Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf, Units 6-8 Gaol Ferry Steps Bristol BS1 5WE 01172395693. Meal for two (with drinks): £45
Bristol has always been one of my favourite places in the UK. I hold fond memories of the city from my university days, in which we would often take the train from Exeter and embark on an epic pub crawl, catching the last train back with empty pockets and muddled heads. Returning to the city last week, I decided to head over to the previously unexplored Wapping Wharf for lunch. Stopping by at Wild Beer Co’s restaurant, which opened on the harbour in the summer of 2016, seemed like the only sensible choice.
The bar-come-restaurant is just one of several trendy new foodie hangouts that have sprung up as part of the redevelopment of the Wapping Wharf quarter. The bar is located inside a large, L-shaped, glass-fronted building facing out over the harbour, a stone's throw from the reconstruction of John Cabot's famous ship The Matthew. A gigantic mural painting depicting what looks like a sloth poseidon and a pirate rooster riding a fish adorns the back wall, whilst an open-view kitchen wafts delicious smells across the bar.
The food offering reflects the bar's nautical theme, with a variety of fish-based dishes being provided by Hook Restaurants, a Dublin-based start up that also have a restaurant in Camden Town. Fish & Chips are served in either crispy Japanese panko breadcrumbs or Tempura batter and accompanied by seaweed salted chips, whilst there are also Chicken and vegetarian options for those not so seafood inclined. The prices are very reasonable, with mains ranging between £10-12 and sides/snacks from £3 and up. There is no table service, however, so orders have to be made when buying drinks at the bar.
And what of the bar? It boasts an impressive twenty two draught lines, and easily double that number of canned and bottled beers. Around half of the keg selection is Wild Beer Co beers, whilst the other half is a mixture of the traditional (Titanic Porter) and the more obscure (Mad Hatter Liverpool Tart). Prices are again very agreeable, ranging from £2.50 to around £5 for a third, half or two-thirds of a pint. I pay £2.80 for two-thirds of Sleeping Lemons, Wild Beer Co's 3.6 per cent Gose, brewed with preserved lemons. The wine and spirits list is none too shabby either, and I'm particularly tempted by the prospect of the Sleeping Lemons Gin, distilled in collaboration with Psychopomp micro-distillery, but refrain out of sympathy for my companion who has to drive us home later.
Casting our eyes to the menu, I'm caught by the mug of clams cooked in Sleeping Lemons, from the specials menu (£6) but instead opt for the panko fish tacos (£11). My companion plays it safe and goes for the classic panko fish & chips with homemade tartare sauce.
After a short 15 minute or so wait, our food arrives. The catch of the day is coley, a sustainable cod substitute. The tacos are just two in number (a little disappointing), but are packed full of red cabbage, salsa and chipotle and served with a generous portion of seaweed salted chips. The panko breadcrumbs are heavenly, bringing a real crispy bite to the soft, white fish, whilst the chipotle adds a hearty kick of spice. The chips are a little on the cold side, and could have done with being a little crispier in my opinion, but are still pleasant when dipped in the fiery chipotle sauce. My companion's fish tastes a little drab in comparison with my lively tacos, but is certainly far better than your average chip-shop offering. The zesty, clean and tart Sleeping Lemons is a perfect foil for the fishy dishes, and I could easily have sunk several more and happily watched the world outside go by.
The desert menu isn't exactly what you would call extensive, with Salted Caramel Millionaire Tart (£5) being the only option at present. We decide against having one, but I'm reliably informed that it is an extravagantly rich but delightful after-dinner treat.
On the whole, I was pretty impressed with Wild Beer Co's set up at Wapping Wharf. The tacos were absolutely sublime and the beer selection was good enough to stand up to the likes of the nearby Small Bar and Famous Royal Navy Volunteer. It's a great place to stop off on a sunny day for an extravagant lunch or early dinner, and I can imagine it is going to make an killing come this summer.