We try the new Bristol pop-up restaurant hidden above a popular city pub

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Judging by the fact there were only two tables of diners at 8pm on a Saturday evening, the word isn’t quite out about the Whitmore Grill but it can only be a matter of time.

An opulent dining room - think rugs on stripped floorboards, leather banquettes, antique furniture and Victorian-style prints - above The Whitmore Tap on Whiteladies Road, this new pop-up is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings for the main menu and Sunday lunchtimes for roasts.

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When we arrive, the noisy bar below is packed to the point of people also drinking outside but upstairs it’s all very calm and relaxed. Well, apart from the pulsating nu-disco and house music emanating from the speakers - perhaps not quite the right soundtrack for such a civilised and grand dining room but the chefs in the open kitchen seemed to be enjoying it.

This new dining concept for the Butcombe Brewery-owned pub is centred around cooking over fire using a Japanese robata grill. Head Chef Keola Kaltenbrun and her team are creating a regularly changing menu of sharing dishes and small plates that celebrate West Country produce. 

The menu includes meat sourced from Wiltshire butchers Walter Rose, which supplies plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants and top London establishments.

This includes beef from Stokes Marsh Farm, sustainably sourced local seafood, and seasonal vegetables from local growers.

The Whitmore Tap on Whiteladies RoadThe Whitmore Tap on Whiteladies Road
The Whitmore Tap on Whiteladies Road
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General Manager Tom Andrews says: “Robata is an abbreviation of Robatayaki which means ‘fireside cooking’ in Japanese. The cooking style involves hot coals on a wide flat open fireplace, similar to a barbecue. The simplicity and theatre of the robata grill will play centre stage at The Whitmore Grill - it’s all about fantastic locally sourced meat, fish and vegetables accompanied by innovative and exciting side dishes."

Butcombe’s Director of Food Alice Bowyer said: “We are blessed to have this business in the heart of Clifton on Whiteladies Road, and are excited to show something new to complement our everyday menus. 

"Cooking over fire is such a fun way of cooking and our chefs have been busy testing recipes and ideas, all around the robata grill, and having fun with our Bristol smoker. We are passionate about both supporting the creativity of our teams and highlighting the produce we work with every day. Simple cooking, lots of flavour from the grill and using the best ingredients.”

Miso arancini, burnt aubergine and yuzuMiso arancini, burnt aubergine and yuzu
Miso arancini, burnt aubergine and yuzu

We started with sweet and spicy charred roquito peppers with smoked salt and chimicurri (£5.95) and golf ball-size miso arancini with burnt aubergine and yuzu (£5.95). Both dishes impressed with their depth of flavour - the peppers had a gentle smokiness and the arancini boasted that irresistible salty savouriness of miso.

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For main course, Ston Easton Farm lamb belly (£14.95) appeared as a neat roll of lamb with a surprising amount of rich and tender meat among the layers of fat. The vibrant mint and pomegranate salsa provided plenty of freshness and zip and the black garlic aioli was subtle. Also good were sides of whole blackened leeks with a punchy green romesco (£5.95) and smashed crispy potatoes smothered with herb butter and more of that moreish black garlic aioli (£4.95).

A Stokes Marsh Farm flat iron steak (£19.95) had been perfectly cooked over the burning embers and cut into rosy pink fingers of meat.

Flat iron steak with creamed cornFlat iron steak with creamed corn
Flat iron steak with creamed corn

But my teenage daughter wasn’t too keen on the accompanying lake of thick, creamed corn which, from my side of the table, bore a striking resemblance to the HiPP organic baby food she spat out as a baby 15 years ago. I had a taste and she wasn’t wrong. Maybe a less creamy accompaniment to such top-notch quality steak might be less overpowering.

She was far more appreciative of the unimprovably good burnt Basque cheesecake and blueberry compote (£7.95) which disappeared before I’d even reached over to nick a spoonful.

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Rather than dessert, I decided to end with one of the special ‘dessert cocktails’ - the Baked Alaska was a potent and sweet concoction of vodka, chambord, milk, pomegranate molasses, ice cream and Italian meringue. Not my usual thing (give me a bitter and super-strength cocktail any day) but it was surprisingly good.

Baked Alaska cocktail at Whitmore GrillBaked Alaska cocktail at Whitmore Grill
Baked Alaska cocktail at Whitmore Grill

The Whitmore Grill is a welcome addition to the ever-improving restaurant scene on Whiteladies Road. The food is interesting and fairly priced. It just needs to shout even louder so more people know it’s hidden up the stairs of one of the area’s busiest pubs.

The Whitmore Grill is open Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday lunch.

The Whitmore Grill at The Whitmore Tap, 115 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2PB. Call 0117 3259450 to book a table.

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