Pre-theatre dinner An 'off night' on the Harbourside
We had actually wanted to eat in the main dining room upstairs at Bordeaux Quay, but the voice on the other end of the phone explained that the restaurant now opens only for Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch.
Oh, and also throughout December and for university graduation ceremonies, which meant that on a wet Wednesday in February, our only dining option was a table in the ground-floor brasserie, between the stairs and kitchen.
It is just over three years since the Murray family took over the running of Bordeaux Quay after Bristol chef and organic food champion Barny Haughton left the business.
The ground-floor brasserie is a more relaxed affair than the more formal restaurant and it's a bustling place, with its own bakery, bar and delicatessen.
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When we arrived for our 6.30pm table, the place was doing a brisk trade and it took a while for one of the many staff on duty to spot us waiting near the reception desk.
In such a large and busy restaurant, such things are usually forgivable, but it was the first of several slip-ups over the next hour or so, which hinted at either an inexperienced team or a team in desperate need of an anchor. Although I'm sure there was somebody in charge, I couldn't work out exactly who it was.
Things didn't improve when one of the starters we were given wasn't one we ordered. After breaking the bad news to the waitress, the tea-smoked duck breast with Moscatel dressed grape and walnut salad (£7.50) eventually arrived and it was worth the wait – half a dozen slices of tender duck with a decent flavour and texture, complemented by a spring salad with crunch and sweetness.
A starter of salt pollock brandade (£6.50) was less memorable, not just because I am yet to be convinced by pollock when it comes to flavour, but because it was bordering on fridge-cold and under-seasoned. It wasn't helped by the accompanying watercress, which was limp and tired, and the toasted rye bread being burnt on the edges.
Mains took too long to arrive, especially when most people around us seemed to be ordering only mussels and burgers. The fish and chips (£12.50) was OK. Or, at least, the fish (haddock from Newlyn) was good quality, with large white flakes and its batter light and crisp. The hand-cut chips could have been crisper.
My "porchetta" (£13) was a generous dish for the price tag – the Italian-style rolled pork belly benefiting from thin layers of sweet raisins, herbs and salami, as well as crunchy crackling. The accompanying cavolo nero was perfectly cooked and retained a bite, the sweet, fruity cider jus was well balanced.
Desserts were a mixed bag. Chocolate mousse (£5.50) wasn't as light and fluffy as it could have been and the streaks of unmixed egg whites at the bottom were a schoolboy error.
Frangipane and damson jam tart (£5.50) would have been even better had it been warmed up rather than served cold and dry.