Dinner A great pie, a classic pud and a fine pint
Pubs near football grounds used to be the last place you might expect to get something to eat, unless it was a gristly meat pie or a rubbery pickled egg.
The Wellington at the top of Gloucester Road kicks that memory into touch by being a pub that has become a destination for its food as much as its beer.
The closest pub to the Memorial Stadium, it is the boozer of choice for Rovers fans and Bristol Rugby supporters, who pack the place out on match days. The rest of the time, The Welly is a relaxed pub for locals who want to sup real ale or diners heading for the separate restaurant area at the back.
Since Bath Ales brewery took over it has invested heavily into the refurbished restaurant area as well as the bedrooms upstairs. The restaurant is almost conservatory in style, with skylights and windows looking out to the outdoor seating area.
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It has its own smartly dressed waiting staff and table service and the welcome from Orla and Vicky – their names were on the bill – was warm and friendly.
Bath Ales have raised the bar when it comes to food in pubs in this region and the menu at the Wellington is packed with British classics. A section called "our classics" includes cheeseburger and chips for £10.95 and an 8oz rump steak with all the trimmings for £14.50. Other main dishes include slow roast pork belly, mash, greens and parsley sauce (£10.50) or root vegetable crumble with buttered greens (£9.25).
And then there are the pies. There were three to choose from – chicken, ham and leek or beef and ale from the printed menu, plus steak and kidney from the specials board. All were £10.95 including mash.
It was the latter that caught my eye, mainly because steak and kidney is arguably the king of all pies and one that you rarely see on menus these days.
And what a pie. Served in an enamel camping-style baking dish, it arrived on a wooden board, its shortcrust pastry lid slightly raised and arched, alongside a dish of buttery mash.
Beneath the excellent pastry, the filling was packed with large chunks of outrageously tender beef and an equal amount of plump kidneys bathing in a dark, rich, generously seasoned gravy. I simply cannot recall eating a better version of this classic dish.
The same can be said of the sticky toffee pudding (£5.25) that followed. Light, springy and served with a ball of very good vanilla ice cream, it was just as it should be – no frills, no twists, just a classic pud well executed.