As I get older (and this weekend I got whole year older in just 1 day!) I find that my taste in drinks and places to drink is changing. I find myself less and less inclined to drink pint after pint in some crowded pub and favour something a bit more...cultured.
Cocktails. When it comes to a spot of cultured drinking there really isn't anything quite like cocktails. I guess their cost puts younger drinkers off, and you need a good few years drinking under your belt to really appreciate a vodka martini or a proper (raw egg whites included) whisky sour.
The Rummer Hotel in Bristol was the perfect place for me to start celebrating my birthday with a few cocktails. If you don't know it is an unassuming little place on the edge of St. Nicholas' Market. And if you know the market you know it's not the first place you'd expect to find a smart, slate-floored, laid-back cocktail bar which also offers great food, courtesy of chef Greg McHugh.
We started with the current house special, a Japanese inspired mix that I can't actually remember the name of! What I do remember is the drink which was perfumed, slightly sweet with a fruity, lingering dry finish. Excellent on its own it would have enhanced some good sushi.
To follow we chose from the food menu. Not necessarily the first place you'd look for a cocktail, but The Rummer have done a very cool drink matching menu where every dish of every course has a suggested drink match.
I had been wanting to try the intriguing starter of Cornish Scallops & Braised Pig Cheek with Passionfruit, with the suggested Pink Spritzer cocktail. Meat and seafood isn't an unusual pairing, but the passionfruit had piqued my interest and I was keen to see how good the match was.
Individually, everything on the plate was great. The pig cheek had been braised and pulled apart then formed into a sort of terrine with some fresh tarragon. The deep, meaty taste of the cheek set off nicely against the aromatic herb. The scallops were as sweet a taste of the sea as you'll get and cooked with care and consideration. However, eaten with the pork the meat dominated and the scallop got a bit lost. And unfortunately the Passionfruit proved to be too difficult a trick to pull off. Passionfruit has a heady, powerful taste and to compensate the chef has put very little on the dish, to the point where it was barely worth having on there.
The drink match was not a success. The Passionfruit was completely out of focus in the background somewhere so all I got was a rose wine spritzer. Nice enough, but never a drink that was going to complement a braised pig cheek. As unexciting as it sounds, some sherry would have worked well here. The salty, sweet and dry flavours of a good fino would have been ideal.
The missus chose the Twice Baked Butternut Squash Souffle with Black Pepper & Hazelnut Tuile, Red Peppers, served with its suggested drink match - a cocktail of Tezon Reposado (Tequila), Crème de Noisette and Prosecco. It was a similar story to my starter. The souffle was excellent. The peppers were okay. The tuile was not - almost saccharine in sweetness it did the dish no favours at all. The sweet souffle and sweet peppers really needed a counterpoint, something savoury to round things out. The drink match was not a success either.
Which really is a bit of a shame because I really like The Rummer.
After our starters we left and headed down to The Glassboat which was a real disappointment. It was the idea of smoked eel which had tempted us to go, but the eel was a let down, the Primitivo I had was tasteless and the staff were politely indifferent. We didn't linger and instead headed back to The Rummer for another great cocktail.