Mick Dickinson enjoys a meal for two at the harbourside hotel restaurant. You can read more of Mick’s reviews here.
When we called the River Grille to book for a Saturday evening dinner, we were told the restaurant was ‘heavily booked… we can only just squeeze you in at 7.30pm’. The time worked fine for my partner (LE) and I; though, for some reason, we hadn’t expected the restaurant to be so popular. How wrong we were.
On arrival we enjoyed a Bath Ales beer and a G&T with family as a pianist tinkled his way through some standards. The seated area situated high above the restaurant was busy with families and travellers from all over the world.
At 7.30 on the dot, we were seated at one of the best tables in the cavernous conservatory-style restaurant, right next to the windows that give wide views across the Harbourside, and away from the loos at the far end of the room.
The restaurant was indeed fully booked, yet service was never anything other than efficient and courteous. For starters, I chose the ‘Superfood Salad’ (S/M £5.95 / £8.95), a very pleasant mix of blueberries, beetroot, seeds and quinoa, all of which combined well and certainly got my taste buds tingling.
LE chose ‘Cornish Sea Salt Roasted Beetroot Salad’ (£5.95) which came with goats’ curd and pine nut crumble, and was met with murmurs of appreciation throughout. Both starters were beautifully presented, arrived within five minutes of our order.
Moving on to the main course, I thought I’d see how the River Grille’s 8oz Rib Eye Steak (£21.50) would compare against Bristol’s numerous other high-class steak houses. Here, steaks are cooked on a charcoal Josper grill, unlike some other venues which prefer gas. Everyone has a view on what ‘rare’ really means, but most would expect a rare steak to be pink on the inside, and mine wasn’t. Nevertheless, it was a tender cut and the Béarnaise sauce was just tangy enough to lift the meat to a high level.
The second main course, chosen from the specials board, was turbot with haddock scotch eggs and tomato rouille: a really good mix of tastes, textures and colour, although slightly on the dry side and a little more sauce would have perfected it.
I enjoyed a couple of glasses of French Merlot with the steak while LE stuck with a Chenin Blanc, nicely chilled.
We opted for a couple of sides (£2.95 each) — cauliflower cheese (which was nothing to write home about and too small even for one person); and green beans with crispy shallots and pancetta (a triumph) — and there were plenty of fries to go round.
After a suitable pause it seemed rude not to have a little nibble at some puds. The Blood Orange Panna Cotta really hit the spot, and the dark chocolate spring rolls with roasted fig made this a very interesting dessert. Sticky toffee and date pudding arrived accompanied by a gorgeous honeycomb ice cream plus toffee sauce (£5.50).
Until this visit I had overlooked the River Grille as a ‘just another hotel restaurant’. But the specials (mainly seafood and fish sourced from West Country producers) and the overall high standards of cooking and service give it a distinct identity. Couple this with the waterside setting, perfect for people-watching through semi-tinted glass, and I can now understand its popularity.