Harbour House, The Grove, Bristol BS1 4RB. (0117 925 1212). Snacks and starters £4-£9, mains £11-£22, desserts £4-£7.50, wines from £21

For years it was the Bristol restaurant I solely ever handed on the best way to someplace else. I used to be all the time responding as a substitute to the beguiling name of the town’s seemingly countless stream of latest and diverting consuming choices; to the promise of handmade pastas, or ripe stews drawing on French nation cooking traditions, as if summoning the ghost of Bristol’s most beloved culinary son, Keith Floyd. I preferred the look of the place, hunkered down there on the sting of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, however nothing made me assume I ought to trouble to cease.

Scanning the web opinions for what was as soon as the Severnshed, these footprints within the digital snow that each one departed eating places go away, I can see it had an attention-grabbing historical past. Firstly, there’s the constructing itself, a boatshed designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel when he was engaged on the Clifton Suspension Bridge within the early nineteenth century. It grew to become a well-regarded restaurant within the late Nineteen Nineties, boasting a chef with time on the River Café on his CV. In 2000 it housed an exhibition by some cult native artist known as Banksy. The restaurant modified fingers, and appeared to go downhill, culminating within the second in 2018 when a buyer complained that they’d been charged £13 for being served a £1.15 Asda camembert. They knew it was an Asda camembert as a result of it was nonetheless in its wrapper. The chef was sacked.

‘A big old mess of brown and white crab meat, prawns and mussels’: seafood linguine.
‘A giant previous mess of brown and white crab meat, prawns and mussels’: seafood linguine. {Photograph}: Karen Robinson/The Observer

Ultimately, simply earlier than the primary lockdown, the earlier firm went into receivership. Now it has been reborn as Harbour Home, with native chef Ross Gibbens overseeing the kitchen, and turning his gaze westwards in direction of Cornwall. Quite a lot of his menu seems to be to be serviceable slightly than diverting: a Caesar salad and a membership sandwich, a burger, a risotto, steak and chips. However at its coronary heart is an inventory of dishes celebrating “seafood from the southwest” and specifically the comely Cornish fishing village of St Mawes. That’s the place the primary motion is.

Earlier than we get into that motion let me say this: Harbour Home is only a pleasant place to be. On a heat summer season’s day, the broad vaulting eating room, with its greenery and bare rafters, sparkles with daylight bouncing off the harbour’s waters outdoors. We’re proven via the doorways on to the deck, as soon as once more stuffed with that giddy, relaxed chatter you get from individuals who know they’ve lucked out. They’re happy to be right here, on the water’s edge with the view of the multicoloured homes over the best way. The younger staff appear genuinely happy to have them right here, too. With all that in place the meals’s job could be very easy: don’t be garbage. It isn’t garbage.

‘Big, round, blowsy affairs’: posh onion rings.
‘Massive, spherical, blowsy affairs’: posh onion rings. {Photograph}: Karen Robinson/The Observer

To nibble on, we begin with what they name their “posh” onion rings, as a result of I’m a sucker for something which flaunts itself as having go-faster stripes. I don’t learn about posh however they’re actually grand and mighty. They’re massive, spherical, blousy affairs, battered to a shattering crunch, and include a rough tartare sauce worthy of the title. It’s fairly the snack for a fiver. The remainder of our decisions come from that seafood menu. There’s a grilled mackerel fillet, its quicksilver pores and skin bubbled and blistered, on ribbons of pickled cucumber, with mint leaves and the tickle of a wasabi glaze. Three fats scallops from the day’s specials checklist arrive as a navy column marching throughout the plate, on a mayo heavy with saffron alongside chunks of chorizo.

A seafood linguine for £17.50, which might make the clumsy £46 providing from Il Borro final week grossly ashamed of itself, is an enormous previous mess of brown and white crab meat, prawns and mussels in a seafood bisque so wealthy it may purchase itself a type of yachts with a jetski on the again. A hulking piece of cod lies on a spiced stew of tomatoey white beans with a number of extra nuggets of chorizo, with the flippantly bitter joys of cavolo nero. Now we have chips, actually good ones, as a result of we’re by the water. That’s my excuse. Is all of it completely executed? Effectively no, not precisely. There’s a barely keen hand on the salt within the mackerel dish; the cod may have stopped cooking 15 seconds earlier. However whenever you take a look at the pricing and the proposition, the laid-back loveliness of this deck within the coronary heart of Bristol, these minor issues rely solely as observations slightly than particulars to get cross about.

