The Bridge Tavern is one of those places where if you enter during daylight hours it's a bit of a shock to the system and your eyes take time to get accustomed to the dark. This coupled with the fact that it does great trade and has a slightly unusual layout means that you sort of stumble in blindly looking for a seat (which probably isn't there) and do a few awkward circuits of the bar feeling like a bit of a dick! Anyway, we found a seat in the corner near the fully stocked bookcases, regained our composure and pinched a menu from the diners on the next table.
The menu is well put together with a selection of 'bar bait', sharing planks (can't get moved for planks these days, although I must confess that I like them!), starters or 'lights' as they're described, mains and puds. The prices are very well pitched to be expensive enough to feel confident that they should be using good produce skilfully but not too expensive to make you think 'have you forgotten that this is a pub?' The planks are £11.95 (Meat, Fish or Slider Plank), the most expensive Main is the Flat Iron Steak at £12.95, Starters around the £5 mark. The look on one blokes face at the bar when told that his pint of Saison would be £6 possibly means that they haven't given quite as much thought to the price of drinks!
We decided to go for a shared feast and ordered the Meat plank consisting of Pressed Ham with Mustard and Capers, Smoked Sausage, Pigs Head Croquette, Chicken Liver Pate, Sourdough Toast and Pickles. We also ordered a Salad of Roasted Squash with Goat's Curd and Toasted Seeds, Fried Chicken Wings with Kimchee Ketchup and a side of Triple Cooked Chips (because we saw them delivered to the next table and they looked great!). And then we waited......
It was starting to get to the point when I was thinking of asking if they had forgotten us when a member of staff approached (rather sheepishly) to explain that somebody had dropped our plank on the floor and it was being remade! He asked if we wanted the other dishes we had ordered now as they were ready or if we wanted everything served together (the latter!). He left and moments later another member of staff approached carrying the other dishes and explaining that he'd dropped the plank! We told him that we wanted all of the dishes together so he graciously took the food away!
We did eventually get the entire order and we were certainly ready for it! The food was very well presented with no unnecessary flimflammery (always the mark of a confident cook) so we were optimistic that it would taste great. Parts of it did indeed taste great; the chips were the best I've had in a long time and for once actually lived up to the 'triple fried' promise, crisp, well seasoned and close to perfection. The salad of squash and goat's cheese was delicious with the sweet, caramelised squash working brilliantly with the mild tang and fresh creaminess of the curd. It was the first time I'd eaten curd and it won't be the last, a revelation! The fried chicken wings were just ok but the Kimchee Ketchup pulled them up a notch although it could have packed more of a chilli punch.
The plank was less successful overall but not without its moments. The Chicken Liver Pate was rich and packed full of flavour and was a pleasure when liberally spread over a sourdough toast. The smoked sausage was good quality with a healthy amount of fat but was so garlicky that it could still be tasted the next morning! The Pigs Head croquettes were disappointing with not enough of the pulled meat and too many big pieces of fat. I ate a second one hoping for better results but had the same experience; I cut a third in half before sampling and left it untouched after discovering the same ratio of meat to fat that I had tasted before.
|I've never had a pigs head croquette before and if this is how they are supposed to be then I apologise!|
The Pressed Ham was well-made and looked delicious but was surprisingly nondescript and really needed the delicious pickled gherkins to bring it to life. The plank was crying out for more acidity to cut through the richness of all of the pork and pate; maybe a chutney of some description as well as the gherkins would have balanced it better.
We retrieved another menu to see what we fancied for dessert and picked from a limited selection of five puds (4 if you rule out the Stout Float which is one of the least appetising concepts i've come across!). We decided on the Apple Crumble and Custard and the Chocolate and Pistachio Sundae. I went to order at the bar but was told by the barmaid that there was no crumble left. I returned to the table to ask what Mandy wanted instead, only to be approached by another member of staff who told me the crumble was back on! I returned to the bar to again order the crumble and, as it turned out, nobody had told the barmaid! Cue the barmaid looking at me as if I was a complete cretin (not entirely untrue!) until I explained to her that it was back on, phew!
In hindsight, the Good Lord who had granted the miracle of a child-free lunch was again trying to help by sending signs that I shouldn't order desserts! I wish that I'd read the signs! The crumble was served in a puddle of poorly made custard/scrambled eggs and was hugely disappointing.
The sundae was equally disappointing with a strange chocolate layer which I could barely get my spoon through and an almost entirely tasteless chocolate crumb on top. The ice cream had a perfect texture but very little pistachio flavour. The desserts really did feel like an afterthought with none of the attention to detail shown in the conception of the savoury menu.
In fairness, it did honestly feel like they were just having one of those days! The diners on the next table complained that the Mushroom Burger had been served with Blue Cheese when that was not mentioned on the menu; the waiter checked the menu and promised to get it changed. They brought our coffee over saying "sorry there's only one spoon between two, we've run out of spoons"! (Maybe they'd all been broken in an attempt to break through the chocolate in that dessert!)
However, I will definitely return to The Bridge Tavern because there were moments of excellent cooking which deserve another chance. Perhaps I'll not go on a Bank Holiday though...or order dessert!