|The Prince of Wales|
Raise a glass to absent friends, happy days, the banoffee pie and an imaginative menu at this ultra-friendly Gloucester Road boozer
Ah, the enfolding warmth of the Prince of Wales! Like a favourite cardigan, it snuggles around you before the door shuts behind. Hard day? Hard week? Slip into the Prince and it’ll melt away. Time was, Venue’s tribe would regularly claim a Princely corner for convivial team-building purposes, a thought that almost brings a tear to Head Honcho’s otherwise flinty eye as we see little knots of amiable people scattered around the two bars and that commodious ‘smoking area’ out back. Absent friends, we toast, and happy days. And then it’s ‘grab the menu’ time and get noshing because the quiz is starting at 8.30pm and we were suddenly feeling competitive.
The choices are interestingly diverse, with a ‘nibblets’ menu of tapas-style dishes offering one way to eat, and a tempting specials board suggesting another. Honcho is a stickler, however, so we do the three-course thing: a couple of tapas numbers to start and a ‘proper’ main course. He’s got what are clearly identified as lemon, pine nut and leek risotto balls stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and served with roast pepper dip. I say this because his comments are (quote): “Quite nice, but where’s the meat?” I give him the eyebrows and he sighs: “You’re going to make me look stupid, aren’t you?” But I honestly tell him no, he doesn’t need my help, and return to my heap of crispy whitebait and aioli dip. Yum.
Somehow we’ve passed on meat, which is a shame because it’s all from local butchery legends Murray’s, but the fish looked pretty tempting. Honcho’s fish pie, jostling nuggets of salmon, mackerel and smoked haddock in creamy white wine sauce, quickly gains his sincere approval (and he cooks a mean fish pie himself). “Rich without cloying.” he pronounces, finding his inner Jay Rayner all of a sudden. “Velvet smooth sauce.” He tucks into dark green kale while I enjoy a healthy slab of rare-cooked tuna glazed with punchy honey and soy and balanced on a nice heap of spiced noodles and garlic-fried French beans. Good fusion stuff, nicely done, and pretty filling.
Around us the quiz-types are assembling, and our team-mates arrive at the same time as the banoffee pie. I could have done without sharing it so widely, myself, but we’re all agreeing it’s brilliant as the Princes’ ever-amiable owner Anna announces round one. Which, as it turned out, was all it took to make me look stupid. Doh! (Tony Benjamin)
THE PRINCE OF WALES 5 GLOUCESTER RD, BISHOPSTON, BRISTOL. FFI: 0117 924 5552, WWW.POWBRISTOL.CO.UK
THE VERDICT Carefully made imaginative food garnished with perfect pub hospitality
Copyright Tony Benjamin 2012