We try the new Sunday roast at an award-winning Bristol restaurant
If you think going out for a wintry Sunday roast has to mean a cosy pub, perhaps in the countryside, with the smell of a crackling fire where you can dry your Barbour jacket and muddy welly boots, think again.
OK, I’m sure wellies are welcome when the weather is bad but Bank in Totterdown isn’t a pub (the name is a big clue to its former life as a branch of Lloyds as well as a YMCA) and it’s as urban as it gets.
But when it comes to the alluring smell of burning wood as soon as you arrive, Bank scores full marks.
Not that there’s a roaring fire in the restaurant, it’s just that they cook most things over wood and flickering flames, which is something head chef Jack Briggs-Horan has developed with owner Dan O’Regan over the past few months.
Formerly one of the Lounge cafe/bars, Bank opened in 2021 and it started out really as a cafe concentrating on breakfast, brunch and coffee for laptop-tapping locals.
But then earlier this year, the team decided to mix it up a bit by moving towards a more ‘serious’ restaurant offering, serving small plates and food cooked over fire.
It was a brave move, and I’m sure a few ‘working from home’ Totterdown types miss lingering over their lattes for a couple of hours as they catch up on emails, but it has paid off.
In July, Bank was named in The Good Food Guide’s list of Britain’s 100 best local restaurants - a huge and well deserved achievement. It has really put Bank on the map.
And now they’ve launched ‘wood-fired’ Sunday roasts and bookings are, unsurprisingly, picking up already.
In fact, when we visited, the place was fully booked so reservations already seem to be essential.
The menu changes with the seasons, or depending what produce is available that week, so it might be different when you go - and you really must - but there might be Middle White pork belly with black garlic and tallow breadcrumbs (£18.20) or a vegetarian/vegan option of Delicia pumpkin with girolles and crispy sage (£16.80).
Between three of us, we ordered the salt marsh lamb shoulder with preserved lemon salsa verde (£19.20) and the ‘Sunday sharing sirloin’ with braised beef shin and whey shallot (£57 for 20oz).
Bank uses Origin Butchers of Olveston near Bristol for its locally sourced meat and it’s of a high quality.
The thick slice of rolled salt marsh lamb shoulder (from animals that graze the banks of the River Severn) had been cooked slowly for a long time and was outrageously tender with a delicate, sweet, almost herbal flavour. The mossy salsa verde was minty, garlicky and lemony.
The sharing sirloin was plenty for two hungry adults but, to be honest, it may well have fed three slightly less greedy lunchers, or maybe a couple of grown-ups and a picky child, although there is a kids’ roast on offer.
Cut into rosy pink slices - 13 of them so there was a tussle for the final piece - it was cooked perfectly, juicy and properly seasoned. On top of the meat was a layer of rich braised beef shin and two sweet, soft roasted shallots.
The sides were just as impressive: crisp-edged smoked garlic roast potatoes; smooth and sweet crushed carrot, swede and parsnip puree; smoked beetroot puree; braised red cabbage; billowing Yorkshire puddings and an extra jug of red wine gravy.
Traditionalists might raise an eyebrow at the absence of a crumble for dessert, but instead we shared a cinnamon, cherry-studded pumpkin pie (£7.70) boasting crisp, buttery pastry, a meringue top, burnt miso butterscotch and hints of rum.
We also tried the wobbly, unimprovably good hazelnut pannacotta (£7.90) with plum and ginger, whisky ice cream and granola-like hazelnut crunch.
I’ve watched Bank’s progress and transformation with a keen eye since it opened two years ago and it improves and changes with each visit.
They’ve made some brave decisions along the way but this modern neighbourhood restaurant is now drawing customers from all over the city and from outside the region, too.
Like the glowing embers under the grill in the kitchen, you could say it has been a slow-burner but as far as aiming to be one of Bristol’s top restaurants, Bank is firing on all cylinders now.
Bank, 107 Wells Road, Totterdown, Bristol, BS4 2BS. Bank’s Sunday roast menu is available every Sunday from 12noon-4pm and booking is essential. www.bankbristol.com.