have carried out a £350,000 refurbishment of the building.
With additional restaurants in Downend, Thornbury, Congresbury and Clutton – plus their latest opening in Portishead – the group are injecting a touch of the Med into village pubs in the local area with their menu, which features both tapas-style dishes and main meals. We were lucky enough, on the night of our visit, to sample both.
The restaurant has seen a complete overhaul, both inside and out, since the group took over. We were glad that we arrived early so that we could enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the Mediterranean-style garden at the rear of the pub, with its beautiful views over the local countryside – and at night the space is transformed with heaters and atmospheric lighting to create a fantastic al fresco dining space.
Inside is no different, with a smart main bar area (full of locals enjoying a post-work drink when we visited), leading through to the former skittle alley – a long, narrow room now transformed into a spacious dining area.
The menu – an amalgamation of various Mediterranean influences – offers two evening dining options with a full à la carte menu as well as a mezze menu offering tapas-style plates to share. Keenly priced at £4.50 each or three for £12, the mezze menu takes diners on a whistle-stop tour of a number of cultures; a white bean cassoulet with Spanish influences, Cypriot halloumi, an Oriental beef noodle salad and a Moroccan chicken tagine, to name but a few. Both menus feature helpful labelling of vegetarian and gluten-free options for those who follow a restricted diet.
While the mezze menu is available throughout The Anchor, the à la carte menu is restricted to diners seated in the restaurant area. Offering more substantial dining options, the à la carte menu boasts a cornucopia of meat, seafood and vegetarian options, from a smoked trout tart starter to spanakopita and pork loin schnitzel main course options again showing the diversity of the origins of the dishes featured.
We began our meal with a mixed starter plate to share; a huge and varied selection of the venue’s mezze options, and a great way in which to enjoy a more diverse selection of what the menu has to offer. Comprising meat, seafood and vegetarian options, this starter gave us the opportunity to nibble on toasted bread and olives, accompanied by roasted red pepper, artichoke hearts and tzatziki, along with a fantastic coarse red pepper and coriander hummus. The dips and vegetables were joined on the plate by some more substantial options: perfectly cooked calamari in the lightest of batters; a borek (filo parcel) filled with a rich combination of duck and hoisin sauce; a sweet and juicy chicken souvlaki with Middle Eastern spices; two prawn balls and a beautiful lamb kofta, full of wonderful spices.
In all honesty, the portion sizes at Mezzé are such that many will find that they do not need more than one course – and our main courses confirmed this fact. My bouillabaisse – a classic French fish stew from the Marseilles area – was served in a very generously sized bowl, filled with large chunks of salmon and cod that fell apart under the fork, tender squid rings and fat, juicy prawns. The broth itself was rich and flavoursome, the earthiness of saffron giving it a rustic feel. The dish was sprinkled liberally with dill to create a sauce that certainly warranted the bread provided to mop it up with.
Our waistbands getting tight, we ordered two desserts to share (purely in the name of research, of course) – an indulgent chocolate and Frangelico tart, its richness tempered by a light cherry crème fraîche; and the star of the show in the form of the house speciality of ginger baklava. Two sweet, sticky squares of Mezzé’s take on the classic Turkish dessert oozed with the warming flavours of stem ginger and honey, and were served with an incredibly moreish Turkish delight ice cream that I would happily have risked indigestion for another scoop of.
Mezzé have found a winning formula when it comes to transforming run-down pubs into something more spectacular, and The Anchor was certainly busy with both drinkers and diners on the night of our visit. Just a short drive from Bristol’s city centre, it’s a great choice for those looking to escape to the country and enjoy a relaxing evening.
Mezzé at the Anchor Inn
60 Ham Green