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Review: The Grace – Gloucester Road

Gloucester Road is renowned for its varied and eclectic array of restaurants, and of these The Grace is one of the newest and most interesting. Located in the old Robin Hood pub and bearing a very silly sign, one could be forgiven for expecting bitter and bar snacks, but pot-bellied drunkards would be sadly disappointed.

Despite labouring under the misconception that it remains a pub, The Grace is nothing of the sort. Rather than ‘pub grub’, the menu boasts a tantalising array of ‘small plates’ to share, rather like English tapas, alongside mini pizzas and puddings. As we bustled in on a frosty lunchtime, it was only our hunger that prevented extended deliberation over so fine a menu.

Never a man to say no to a kipper, I insisted upon the pungent fish with fried bread and celeriac, whilst my brother advocated ham hock pizza and ‘The Grace’s’ fried chicken. Much to my horror, my mother suggested we order a salad, but I was both astonished and indeed ashamed to find that the roast plum, chicory and milk curd medley was arguably the best dish on the table. Competition was stiff, however; I heartily enjoyed every dish we ordered, not least the exceptional fried potato chunks, whilst my only gastronomic complaint was that the pork scratchings were too salty even for me.

The atmosphere, however, was bizarre. As we waited for our table, with gypsy music playing and aproned waiters hurrying in circles, I couldn’t help but feel I had travelled into an experimental film about ten seconds before a bar fight. The fireplaces, moreover, were clogged with enormous cascades of melted candlewax, yielding a result both repulsive and unsettling. But stranger still, these monstrous waxen obscenities appeared to be an intentional feature; if ever The Grace shuts down, I fear that a career in interior design may be closed to the owners. But despite the questionable décor, I cannot deny that the room was full of life and the service was impeccable.

In conclusion, therefore, while The Grace is a most unusual restaurant, its unorthodoxy is unexpectedly successful. The owners would do well, however, to shed their phony pub status and take pride that their food can compete with any in Bristol.

And the fireplaces could do with a clean.

★★★★☆