Great gastropubs: The Kensington Arms

Are there any other boozers where you can you eat soup followed by ham, egg and chips and leave feeling all kinds of impressed?

Location, location, location, right? In the hunt for a home, it’s often all talk of transport links, nearby schools and practical stuff like that. But for less sensible home-hunters, like me – I know  you exist – it’s all about the nearest grocery shop (emergency supplies are needed daily at my gaff), restaurant (for when you just can’t face cooking or going out-out) and, perhaps most importantly, local pub (this one doesn’t need explaining). 

The Kensington Arms in Redland, I bet, has sealed the deal for many an estate agent whose not-quite convinced client spotted a bit of damp in the hallway or realised they can hear the neighbour’s TV so clearly that they’re going to be forced to get back into Hollyoaks. This is a neighbourhood pub whose proximity to the property you’re taking a cursory look at makes you want to shake that estate agent’s hand to seal the deal (do people still do that?), despite them having arrived half an hour late for the viewing and got your name wrong.

The Kenny has long been respected as a solid gastropub, but began to drum up much more attention about three years ago when local Michelin-starred chef Josh Eggleton took it over with one-time Butcombe Brewery managing director Guy Newell. Those are four pretty trustworthy hands for a food pub to be in.

While it may have a Michelin-starred director – not to mention a head chef (Luke Hawkins) who trained in the aforementioned director’s starred kitchen – things here are pretty casual, and it’s very much still a pub to go to just for a pint with the pooch. 

The menu follows suit and maintains a boozer-type character with the likes of burgers and dishes of ham, egg and chips. There is more besides, though, like crab cake with curry mayo and pickled kohlrabi, and seabass with ratatouille.

The ham hock and confit duck terrine (£8) is all kinds of buttery and decadent, the soft, subtly smoky meat pimped up with a good dollop of sweet and tangy plum chutney. Toast, with a pleasingly thorough application of golden butter, is for smearing it on, while pickles take on the job of cutting through the richness with flavoursome bite. 

Soup, unusually, is F’s first choice (for me, bowls of puréed veg are reserved for winter lunches or as the safe bet on a dubious wedding menu). But this roasted fennel number (£7.50) proves exceptionally light and silky with delicate flavour. Swirls of oil sit on its surface, reminding me of an ariel shot of dancers in a wel choreographed Busby Berkeley number. 

That previously alluded-to ham, egg and chips (£13.50) needs some elaboration. The thick-cut honey roast ham is topped with two black-pepper-seasoned, golden-yolked fried eggs, a mound of beefy, triple-cooked chips, pickled veg and a battered gherkin. I receive half the gherkin and three chips over the course of the meal and I know I made the right choice of dinner date.

More off-piste for a watering hole is my colourful plate of ricotta gnocchi (£16). The dense but spongy little pillows were fried for a golden crust and hid a cluster of vine tomatoes beneath their number, cooked until shrivelled and concentrated – juicy and sweet. Ribbons of courgette and laces of deliciously pickled carrot wove their way amongst all that, lolling over wedges of braised fennel with mellowed flavour and soft texture.

Sticky toffee puddings are like snowflakes – no two are the same (and I would know, I’ve eaten a lot of them). The one here (£6.50) is dense and chewy around the crust (yes, tricky to tackle after two courses, I have to admit) and submerged in a wonderfully deep pool of toffee sauce.

We eat in the dining room underneath glass-shaded pendant lights and an eclectic collection of framed art – and with full view into the metro-tiled open kitchen. It’s a stylish joint, this, not just in terms of decor but also skilled cooking and pro service

Surely one of the most coveted locals in town, its tan banquettes are almost at capacity on this Tuesday evening. Clearly, I’m not the only one who reckons The Kenny is worth skipping your own neighbourhood for.

The Kensington Arms, 35-37 Stanley Road, Bristol BS6 6NP; 0117 944 6444