The Hole In The Wall has long since been one of the pubs I would recommend to those that needed a quiet bolt hole, close to Temple Meads and The Thekla. The pub is steeped in history from the days of Black Beard the pirate and famously provided a safe hiding place for those wanting to escape press gangs and a miserable life at sea.
Admittedly, however, the pub was getting tired, the menu samey and not exciting and the vibe confused. After a short refurbishment period, the doors have been flung open and I barely recognised the place.
With the paint still almost wet to touch were set up with cocktails to sip whilst waiting for nibbles and left t soak in the surroundings on luxurious leather sofas. The previous decor is a distant memory with the old photos and drawings of maritime Bristol replaced with fairy lights and modern art. I admit I miss the history, as for me that was the draw of the place, hopefully, I can scrounge some of the removed pictures the next time I go in.
Our predinner nibbles was a platter of bite-sized bits, served by a wonderful waiter. These included a beautiful duck pate with gooseberries, a lobster pate, falafel and lamb koftas. These were polished off with enthusiasm, mostly because they all tasted wonderful but also because the free booze was generous and we headed up to our table.
The upstairs dining area has been totally revamped and is now a warm and cosy space with a real luxurious feel. One of the old dining rooms has been converted into a private dining area, of which I would certainly look at booking in the future with promises of more rooms opening up in future.
The menu too has been totally overhauled, providing a far more refined version to the previous “pub grub” on offer before. I opted for the duck pate, a larger version of the one previously as I enjoyed it so much, that came with toast and a prosecco and gooseberry chutney. The duck was rich, smooth and indulgent with the chutney providing a sharp and sweet quick to slice through the fatty, butteriness of the pate. As usual, there wasn’t enough bread but I was more than happy to keep eating without it. My pal went for the thyme roasted mushrooms on toast, served with a “Cropwell Bishop” (blue cheese) sauce. Again the dish was very rich with the mushrooms cooked through so not wet but holding their shape and generously coated with blue cheese.
For main I kept on a sea theme and opted for the pork belly and scallop dish, a slab of pork belly showed up, with tentacle-like crackling scattered across the plate and a rich bed of potato dauphinoise, butternut squash purée, green beans and toasted almonds for it to sit on. The scallops sadly were a bit of a letdown, cold and overcooked but the rest of the dish was wonderful. Sweet squash purée and beans paired perfectly with the fatty but melt in the mouth pork, the crackling was crisp and salty and a dentists nightmare and adored the accidental cephalopod garnish.
My friend had lobster and Devon crab cakes with asparagus, pea & truffle oil velouté topped with crispy seaweed. The lightly fried, crisp and delicately flavoured cakes came nearly floating in the smooth velouté, packed with flavour and an earthy sweetness that managed to not overcome the cakes themselves.
Dessert was encouraged by staff and we both went for something chocolatey. I had the chocolate and peanut butter bomb and my friend opted for the chocolate and raspberry pudding. My bomb, bombed, the hot salted caramel sauce came lukewarm and my server just couldn’t get my dome to collapse. I instead whacked it with a spoon for a similar effect. The dessert itself was a jaw sticking ode to peanut butter and I was unable to finish it. Perhaps I would have done better to choose something a lot lighter! The raspberry and chocolate pudding, on the other hand, was a melt in the middle delight, with tangy raspberry and sweet chocolate coming together in beautiful unity.
We were both so impressed with the complete change of direction The Hole In The Wall has gone in and were treated to a night full of great food, drink and exemplary service. No longer will I be suggesting it as a place to go and waste an hour before a train or a gig but a serious contender for a great three-course meal with friends and family.
**Please note this meal was offered free of charge but did not impact my review in any way**