‘On a spiced stew’: cod with beans.
‘On a spiced stew’: cod with beans. {Photograph}: Karen Robinson/The Observer

The dessert checklist stops in any respect the stations of the candy English cross. There’s a lemon tart and a sticky toffee pudding and an Eton mess. However there may be additionally one thing known as a profiterole tower, £10 for 2. It’s a type of goldfish bowl-sized glasses that hen nights drink out of earlier than the nice concepts flip dangerous, stuffed with completely made golf ball-sized profiteroles, Chantilly cream and a few strawberries. Over that’s poured a small pan of heat chocolate sauce. If you happen to want me to explain the childlike pleasure of this, then you may have suffered a large failure of creativeness. Whereas acknowledging I ought to have stopped right here when it was the Severnshed again within the day, I can ultimately confess my delight at having stopped right here now that it’s Harbour Home.

I used to be in Bristol to interview my stunt double, the all the time joyous Rev Richard Coles, who just lately picked up the skilled knife and fork whereas I used to be down with the lurgy. He has simply revealed his first novel, the vastly entertaining Murder Before Evensong, and after interrogating him earlier than an viewers of Bristol devoted we sloped off to Cotto Wine Bar & Kitchen. It’s the brand new place on St Stephen’s Road from the expert staff behind Pasta Ripiena and Bianchi’s, amongst others. It’s the whole lot that I really like concerning the metropolis’s small eating places: a intelligent inside that appears prefer it was knocked up utilizing plywood, an Allen key and some tins of eggshell; a brief Italian-inflected menu full of excellent issues at rattling first rate costs, and a come-hither vibe.

‘Perfectly made’: profiterole tower.
‘Completely made’: profiterole tower. {Photograph}: Karen Robinson/The Observer

Now we have rounds of braised then crisped lamb stomach with salsa verde and thumpingly bitter radicchio, and a steak tagliatta with a rocket and parmesan salad. We share a polenta cake topped with a thick layer of chocolate ganache after which stumble away up the hill to our lodge, powered by a cool wine, however don’t ask me its title as a result of it was late and I wasn’t formally reviewing. The purpose is that this: all was proper with the world and all was completely proper with Bristol. As ever.

Information bites

Jeremy Clarkson says he has discovered a loophole in planning laws which suggests he can now open a restaurant on his Diddly Squat Farm in Oxfordshire, regardless of having had an utility turned down by the native council earlier this 12 months. The ‘alfresco diner’ might be overseen by chef Pip Lacey of Hicce in King’s Cross and can try to make use of solely components from the property, featured in his Amazon Prime present Clarkson’s Farm. There’s no menu, however in accordance with the blurb on reserving web site OpenTable, ‘It’s small, largely outside and really rustic. Ordering a beer and going to the rest room isn’t as simple as in your native pub and we don’t cater to the faddy.’ The set menu prices £69 a head. For extra, go here.

Newcastle metropolis council has launched new guidelines stating that each one pubs, bars and eating places within the metropolis which serve alcohol, have to offer employees ending after 11.30pm with a taxi dwelling. The supply of taxis for late-night employees might be a requirement of an alcohol licence. Newcastle is the primary council in England to make the ruling, however follows comparable schemes by two Scottish councils.

The corporate behind Brighton’s Shelter Meals Corridor is opening a venue known as Classes in London’s Islington subsequent month. It can function simply 4 shops at anybody time, run by a rotating roster of cooks. The opening lineup consists of Jay Morjaria’s Korean inflected Tiger and Rabbit, and Zoe Adjonyoh’s Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (sessionsmarket.co.uk).

E-mail Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk or observe him on Twitter @jayrayner1

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