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I’ve lived in Long Ashton for just over four years now, and whilst I absolutely love living here, if we want to go somewhere really nice for food then it generally means travelling into town. Now don’t get me wrong – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the pubs we have. The Angel is perfect for anyone looking for a ‘proper pub’ and if you want a great roast after a Sunday walk in Ashton Court then The Dovecote is great, but if we’re looking for somewhere a bit special it’s always a case of going a bit further afield.
All of that changes with The Bird in Hand. Recently refurbished by Long Ashton local Toby Gritten (the brains behind The Pumphouse – if you haven’t been then you must), The Bird in Hand has gone from being a real ‘local pub for local people’ to being something really worth shouting about. So after months of saying “We really must try The Bird in Hand”, we finally managed to get down there on the Sunday before Christmas.
The new interior is a stark contrast to how the pub looked in it’s former life, with a light, open bar area, and a charmingly mismatched atmosphere, which couldn’t fail to make you feel instantly at ease. That’s not to say that the attention to detail isn’t there, as everything from the eclectic mixture of knick knacks adorning the walls, shelves and mantelpieces to the menu are all very clearly thought through.
Which brings me very nicely onto the menu, which changes regularly and uses produce that’s not only local and seasonal, but often foraged from the surrounding area. To quote, ‘everything from the bread to the black pudding’ is prepared on site and as well as the a la carte menu, The Bird in Hand also boasts a pretty impressive selection of bar snacks which would blow your peanuts and pork scratchings out of the water.
When we visited we had the choice of four mains, and despite a bit of bullying, we couldn’t persuade Will to have the beef, so ended up with two portions of fried Haddock, chips and tartare sauce (£11), one roast rib of Old Spot, crackling & apple sauce (£12,50), and one serving of Ironbark pumpkin, chestnuts & Ogle Shield (£10). I challenge the average, non-cheffy person to be able to deduce what the latter actually was, but our extremely friendly waitress advised us that it was a vegetarian gratin, served in a skillet which was apparently “very, very cheesy” – we were in.
My pork was ‘melt in your mouth’ perfect, served with roast potatoes and a huge wedge of salty crackling. Whilst I was expecting a side of veg I certainly wasn’t ready for the mountain of buttered greens, spiced red cabbage and peppery mashed swede that arrived, and I certainly wasn’t expecting the side of cauliflower cheese which followed – all for me!
The fish was just as good, and was so big that it was almost falling off the plate. It was served with minted mushy peas, tartare sauce and what we initially thought was a fairly modest side of chips. However, factor in the beast of a fish and it was more than plenty.
For me, the stand out dish was the pumpkin, chestnut and Ogle Shield gratin. I don’t know if it was the combination of the sweet pumpkin and chestnuts with the seriously savoury Ogle Shield, or just the fact that for a cheese fiend like me this was somewhere close to cheesy, creamy heaven, but whatever it was it was a winner. I’ve since tried to recreate this at home, but mine wasn’t a patch on The Bird in Hand’s!
At just over a tenner for a main you could argue that The Bird in Hand is tipping the slightly more expensive end of the pub grub scale, but as far as I’m concerned it’s well worth it. And perhaps as a local I’m entirely biased, but I’d say it’s definitely something for Long Ashton to boast about!