I visited the poshest Bristol sports bar for a meal and felt underdressed
Think of sports bars and the first image conjured up may be that of a noisy pub with a sticky floor, cheap lager and people in football shirts staggering around shouting abuse at the large screen.
Although it was never quite as bad as that, Hort’s in Bristol used to be known as a pretty lively place to watch live sport but since its lengthy and extensive refurbishment, it has become arguably the smartest and poshest sports bar in the city.
On Saturday night when England were destroying Chile in the Rugby World Cup, Hort’s was completely packed in the large bar area.
I headed to the restaurant at the back of the pub - previously used as a small cinema - and it was much quieter than the bar but I could still get a good sense of the atmosphere as rugby fans enjoyed the game.
And what a smart bunch they were, too. Although a couple of lads had England shirts on, most of the drinkers were dressed as if they were going to the office, with a few dapper chaps in full Peaky Blinders attire.
I have to say I felt somewhat underdressed as I walked through the scrum in the bar to get to the restaurant.
I first visited Hort’s as a kid in the 1970s when it was part of the Berni Inn chain so it holds fond memories for me and it’s great to see owners Young’s invest so much money into this iconic Bristol venue.
A Grade II-listed building in the Old City where the courts are, it’s a handsome venue that now calls itself a townhouse and has 19 boutique bedrooms upstairs.
By all accounts, the individually designed rooms are the epitome of modern luxury with freestanding baths, Hypnos beds, rainfall showers and Nespresso coffee machines. It’s no wonder they are almost always booked up.
The bar and restaurant champions British produce, craft beers and cask ales (mostly from owners Young’s brewery), as well as vast range of cocktails, spirits and wines.
The blue-panelled dining room has vintage leather chairs and Art Deco lights, which adds to the upmarket hotel restaurant feel.
As well as pub classics, the menu features main courses like South Coast plaice with brown shrimp, new potatoes and samphire, and Gressingham duck breast with watercress salad, pickled fennel and cucumber.
On Sundays, signature roasts include West Country beef, Dingley Dell pork belly, Shropshire chicken breast, wild garlic stuffed Welsh lamb shoulder or celeriac and blue cheese pithivier, all served with roasties, ‘double egg’ Yorkshires and seasonal vegetables.
From the main menu, I started with a generous plate of Devon whitebait and baby squid (£10.50) - the bite-size pieces of tender (not the usual chewy bicycle tyre) squid and crisp whitebait in a light batter and scattered with finely chopped red chilli. Harissa mayo added further heat and spice to the dish.
To follow, I had the 10oz West Country sirloin steak (£37) topped with lightly spiced ‘cafe de Paris’ butter, excellent triple-cooked chips, cherry vine tomatoes and watercress dressed with lemon juice. The thick steak was perfectly cooked medium-rare as requested and the sharp knife sliced through it with no effort at all.
From a pudding list that includes passion fruit pannacotta and apple tarte tatin with Jude’s vanilla ice cream, I went for the warm ‘pain au chocolate’ bread and butter pudding (£7.50) which was as good as it sounds. A French breakfast staple turned into the classic British comfort pudding - what’s not to like?
By the time I finished eating, England had beaten Chile 71-0 and the rugby fans in the pub were ordering more pints, settling down for the evening in their comfortable leather armchairs.
Good food and drink, plenty of screens to watch the games and a friendly, convivial atmosphere - when it comes to sports bars with a difference, Hort’s is a real match winner.
Hort’s Townhouse, 49 Broad Street, Bristol, BS1 2EP.