The elegant and timeless bar with an ‘interesting’ food menu

Eagled-eyed viewers of the current BBC One drama The Trial of Christine Keeler will have noticed many Bristol buildings and locations but how many people spotted The Strawberry Thief?

This award-winning bar in Broad Street was used as a 1960s cafe in the series, an appearance that meant a few days of closure this time last year when the film crews took over most of the street for various scenes.

The Strawberry Thief occupies a site that once housed Hunt’s restaurant in the late 1980s and 1990s.

It’s opposite the old Edward Everard printing works, which is soon to be transformed into a new hotel.

In the Victorian era, Broad Street was home to countless printers but the listed frontage of the Edward Everard building is of particular note as it depicts the great Victorian textile designer and writer William Morris, who was the founder of the influential Arts and Crafts movement.

One of Morris’s most celebrated wallpaper patterns was called The Strawberry Thief and the bar of the same name shares the designer’s love of all things artisanal.

(Image: Strawberry Thief)

Owner Mike Harris has a background in sustainability and that underpins everything they do at the bar, both in sourcing its drinks and using local suppliers for the food.

An elegant bar with William Morris wallpaper, brass chandeliers, tiled floors and walls dotted with Belgian beer signs, it’s a timeless but cool room that wouldn’t look out of place in Brussels or Berlin.

With a range of over 70 Belgian and British beers and ciders, mostly in bottles but a few on draught, it’s a must-visit for anybody who appreciates top quality drinks and paying for the pleasure.

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A quick look at the lengthy beer list reveals plenty of decent drinking under a fiver but there are also 330ml bottles of Belgian ‘Rochefort 10’ at £9.80 – although this strong, dark beer does have a whopping ABV of 11.3%, which almost takes it into wine territory when it comes to strength.

In the first week of January when many people claimed to be having a ‘dry’ month, there was certainly no signs of temperance.

I didn’t see anybody ordering soft drinks and the barman told me a lot of regulars were following ‘Tryanuary’, an initiative set up by craft ale breweries and bars encouraging people to try lots of different beers in the month when many drinkers were having a few weeks off.

After a pint of Bristol-brewed Lost & Grounded Keller Pils lager, I ordered a glass of Belgian Kasteel Rouge (£5.25 for a half pint), a dark beer with a rich and fruity finish.

The food at The Strawberry Thief is overseen by Brendan Baker, ex head-chef of Flour & Ash, and the menu is full of beer-friendly grazing dishes and specials.

There’s a grilled cheese sandwich with Cornish Gouda, dill pickles and jalapeños, and deep-fried mussels with vinegar mignonette.

You could also soak up the booze with a local cheeseboard or a 6oz rare Herefordshire onglet steak trencher with ‘cowboy’ butter and straw potatoes.

The stack of onion bhaji rings (£4) (Image: Mark Taylor)

I kicked off with a stack of onion bhaji rings (£4), the crisp batter boasting a light Indian spice tingle and the onion inside soft and fragrant.

The special main courses included turnip, leek and potato gratin with salt roasted beetroot (£12.50) or a Middle White pork chop with parsnip and quince for £14.95.

I went for the caramelised shallot tarte tatin (£12.50) – one of several vegan dishes on offer. The base was more pizza-like than the buttery pastry I expected but the filling of soft, melting and charred shallots was sweet, sticky and seductive.

Caramelised shallot tarte tatin (£12.50) (Image: Mark Taylor)

There was also a silky slick of ‘sweet purée’ – it didn’t specify what it was but it tasted like parsnip or may have been sweet potato.

To finish, pumpkin seed ice cream was a little nubbly and grainy in texture but it had a nutty flavour that worked well with the Conker cold-brew coffee liquor poured over the top. The portion was a bit on the parsimonious side though – £6 is a touch ambitious for a small scoop of ice cream even with a shot of coffee liquor.

THE VERDICT:

A phenomenal beer selection backed by an interesting and enjoyable food menu, The Strawberry Thief might be tucked away off the main drag, but it’s well worth hunting down.

RATINGS:

Overall: 4

Food: 3.5 (Drinks: 5)

Ambience: 4

Value: 3.5

Service: 4

The Strawberry Thief, 26 Broad Street, Bristol, BS1 2HG. Tel: 0117 9256925. www.strawberrythiefbar.com

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