The Bank Tavern - Adventurous Eats
The Bank Tavern has a bit of a split personality going on. By day it’s a chilled out back street boozer with comfy seats, a decent burger menu and an infamously great Sunday lunch, but every now and again it puts on its best bow-tie and pressed shirt, and tests its chefs to their limit. Adventurous Eats is now in its third incarnation, the first being a porky Nose-to-Tail dinner, followed by an ambitious Surf’n’Turf event in December. The March dinner focuses on venison, with as much of the animal used as possible, from loin to liver.
[pullquote align=left] ...beautifully presented (petals!) and perfectly cooked, this was the course that really showed me the potential of venison, both in terms of unique flavour and texture [/pullquote].When I saw the menu for ‘Stag Night’ (nice touch) I was excited - I’d only had venison a couple of times in the past and still didn’t really understand the appeal of it, so I was looking forward to tasting it in a few different guises to see if it changed my opinion.
The first thing to note about these events at The Bank is that even when they’re breaking out the big guns in terms of food, the place is still cosy and traditional - you can opt for matched wines with each course or a pint of local ale and no one will bat an eyelid, something you can’t say about every fine dining establishment in Bristol, and something which lends this place some extra appeal in my eyes.
The first course of Tartare arrived at our table not long after we sat down, and I was happy with the amount of gherkin and capers they’d heaped into the mix, yet somehow the light flavour of the venison still broke through it all. The crispy potatoes (they reminded me of those thin crunchy crisp sticks you used to get in pubs - what were they called?) were also a nice touch to balance the rich flavours in the tartare.
Next up was the gnocchi with fillet tail and sage butter - beautifully presented (petals!) and perfectly cooked, this was the course that really showed me the potential of venison, both in terms of unique flavour and texture.
Then was the much anticipated loin, served with a burnt leek dust coating and roasted shallot - I wasn’t 100% on the smoky dust surrounding the loin, for me it didn’t really add anything and the dust made the meat a bit dry to chew on, but again it all looked lovely on the plate, and as a whole dish it all worked well together, but a bit less impressive than I’d expected.
Now it was on to the wildcard round - pressed hearts with fatty liver on toast. Amazingly, this ended up being my favourite course of the evening, and if that’s not a testament to the skills of the chefs at The Bank Tavern I don’t know what it.
The heart came in a sizeable chunk and the texture was not what I expected at all - it was tender and a bit fibrous, rich, meaty and slightly sweet - if I didn’t know how long it took them to get it to that point (over a day from what I can remember) I’d attempt to cook it for myself at home. The liver was gorgeously unctuous and was perfectly matched with the sweet brioche. It was a proper medieval dish and I loved it.
Finally, the night ended with “Snickers” ice cream, or Madeleines with lemon cream for the more civilised among our fellow diners. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle something so sweet after such a rich and filling meal, but I demolished this in about 5 minutes - as you’d expect it had all the great flavours of a Snickers - nougat, milk chocolate, salty peanuts - split out on the plate for you to mix and match as you wanted.
To sum up the evening, it was an evening of great food and excellent company in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere - the fact that this event is run in a tiny pub means that I ended up chatting to people more than I would at other dining events, and it’s a good setting to try some unfamiliar food without feeling uncomfortable, or like you have to hold your pinky up whilst drinking your wine.
Landlord Sam and his team of chefs have worked hard to create an establishment that can turn out some incredible food on occasion, whilst staying true to its neighbourhood pub roots during the week. £40 plus the optional £18 for a matched wine flight is obviously out of reach for those on a lower income, but for those that can afford it or are celebrating a special occasion you get more than enough food & drink, all of it at a high standard, with none of the snootiness which can put some people off. If you can’t justify the price though, you can head along for their regular menu (you seriously need to try their roasts) or to their burger night in late March.