The doors may have been opened only an hour earlier, but by 6pm The Bristol Yard is already out of their homemade sausages ($10). And that's a real pity, considering bangers and mash are the, ahem, meat and potatoes of any Brit pub. They're also out of haggis ($12) and baked beans on toast ($7). With so much on the menu AWOL, we contemplate coming back another time, but we keep calm and carry on.
Open a month or so, it's pretty clear the kitchen is still trying to gauge the number of customers
. And with only about 20 seats to fill (and they fill fast) I'm sure they're betting on a brisk take-out business to turn this charming Christie Pits hole-in-the-wall into a smashing success.
Bristol Yard is probably as true to standard British pub fare as you get in this town, with the added bonus of an eclectic array of UK soft drinks you've probably never heard of before, like the grape drink Vimto ($2), the fruity Irn Bru ($2) and the Bass Shandy, to name a few. They're out of some of these, too, but it does help make up for the fact that on our visit they hadn't yet secured a liquor license. Imagine, a pub without a pint of lager. We are not amused.
In this teensy space, our sweet, tall server looks a bit like a bull in a china shop, a somewhat frazzled chap who seems a bit overwhelmed by a full house of patrons eager to wolf down Cal Hager and chef Davy Love's handmade foods, many of which include savoury pies like a classic cheese and onion ($10), steak and stilton ($11) and chicken tikka masala ($10). We begin with an all meat pork pie ($12) with bacon and pancetta, and the steak, ale and mushroom ($10). Clearly, a lot of love goes into making these pastries, their golden crusts so artfully crafted. But why are they so ballistic-nylon tough? And there are other issues: the steak is far too dry and bland; and while the pork is nicely spiced and stuffed, it, too, is dry; pull at it with a fork and small cubes of pig come out attached to another by strings of fat holding it all together. May I suggest that unless you really dig the look of headcheese, take a pass.
A cornish pasty ($10), the English version of the panzerotto or empanada, has the bonus of added veggies, but only in accordance with the strict rules of the Cornwall Pasty Society that dictates the ingredients: beef, swede (that's rutabaga or turnip to you, mate), potato, salt and pepper. Much to our chagrin, this meat is the toughest yet as is the beautiful looking pastry. Thankfully a light, buttery fish and chips is moist and flaky with ($12) a greaseless ale batter that's indeed something to marvel at.
All orders are served on ginormous, platter-sized plates that could probably easily accommodate a toddler. Their added drama is a nice medieval touch, but there is a practical reason: portions are ridiculously large, including gargantuan sides like some pretty fine chips (fries to you) or barely-warm mashed potatoes and a typical salad of mixed greens. Mushy peas are the obvious standout, but why not also include coleslaw or even some swede for a bit more variety.
Desserts are a welcome surprise, starting with treacle tarts ($5). Oh yeah, they are out of those, too. So a banoffee pie ($5) of rich toffee, whipped cream and crushed Graham crackers it is, a parfait that could satisfy the sweet tooth of four adults. And a tiny chocolate brownie ($5) with homemade orange ice cream sports the perfect blend of sweet with citrus.
Alas, such highlights are few and far between. The concept is a terrific one, but execution leaves little to be desired, save for an exquisite homemade HP sauce and a beautifully chunky tartar sauce that reveals a real flash of talent. But with no liquor license and only cash accepted, for now The Bristol Yard is a just a great place for takeaway fish and chips.