The Volunteer Tavern
The Volunteer is a pub that I wasn’t even aware of until today, hidden away in the residential area between Cabot Circus and Old Market its one of those places you kind of need to know about to find.
Considering the less that salubrious area I was very pleasantly surprised on entering to find myself in a friendly and welcoming olde-worlde style pub. I would say cosy but for the fact that it was perhaps a tad chilly inside, then it was brass monkeys outside and with the absence of a roaring fire to warm the room it was considerably cosier than the street.
Owned by the same people as The Hope & Anchor, this is a solid pub without the pretentious or annoying elements that some pubs seem to feel are necessary to lure you in. Inside is mainly seating and bar (what more do you really need without a fire?) and is pretty small, I guess it could have seated circa 40 at a squeeze. There is more seating in the garden area but no one was silly enough to brave that on the day I was there. Bizarrely there is also a piano (in tune) in the garden.
On the day I visited the kitchen were a man down so we had to wait quite a while for our food to arrive, but we were warned of that in advance so I can’t moan. When our food did arrive I have to admit that I was jealous that I didn’t order the pork which looked lovely. I had the beef which was well cooked and with a nice bit of pink in the middle. I enjoyed the cabbage with bacon (much better than the spiced purple cabbage that Bristol pubs seem obsessed with) and I have to say the veg was all very well done.
My gripe (I have to be critical about something) would be that I think the chef got a bit carried away with the rosemary, there was a lot in the meal which landed up being the dominant after taste. I asked a fellow diner about the lemon thyme chicken (a very subtle and delicate herb) to which I was told she wouldn’t have known it was flavoured except for the rosemary. That said the food, for the price, was very good and we all finished everything on the plates. The portions could have been a bit bigger, but that tempted us into the pudding.
I can’t resist a good crumble and apple and pear sounded great. Served with home made custard rather than the advertised ice cream (this is a massive improvement in my opinion) was lovely and just the right amount to top off the meal. There was a gravy boat full of custard so we weren’t left feeling hard done by and I have to say that it’s well worth making your own.
Overall the food was good and the service friendly. I was struggling with the score until the pudding arrived. +1 for the custard and the home-made horseradish.