Review: Lunch on a budget with Meat and Bread at The Three Tuns, by Mark Taylor
It is just five months since chef Ben Warran launched Meat and Bread as a mobile sandwich cart located on various windy street corners around Bristol's city centre.
Almost entirely through word of mouth and Twitter, he has built up a huge following for his high-end sandwiches that showcase meat he has smoked and cured himself.
At its peak as a mobile cart located on College Green, there were rarely fewer than 50 people at a time queuing up to buy one of his sandwiches, whether it was braised shin of beef with pickled onions, rocket and horseradish, jerk chicken or smoked shoulder of lamb with salsa verde.
Earlier this month, Ben moved his entire Meat and Bread operation to the kitchen of award-winning pub The Three Tuns, a short walk from his usual College Green spot.
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Serving sandwiches lunchtimes and evenings, from Tuesday to Saturday, this is the start of what should be an interesting collaboration with the pub's owner, Arbor Ales, the innovative brewery based in Lawrence Hill.
When I arrived early on Friday evening, the chalkboard menu listed six types of hot sandwich, although the best-selling Reuben (salt beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing £6.50), had sold out.
Apparently, Ben's customers had chomped their way through a staggering 40kg of salt beef in two days and such is the demand for this signature sarnie that he may have to buy a new fridge just to house the cured meat.
Other options on the menu included the PBLT (cured pork belly, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, roast garlic mayo, £5.50) and the meat-free crispy mozzarella, roast Portobello mushroom and romesco sauce (£5).
I went for the special of the day – porter-braised ox tongue, crispy mozzarella and aioli (£6), which I had to eat standing at the bar with my pint of Moor Amoor porter ale as every table was taken.
Eating a Meat and Bread sandwich standing up is a tricky, messy business but this is exactly what "dirty food" is all about.
The Hobbs House ciabatta had been toasted so the crust was hot and crisp and the soft, open texture inside soaked up the aioli and the melting mozzarella that was escaping from its breadcrumbed coat. The generous slices of tongue were incredibly tender and the romaine lettuce provided a cool crunch.
The arrival of Meat and Bread at The Three Tuns will certainly raise an eyebrow from anybody who thought pub bar snacks stopped at a pickled egg and a sweaty bap wrapped in clingfilm. This is beer-soaking-up tucker in a very different league.