After opening in 2009, the Bath Ales-owned Graze Bar and Chophouse on Queen Square had its first major facelift in early 2014. Bristol-based Simple Simon Design were tasked with giving the venue a whole new look, with a redesigned open plan kitchen and improved seating areas at the top of the list. The restaurant was closed for a month while the refurbishment took place, and is now back with a vengeance.
The large outdoor paved area is popular during the summer, while the front door leads through to a venue that is split into two: on the left, a drinking area, on the right, a more formal dining area. Both feature comfortable padded bench-style seats at the tables around the edges of the room, and the bar in the centre of the restaurant is perfectly placed to serve both drinkers and diners alike.
A giant white cow visible from the outside above the front door, as well as a cow’s head emerging from the wall above the kitchen give an indication that this place is known for its meat. Their Josper charcoal oven is used both for steaks and other menu items such as burgers and more, although there are also vegetarian and fish options available for non-carnivores.
We headed over for dinner on a Monday night, and the place was surprisingly busy considering the day of the week – we were told that this wasn’t unusual. We were seated at a table right next to the open plan kitchen, giving us the opportunity to watch the chefs at work, the dishes they were putting out helping us to decide from the varied menu. We started with a bottle of Bottlegreen Elderflower Presse (£2.95) for me and a pint of Gem (£3.30) for Chris, which we drank while we made our choices.
The food menu is divided into starters, Josper oven dishes, other mains, salads and sides, with a small selection of bar snacks also available for those who want to take the venue’s name at face value and graze while they enjoy a drink.
To be honest, my choice of starter was made before I’d even arrived. I’d only ever eaten duck hearts once in my life before, but had been searching for somewhere I could enjoy them again – I was glad to see them on the Graze menu! A seriously generous portion, the Graze duck heart dish (£7) consisted of a huge heap of the hearts, served on slices of toast and lightly coated in a rich port sauce speckled with chopped dates. The hearts themselves were amazing, with both a duck and a slight liver-like taste to them, and the sauce the perfect accompaniment. To be honest, though, I could probably have eaten this as a main course, it was that big…
Chris decided to start with the Cornish squid (£6.50), lightly battered and not at all chewy, and served with a nice garlicky aioli and half a lemon wrapped in muslin to avoid unwanted pips. He loved both the flavour and the texture, and again, was impressed that it was another generous portion.
After such a great starter, my main was sadly a bit of a let down. I ordered the 200g Graze steak burger (£12.95), topped with mustard and cheese, and served with a portion of fries and a deep fried pickle.
I loved the diner-style presentation, with the burger wrapped in paper and the fries in a paper-lined bucket, and the fries themselves were beautifully cooked and seasoned. The deep fried pickle was a lovely combination of sweet and savoury – but the batter that coated the pickle was more like a pancake batter, which surprised me.
Although the burger tasted fantastic, with lashings of mustard and lovely fresh salad toppings, it was sadly a bit overcooked and chewy. The seasoning of the meat itself was great, though, and I reckon if it had been taken out of the Josper just 3 minutes earlier, it would have been perfect.
No such issues with Chris’ 225g sirloin steak (£19.95), which was served perfectly medium rare as he’d requested, and with the same great fries as my burger. The steaks came with a choice of butters (Port & Stilton, Garlic, or Café de Paris) or sauces (Cognac & Peppercorn, Béarnaise, or Bone Marrow Gravy) for £1.50 each, and he opted for the bone marrow gravy, served in its own little pan and with a superb richness that suited both the meat and the fries.
Sitting so close to the kitchen was a bad idea…having seen the side orders flying out, we decided to order a couple of our own to try. Priced at £3.50 each, we went for both the macaroni cheese and the Gruyère creamed spinach: the former incredibly rich and oozing with melted cheese, the latter in a creamy, cheesy sauce that meant it probably wasn’t the most healthy choice in the world. Both of the sides were stunning – we just may have overestimated our appetites slightly…
Sadly, we were too full for dessert, and had to pass on options such as the sticky banana and stem ginger pudding, butterscotch and vanilla ice cream (£5.50) that would undoubtedly have been our first choice had our appetites been larger.
All in all, an enjoyable meal – the overcooking of the burger was the only real let down. I’m now keen to head back and sample their Sunday lunch menu…
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.