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Review: The Glassboat

Since the distant days of Year 10, my friends and I have made the most of half-days with lunch at the Glassboat.

This year’s Prize Giving was no exception, and it is therefore with the utmost pleasure that I can review one of my favourite restaurants in Bristol.

The Glassboat, floating gracefully on the scenic Avon.
A celebration of celeriac and cerebrum.
A celebration of celeriac and cerebrum.

Since Maciej Oblon and Ollie McConnell had rejected our invitation on discovering the menu lacked burger and chips, it was a depleted party of six that arrived at the Welsh Back on a gloomy Friday. The Glassboat itself requires little description; it’s a boat, and it’s made of glass. Well, maybe not made of glass, but its large windows provide scenic views of the river and any passing vessels, while the interior is cleanly but inoffensively modern.

As I would have happily eaten anything on the menu, selection was an ordeal. But having turned down salt cod at the last minute, lunch began with a fritter of ham hock and brawn, served with celeriac remoulade, my favourite salad in the world. Brawn, as I explained to a horrified Rob Carden, is a pig’s head chopped up and set in jelly, which while presumably unappealing on its own was perfectly delightful in a crispy, deep-fried context.

Calf's liver and parsley mash, which I incompetently photographed as if the mash was the chief item of interest. Sorry.

My main course undeniably the highlight of the meal was a thick slab of calf’s liver, seared but still pink, served on parlsey mash with a terrific gravy. This was, without doubt, the best liver I have ever eaten. Inside, it was succulent and sweet, though not off-puttingly bloody, while the outside had formed an incredible salty crust. It was every bit as enjoyable as prime steak for a fraction of the cost, and I defy any offal-haters to resist its hepatic charms.

For pudding I chose a plum and apple crumble, which thankfully rejected the fashion for wretchedly crispy topping on barely cooked fruit, remaining instead reassuring stodgy to contrast with the tanginess of plum. But while the crumble was good, it could not compare to the rice pudding that is typically on offer, some of the very best around.

Apple and plum crumble, a prime pudding.
Apple and plum crumble, a prime pudding.

The absence of rice pudding was the meal’s only flaw. Indeed, to criticise so fine a meal seems rather unsporting. Nonetheless, I cannot forgive the charge of £1.50 for bread and butter, delicious though it was, since bread and water really ought to be free. Moreover, a word of warning ought to be offered to Berkeley Squares’ readership: never, ever eat at the Glassboat in the evening. For while lunch follows a very reasonable £12 set menu, the evening tariff is utter extortion; an artichoke costs £3 more than a three course lunch!

But these petty complaints aside, the Glassboat is a truly terrific restaurant. The food never ceases to delight, and for an end of term lunch it is quite unbeatable.

Let’s just hope Maciej enjoyed his burger.

★★★★★