The Bank Tavern: It burns!
by Dan Izzard
09 March 2018
The Bank Tavern labels itself as a "uniquely inhospitable environment". In other words, it’s the Banksy of Bristol pubs. If you started dating The Bank Tavern your mum would certainly not approve.
You see, The Bank does things a bit differently (including winning awards for its outstanding roasts) and people love them for it. They could be playing it safe, serving burgers with added pulled pork for an extra £2 – but that’s just not their style.
Instead, The Bank hosts a series of themed and seasonal 'Adventurous Eats' dinners throughout the year. Previous events have included an inventive ‘head-to-tail’ menu, utilising every part of a pig, a 'stag party', which was all about the venison, and an '80s-inspired menu with vol-au-vents and baked Alsakas. These evenings can often end up with uncontrollable laughter, singalongs and ill-judged social media posts.
Our most recent visit was in honour of Burns Night; an adventure which involved no less than five courses and six accompanying whiskies.
A proper boozer, with wood panelled walls and booth-style seating, the pub was already filled when we arrived. Beer mats and peanut remnants had been replaced with impeccably set tables and Robert Burns image projected onto a screen. Serious business. Independent Spirit had been enlisted too, to fulfil our dram dreams. Along with the food and whisky, an extensive programme had been printed out for us so we could join in.
Order of service in one hand and a Whisky Macdonald in the other we took our seats and were first treated to a proper Scotch broth of venison and pearl barley, and a dram of Robert Burns Single Malt: “fruity, notes of custard and warm pastry,” noted the order of service.
What followed was several courses of classic Scottish fare, twisted and interpreted by the kitchen into a series of dishes that you’d never match with The Bank in a game of restaurant guess-who.
A few drams in and anyone would have thought we’d established a Scottish microstate in central Bristol. Getting into the swing of things, the hay-smoked mackerel dish arrived, its smokiness extinguished by a drop of buttery Auchentoshan American Oak rolling over the tongue. As I learned at a whisky festival last summer, you only really get a measure of your own tastes for the spirit once you’ve compared several varieties at once. Add in some well-matched food and there’s another welcome level of complexity altogether.
Haggis, neeps and tatties, the archetypal dish for the celebrations, drew a cheer – as did pretty much anything that anyone said at any point that Whisky-drenched evening – and was presented lovingly with scattered vegetable crisps. Spicy and peppery, it gained new fans from our table.
Finishing off with a Cherry & Buckfast Cranachachan trifle, full of oats and cream, paired with a 46% ABV Raasay While We Wait that had its own red fruit influence.
A final toast of Kilochman Sanaig before setting off into the night ready for an early start and productive next day.