Friday night in Bristol and it’s after 9 o’clock by the time a friend arrives to visit for the weekend. We stop off for a quick drink in the Big Chill Bar and they have just stopped serving food. We decide to try out El Puerto, a tapas bar opposite the Arnolfini, for some food although some friends have just gone for dinner at Graze. The Spanish restaurant is too full to even wait around for a table and we watch the couple in front of us get turned away. We pass by the helium balloons of the leaving party next to the door and head out and back to Queen Square to join the friends.
The time is after 10 by now and the group we join has just ordered but the staff at Graze are more than accommodating. They immediately move us all to a bigger table, ask if we all want to eat at the same time and with a slight encouragement for us to order soon they adjust and it all flows smoothly. Out of habit I order the house red and it turns out to be a light though not too mellow grenache, it was a nice selection. As a Bath Ale gastropub it seemed only suitable that three of the guys ordered the Gem Wild Hare (green label). The table was by the window and easily seated seven of us. The atmosphere was pleasant and even though Graze was nearly full there was no distraction from other noises.
Four sirloin steaks (£15.95) were ordered and there are six choices of sauce such as green peppercorns and brandy, port and Stilton, and a type of mustard sauce. I chose the Cornish Pollock (12.95) which came with curly leaf kale and some other red bits of salad.
One person ordered the duck breast and was very complimentary. The steaks were quite thick and cooked to personal taste and were served with a side of triple cooked chips.
I ordered some of the chips as well and they were very tasty. Not sure what the triple cooked part means but the chips have a thick crust and while they looked overdone they didn’t taste it.
Since we were so late to dinner we didn’t order a starter but I wasn’t willing to skip dessert. I don’t consider it a proper meal without at least two courses, preferably three. The last time I was at Graze it was for four hours on Christmas eve and my meal at that time was finished off with an amazing crème brulee. Surprisingly,the creamy custard part was slightly chilled and with a layer of mixed berries at the bottom. I wasn’t sure if I should be affronted at being tricked out of my usual favourite dessert but it was delicious. I hate to give away such an intriguing little surprise but it would be a shame to keep it secret.
Last night’s intriguing little version of the creme brulee was a banoffee one and it was served in a little pot with a smokier than usual burnt sugar crust. The delicious and delicate tasting toffee cream part sat on top of a layer of banana sweetness which was more fruit puree than syrupy goo. That is definitely going on my list of favourite desserts.
The cheese board that some friends ordered was incredibly varied, not only in terms of cheese but also a fun selection of bread and crackers.
Graze may not be the culinary extraordinary experience of places like Flinty Red or the Glassboat but it’s comfy and relaxing and the food tastes good. I think of it as a lovely choice right in the city centre and next to the beautiful Queen Square.
Graze, 63 Queen Square, Bristol BS1 4JZ, 0117 927 6706, email@example.com