When I first visited The Star and Dove over a year ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the food quality of their bar snacks and I was determined to make a return trip at some point to try their dinner menu. Since I rarely visit Totterdown, this return trip has taken a while longer than I had hoped but this visit was well worth it and I wished I had gone back sooner. Whenever I am looking to try something new dining out, I would look for certain qualities in a restaurant and this wonderful gastropub hits all the right notes for me. From the moment you look at the menu, you immediately know that you are in for something quite different. The distinctive concept about the food here is that whilst most restaurants based their cooking on either a traditional or modern interpretation. The Star and Dove does neither of the two but instead goes even further back from what we understand as traditional cooking and takes you on a something closer to history lesson of what English food used to taste like.
On our visit, our menu was an introduction to the food of William Verrall, a noted eighteen century English pubican and head chef of The White Hart Inn in Lewes, Sussex. Verrall’s achievements included the introduction of French methods of cooking to English food of its time which was met with much popularity. As a forerunner in centuries before the existence of gastropubs, Verrall pioneered this concept and also published his book in 1759, titled ‘A Complete System of Cookery’ which was the likely inspiration for this menu.
For starters, we ordered the Calves Tongue & Cauliflower (£6.50), which was corned and slow cooked beef tongue with Bromham cauliflower, watercress and olive oil. The taste and texture of the ox tongue was quite different from what I expected as it was quite tender full of flavour while the purple Bromham cauliflower was a visual treat. We also had the Eggs on Soleil (£5.50), which was wine marinated duck eggs cooked in beer batter, aged vinegar mayonnaise & fried parsley. If you are looking for a no nonsense starter to satisfy your appetite with a pint of ale, this is the ideal fix for you.
For main courses, we tried the Beef Tails with Carrots (£15.00), which was slow braised ox tail, steamed rainbow carrots, pickled shallots, roasted meat stock and thyme. I do not recall the last time I saw ox tail being offered on a menu and with my keen appreciation for this beef delicacy, I simply could not resist ordering this. My taste for ox tail lies in its intense flavour and the delicate texture of the meat to which there is no finer cut of beef that can take its place. As expected, this dish was delicious, robust in flavour and a great match with a glass of Merlot. How I wish to see more ox tail items on restaurant menus today. We also had the Dressed Trout ‘C. Cottons Receipt’ (£14.00), which was a fillet of river trout poached in butter beer sauce served with potato crisps, horseradish and shredded lemon. It is so common to find overcooked fish nowadays that you would half way expect it anywhere but the trout was cooked to perfection. I was unsure about the taste of horseradish with the trout but the slow cooked onion at the base was quite delicious as it absorbed the flavours of the all the ingredients.
For desserts, we had the Pears Portuguese Fashion (£5.50) which was port poached pear with cinnamon cream and lemon. The taste of the fruits, spices and cream was in good balance but the poached pear was a little hard which made it a little difficult to cut when eating with the given teaspoon. We also had the Cherries in French Paste (£5.50) which was fried Beigners, dried and puree’d cherries which was a remarkable blend of varying textures and flavours including crispiness, sponginess of the fritter, the smooth creamy paste comparable to a fine panna cotta and the refreshing fruitiness of the cherries.
The service staffs were polite, enthusiastic and keen to explain the menu concept and the food. I was most impressed by the innovative direction of the food with care to its traditional roots, whilst all dishes solidly executed without falling into the trap what could have been close to a themed medieval banquet. Faithful to its food concept and without being commercial, The Star and Dove today bring thoughtfulness and care in its food which is a rare quality nowadays. For that alone, it is worth another visit and a strong recommendation.
The Star and Dove
75-78 St Luke’s Road
Tel. 0117 933 2892