I am, thanks to the occasional trip away for work, no stranger to dining alone. This has both its advantages and disadvantages. I like to use it as an opportunity to choose when and where I want to eat, hunting out restaurants that offer something a bit different, local, with nice settings. On a recent trip to Bristol I tried a couple of places that I wanted to share with you – Pieminister in Stokes Croft, and The Stable by the harbour.
Pieminister has come a long way since opening in 2003, and are now one of the biggest names in pies – especially at festivals. I headed to their original restaurant in Stokes Croft, Bristol, because a friend told me I had to see what all the fuss is about.
When I arrived at 7pm on a Sunday evening there was only one other table occupied in the small restaurant. I had booked a table but there was no need. I sat myself down at a table close to the counter, where you order, and caught the attention of a member of staff in the open kitchen who came and said hello and made sure I was settled.
The menu is basically split into pies and sides. I ordered the special, which was a lamb and mint pie with swede and carrot, along with mashed potato, mushy peas, and some courgette fritter sticks because they sounded interesting. For drinking I had Orchard Pig Apple Juice with Ginger and Chilli which was really very good, one to look up and buy for home.
My food arrived within about five minutes of ordering, incredibly fast. I guess with pies you can do this – they cook and keep warm with no problem, and the sides can also be ready in advance. I suspect it would have been faster if they didn’t have to deep fry my courgette. It was all arranged on a wooden board with the pie on top of the mash, mushy peas and courgette in separate dishes, and gravy in a little gravy boat. Everything was hot and cooked well, it was a lovely and very filling meal. The price was pretty decent too – even with all the sides I paid about £10.50 for my dinner.
The best bit of my meal by far was the courgette fritter sticks – courgette, battered and deep fried and served in a mug. Absolutely delicious. Genius, even. If I had a deep fat fryer at home I’d be having these a lot. I would actually go back to Pieminister just for this side dish!
I shall definitely be returning to Pieminister sometime, and would love to see them expand into Lincoln in the very near future. The good value simple food was excellent. And because you pay for what you want, you can make up a plate of food that suits your tastes (and wallet) – I guess that’s why there were a good number of students sat in there dining alone.
Website and Menu: Pieminister
Another order-at-the-counter place, which is a little awkward when dining alone, The Stable is a harbour-side restaurant in Bristol serving pizza and pie (and cider). It’s a large restaurant set with wooden tables and benches rather than individual tables, which means that you could end up sat next to someone you don’t know when its busy, but at 6pm on a Monday I had a whole table to myself.
The menu is small but not too limited. I had already decided I wanted pizza – one of the reasons I chose The Stable – and so I didn’t even glance through the pie part of the menu. There were 13 pizzas to choose from, including some unusual combinations, ranging from £8.50 for a simple margherita to £13 for the “blazing saddle”. For drinking, cider is where it’s at, but there was a small but nice range of soft drinks too – I tried the Cornish Orchard Cranberry and Raspberry Sparkle, which was really quite delicious. Tap water is available for free, just head to the right side of the bar where there are glasses and jugs for you to help yourself from the taps.
If you like thick and heavy deep pan pizzas then The Stable is not for you. The pizza bases are as thin as I have ever seen – and for me that is absolutely perfect. In my experience thin Italian style pizzas often also equal very sparse toppings, but thankfully this wasn’t bad at all. My Fresh Hawaiian had a nice layer of the home made tomato sauce, plenty of cheese, slices of ham and big chunks of pineapple, with a sliced avocado which was a nice addition to a traditional combination. Being so thin meant it was really easy to eat – served on a wooden board with a pizza cutter it was consumed in no time at all. It wasn’t cheap, though; I would normally expect a pizza, even a nice one, for under a tenner – this was £11. It was nice though, and enough for dinner on its own.
Unfortunately while I was enjoying my meal, at least two family groups make complaints to the wait staff, and saw one couple arrive, get seated, and leave again because they didn’t like the setting (they were very loud about it!). The complaints appeared to be over the time it was taking to receive food. My pizza did take half an hour from order to service, which I think is a long time for a pizza especially seeing as the restaurant was quiet. I didn’t really notice to be honest as I was busy reading blogs and looking at photographs on my iPad, keeping myself to myself as I let my legs relax after walking a good seven or eight miles up to and around Clifton Downs ‘on my way’ to dinner.
Next time I’m in Bristol I will definitely return to The Stable, and would recommend you give it a try. My pizza was good and despite being a little more than I’d usually pay I would order the same again.
Website and Menu: The Stable
Both Pieminister and The Stable were decent dining experiences, even on my own. When busy both will be a pain due to being order-at-the-counter, but when I visited it was quiet enough not to worry about losing my table when I went to order.