Superlative Steak That Matches Up To Its Own Hype
When I was tipped off about The GlassBoat – a floating restaurant in Bristol – I was initially sceptical.
Bristol is a town that has been constantly juggling with identities for decades now. First it wants to be a historically rich port town, capable of drawing in international tourists. Then it wants to be a rough’n’ready student village, that can hold its own with the likes of Manchester and Liverpool. Now, with rent prices looking to join the upper echelon’s of the English landscape, its hoping to appease the masses of Londoners, keen to leave the Big Smoke for a slightly smaller Smoke.
Sitting in line with my expectations of this mixed up city is The GlassBoat. With its kooky setup and water location, alarm bells were ringing in my head long before I made the trip down South.
Those bells were ringing loud and clear until I discovered that not only has the restaurant been open for the past 30 years, but that its also had the guiding hand of Freddy Bird, the acclaimed chef behind the inviting Lido (also in Bristol). After a quick check online, my suspicions were allayed and I quite happily booked a table in the 100-cover restaurant, hoping to taste, what the website boldly claims is, ‘the best steaks in Bristol’.
Although the prices in Bristol’s top tier restaurants have been inching up for the last few years (we’re looking at you, Nettle & Rye) you’ll be pleased to hear that The GlassBoat’s prices are reasonable, with the lunch Prix Fixe costing only £15 for 3 courses. With such a bold claim on their website, though, I was only ever going to be eating their steak. From good stock (Herefordshire, Shorthorn, Aberdeen Angus) and raised on local farms, I ordered the 250g Rump at £19.50.
Whilst I waited for my food, I admired the efforts that the owners had made to keep this decades old business afloat. From the exterior, the boat’s traditional design makes one think of twee postcards and chocolate box villages. Once inside, though, this disconcerting quaintness gives way to modern aesthetics and the smells of roasting meat assuage any remaining doubts. Seated by a pleasantly mannered young man, the service is relaxed – without the faux-friendly cloying attitude that seems to be slowly invading our country’s restaurant industry.
The meat arrived, after a brief interlude, gloriously pink in the middle, with decent colouring on the outside. Whilst I may have tasted better Bearnaise sauces, the plate as a whole, arriving with golden fries and a hearty salad, was more than worth the money. With the sun setting into the river, I took my time finishing the excellent Chateau Pineraie and considered how poorly I’d judged the city of Bristol.
Yes – its suffered from the same kind of gentrification that has left the, once vibrant, neighbourhoods of Shore Ditch and Camden a culturally vapid playground, of exposed brickwork and bare bulbs; but does it really deserve the ire of this writer?
Buoyed somewhat by the excellent wine, I left a handsome tip for the deserving staff at The GlassBoat and almost left Bristol with nothing but positive impressions. That was until I lost my footing on a curb and stumbled into a group of smartly turned out, bespectacled millennials, who referred to me as a ‘Tory bastard’ and told me to ‘clear off’ (expletives omitted).