Since moving out of Bristol city centre and into North Somerset last autumn, we’ve managed to explore plenty of the local countryside but not much (thanks, COVID-19) of the area’s food and drink offering. With restrictions relaxing, though, it’s all change – starting with a pub lunch in Backwell last week. We picked The Rising Sun – part of the OHH Pub Company – for a number of reasons: its easy-to-reach location, its car park, some beautiful looking food photos on its Instagram feed, and the fact that it has a huge garden and play area which looked like the perfect place for the toddler to let off some steam.
Their COVID protocol is so great, in fact, that we didn’t even get the chance to see the inside of the pub: we entered through the side gate, were met at the outdoor bar and shown through to our table. Even the toilets, which are inside the pub, can be accessed through a door from the garden without needing to go into the main building.
Because The Rising Sun team were solely using the outdoor bar, the drinks selection was a little more limited than usual: five beers and one cider on draught, two Peroni options and two Old Mout fruit ciders in bottles, plus soft drinks, wines and a Prosecco. Prices were pretty standard, though, with pints ranging from £4.20 to £5.20, and the wine selection starting from £4.90 for a 175ml glass.
We visited at a time when indoor dining was still closed thanks to COVID-19, but we didn’t have to worry about unpredictable weather. As well as the open-air picnic benches in their garden, The Rising Sun also has its “Secret Garden”: a large marquee with a few high tables in the centre, and individual, heated compartments which are available to book for a £10 fee each. With a small child in tow, it was the obvious choice to make – it meant he could stay warm, and that we could be well away from other people. And with table service too, it worked out pretty well.
The food menu, we were told, was slightly reduced during April and May, but there was still plenty of choice: five starters and sharing dishes, including a charcuterie board and baked Camembert with various accompaniments; plus burgers, steak, pie and a salmon dish. There were a few vegetarian and a couple of vegan choices, too – one of which came from their pizza menu.
There’s a wood-fired pizza oven in the outdoor bar, so the hand-stretched sourdough pizzas at The Rising Sun stood out as a lunch choice for me… I quite liked the sound of the pulled beef with paprika aioli and rocket (£13), which, as you can see, was a thing of beauty! Served pre-sliced on a wooden board, the crust looked perfectly blistered and it had that signature sourdough chew – slightly burnt on the bottom, maybe, but delicious nonetheless. I would have liked a little more of the pulled beef topping, as it was somewhat lost under the peppery rocket and punchy aioli, but I was more than happy with my choice.
The batter on the beer-battered fish and chips (£14.95) looked pretty light, as if it had been taken out of the fryer a couple of minutes too early. That wasn’t the case, though: the batter was light in texture as well as in colour, and flavourful and crisp. The fish itself was moist and flaky, without a single bone to be found, and the enormous hand-cut chips were perfectly cooked. The crushed peas were a hit, with a good, strong pea flavour – no mint needed here – and the zing of the horseradish stirred through the tartare sauce was a welcome addition. On a separate note, the sight of Stokes Ketchup sachets was a welcome one: a much more generous size than the regular ketchup packets!
After much deliberation, the three-year-old went for the kids’ chicken strips and hand-cut chips (£6), swayed, knowing him, by the promise of a pot of garlic mayonnaise with his meal. While the chicken’s coating was a little on the salty side, it was good and crisp and the meat tender and juicy – and the chips, as they were on the other side of the table, were a real hit! It was a little surprising to see that none of the kids’ meals bar the fish and chips came with any veg, but he was happy being passed rocket leaves from one side and mushy peas from the other.
Service was slick, friendly and professional throughout, and we didn’t feel rushed at all – in fact, the whole experience was very smooth, and should be reassuring to those who are still a little nervous about dining out during COVID-19. While we’d have liked to see a little more variety on the kids’ menu (and some more vegetables!), The Rising Sun is a good, family-friendly pub that we’ll no doubt be revisiting soon.