I was very excited to be invited to one of Bristol’s newest, most ambitious and exciting new ventures, The Historical Dining Rooms. Situated above the Star & Dove, the Historical Dining Rooms is a conquest to rid the world of the notion that Bangers and mash are the cornerstones of British cuisine.
Running slightly ahead of schedule, I stepped into the very welcoming, charm-ridden ambience of the Star and Dove. Opting for a pint of English ale it’s about as British as it can get! Judge me all you like but watching all the diners take advantage of the attractive midweek offer would’ve been way too agonising to watch!
If you’re unfamiliar where the Historical Dining Room is, let me set the scene for you. It’s set just above the Star and Dove, accessible by an almost secret door oozing mystery.
By the time I polished off my pint of English ale, I was ready to head upstairs. Greeted with a little something to whet our whistles, it came in a glass of Mrs Beetons lemonade. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about the identity of Mrs Beeton, but I can’t help but admire her style. The lemonade cocktail was light and refreshing with a surprisingly smooth but rich touch of sherry. After some brief mingling with other diners, we were shown to our table and sat down to admire our surroundings.
The décor itself is further testament to their commitment to authenticity. The main room, I’m told, is styled on Regency hall and the wallpaper reproduced by specialists to replicate that of the historic period in question. It’s perhaps a little dark and somewhat stuffy, but it’s certainly authentic! All rather impressive, the evening menu kept my mind firmly on the food.
The first course was unusual, to say the least. T’was a Parmesan ice cream recipe from 1888 fusing dairy behemoths of cheese and ice-cream. It certainly looked like ice-cream, in fact so much so that despite several mouthfuls of the salty savoury cheese, I still couldn’t dissociate my brain from expecting a vanilla ice-cream taste. It was an interesting, confusing, but definitely enjoyable.
The next course did take a while to come out, but some small consolation was found in the bread, butter, and smoked lard that was delivered in the meantime. I’d be the first to admit that smoked lard doesn’t really sound that appetising, but it surprised. The light smoky flavour and creamy texture was a perfect combination. I stopped when the pot was empty.
At last the first course finally arrived! Rabbit, buttered, roasted, potted, preserved – 1833. Despite this recipes age, it’s a dish that wouldn’t be out of place on a modern fine dining menu. But, you can’t argue with history! In short, it was a trio of rabbity offerings. A delightfully succulent breast, a poached loin, and my personal favourite, rabbit liver wrapped in deliciously smoked lard. All in all a very delicious plate of food, although, for me, the poached loin lacked enough flavour to compete with the rest of the dish.