I’ve heard little bits and bobs about the wonders of The Star and Dove, but nothing to prepare me for the completely delicious evening my friend and I experienced recently. The downstairs pub area has made quite the name for itself, with its reportedly legendary scotch eggs (which had sold out by the time I had arrived) and as the venue of Bristol Bites foodie quiz. It’s upstairs though that I implore you all venture!
The restaurant setting is literally like the team at Star and Dove have gone into my head and stolen my dream library. I have a growing (very unrealistic I realise) image of my dream house, should I win gazillions one day on the lottery. Deep in the depths of my imaginary house is a space dedicated to reading. Here I will sit (remember I am so rich here and no longer need to work so can dedicate all my time to frivolous hobbies) cosied up in a large arm-chair, next to a burning fire, swirling a liqueur in one hand, surrounded by shelves of leather-bound books. This is pretty much how I felt when I entered the restaurant, although I was sat at a table and the main action of the evening was to eat, not to read.
The menu is definitely one of the most interesting I have ever seen. With recipes from the 12th to the 18th century and written in Olde Worlde English, the menu of choices on offer are somewhat of a mystery. There are a few clues as to the flavours in the dish, which you can take the risk and choose from, or you can err more on the side of caution by calling on the waitress’ extensive knowledge as to what the dish involves. We took a risk on the more options choices on the mains but had to enquire further about the starters. ***Warning – this post reveals a lot of what the dishes involve – read with caution if you want to go there with a bit more mystery involved.***
Before our chosen meals arrived, we were treated to a little appetiser to excite our palates. For our evening: colcannon like I’ve never tasted before, wrapped in a delicious potato crisp in a petite cylindrical shape. Scrumptious. Warm delicious rolls arrived in a beautiful metal basket. As a complete sucker for old-style tableware I was in love with everything that arrived at the table. More excitingly, the butter arrived in the form of a candle, dramatically lit at the table. These were the first signs of the passion that the chefs obviously put into the overall experience of the menu, not just the flavour combinations of the food (which were as exciting as the appearance).
After some clarification from the waitress, my starter of choice was ‘Fish pullow’ from Chef de Cuisine at the Oriental Club, Richard Terry 1861 (the flavour clues: bacon, egg, rice). “Sorry what what!?!?!?” was our first response to the titles on the menu. This turned out to be an incredibly flavoursome frozen ball of fish stock, coated in haddock powder and filled with bacon cream. Like nothing else I had ever tasted, the fish flavours were intensified in the frozen form. Served with a breadcrumb coated egg yolk and ricecake stick with a light curry sauce, this dish was surprise after surprise on the tongue.
My foodie friend – who is the most perfect companion for a meal like this as, like me, she will try pretty much try any type of food – chose the ‘Oxe cheeks in salette’ from The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May 1665 (Claret, all spice, vinegar). The strong flavours of the meat balance with the light salad.
For my main course I chose the ‘Roajied ham’ from The complete system of cookery cookbook by William Verral, 1759 (Pig collar, cauliflower, Cumberland sauce). Pieces of pig cooked in two ways, my favourite was the ‘pig collar’. A melt-in the mouth circle of ultra-pork tasting meat! YUM. Served up with cauliflower served in a variety of ways: in dumpling, puree and couscous form, and beautiful cumberland sauce. LOTS of mmmmmming noises to be made.
Even so, I still had a bit of food envy when my friend chose the ‘Welsh salt duck’ option first. As the name implies, the main event of this dish was a salty piece of duck breast soaked in brine and then pan-fried. INCREDIBLE!!! Together with duck leg confit (up there with my top three types of meat!) and duck parfait, just in case you didn’t have enough duck flavour. The sample I tasted was just beautiful. Served up with pickled onions filled with a jus, prunes and lava bread to complete the taste explosion. One further word of warning here; we hit a SERIOUS full moment during our mains and could really have done without the extra side of potatoes. Either don’t eat all the bread (although it’s pretty much impossible to resist the warm bread and candle-butter combo) or resist ordering sides.
Finally – and this is where the separate stomach for sweet stuffs came into its own- we ordered the ‘Beetroot Salad’ from John Evelyn, Aceteria 1699. Beetroot is a surprise title to see on a dessert menu, but they had got it right with this dish. A delectable plate of beetroot, redcurrant and chocolate flavour combinations, the plate included: beetroot crisps with beetroot jelly, a redcurrant fondant covered in chocolate, malleable chocolate twist, sugared beetroot, white chocolate crumble topped with a chocolate orb and a red currant jelly running across the whole plate. PHEW! A plate of heaven.
Absolutely stupendous evening of trying new and exciting food in delightful surroundings. (Have I used enough synonyms for wonderful for you yet?? 😉 ) The Star and Dove are obviously not afraid to shy away from the norm. Also, for only £24 for two courses, or £27 for three (including an extra appetiser) I think you would struggle to get anywhere near that quality of food and ambiance anywhere else! LOVED LOVED LOVED! Cannot wait to go back! 🙂