"Whisper it, but this may just be the best food pub in Bristol" Mark Taylor, Bristol Evening Post

Orignally posted by By Mark Taylor, Bristol Post

The Kensington Arms might just be the best pub food in Bristol

The Kensington Arms might just be the best pub food in Bristol

Josh Eggleton is a busy chap with fingers in more pies than most chefs. As well as his Michelin-starred Chew Magna pub The Pony & Trap, he is involved with the newly opened Chicken Shed at Wapping Wharf, the Salt & Malt fish and chip restaurant in the Chew Valley and also Yurt Lush, the tipi restaurant and bar at Temple Meads.

And then there are his TV appearances on BBC2's Great British Menu, which have helped to raise the national profile of the boy from Whitchurch who started his career in the local fish and chip shop at the age of 15.

There may be some who worry that Eggleton is spreading himself too thinly, but he hasn't failed at anything yet so why stop expanding the empire?

His latest business is The Kensington Arms, which he has just taken over with Guy Newell, the former GM of Butcombe Brewery.

This tucked away Redland pub has long been regarded as one of the city's better boozers when it comes to food and previous chefs include Jan Ostle who now runs his own acclaimed restaurant, Wilson's, just around the corner.

The Kensington - or Kenny as the locals refer to it - is part of a foodie hotspot in the area. Also nearby are the Michelin-starred Wilks and No Man's Grace, two of the city's best restaurants.

The Kensington - or Kenny as the locals refer to it - is part of a foodie hotspot in the area. Also nearby are the Michelin-starred Wilks and No Man's Grace, two of the city's best restaurants.

Eggleton isn't cooking here but he has brought his team with him, including head chef Luke Hawkins who cooked at Michelin level at The Pony & Trap.

The chefs can be seen (and heard) via the open kitchen at the back of the dining room, which hasn't really altered much since the gentle makeover. As before, there is ox blood leather banquette seating and framed pictures of Victorian gents in top hats, although a framed list of local suppliers used by the kitchen is one welcome new addition.

In the low-lit front bar with its red ceiling and battleship grey walls, there is still the same merry mix of well-watered regulars, students and well-heeled locals living in an area where £1.5m houses are not unusual.

Behind the bar, where beers include Butcombe Bitter and Batemans XB Pale Ale, there are homemade sausage rolls for drinkers to soak up the booze, although you can order from the main menu anywhere in the pub.

Mark's fishcake starter

Mark's fishcake starter

One of the biggest-sellers here is still the Kenny Burger (£10) - served with a dagger-like steak knife stabbed through the middle. They sold at least ten of these on the quiet mid-week evening I visited.

Eggleton has kept the food simple and pubby, with prices to match. He has clearly done his research into what has made the pub such a success in the past and wants to retain its loyal clientele rather than alienate them with elaborate Michelin-style dishes.

This means starters like Chew Valley smoked salmon with pickled cucumber and capers; brawn with piccalilli and cornichons, and chicken liver parfait, chutney and homemade sourdough toast - all at £6.

When it comes to mains, pub classics like fish and chips (breaded plaice, crushed peas, tartare sauce and chips, £12) and honey-glazed ham, free-range eggs, pickles and chips (£10) rub shoulders with pork belly, parsnip and apple croquette and burnt apple purée (£16) or a vegetarian aubergine and sweet potato tagine with lemon and coriander cous cous (£13).

The main event

The main event

A starter of fish cakes (£6) comprised three squash ball-sized orbs of smoked haddock, salmon and cod encased in crisp, greaseless golden breadcrumbs with strips of pickled red onion, a ruffle of watercress and a warm tartare sauce. It was a generous starter and a very happy plate of food.

To follow, a rare onglet steak (£16) was accurately cooked and cut into pink, velvety slices alongside some exceptional chips (hot and crisp on the outside, fluffy within), roasted field mushroom and tomato and a creamy slick of properly peppery peppercorn sauce. It was as good as pub steak and chips gets.

From a dessert list that includes orange pannacotta and dark chocolate torte with raspberry gel and sorbet, I went for a slice of the dark and citrussy warm treacle tart (£6) with its refreshing crème fraîche sorbet and fruity blob of burnt apple purée.

The Kenny has been one of my local pubs one and off for 20 years so and I always get nervous when there are changes there but I needn't have worried.

When it comes to pubs, Josh Eggleton knows what customers want and, based on this meal, his arrival at The Kensington Arms is a good fit and my local is in safe hands.

Treacle tart to finish

Treacle tart to finish

 

THE VERDICT

Modern pub classics at sensible prices delivered by chefs with a Michelin background - whisper it, but The Kensington Arms just may be the best food pub in Bristol.

 

RATINGS:

Overall: Four

Food: Four

Service: Four

Ambience: Four

Value: Four

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