Bristol’s synonymity with “dude food” has grown massively over recent years. We’ve had some great burgers here for a while (think The Burger Joint, Atomic Burger and more), we have various BBQ joints (we’re looking at you, Grillstock and Spitfire), and have plenty more to come: at the time of writing, Byron had just opened, and MEATLiquor and Five Guys were well on their way.
Dude food in a pub environment, however, is not to be sniffed at, as our recent visit to The Hobgoblin on Gloucester Road proved.
That’s right: a traditional pub, serving mountainous burgers and now-famous fries: it’s not a big place, but it’s one that’s gained a great reputation for the quality of its food.
It’s a pretty standard pub to look at outside, but the indoor seating areas themselves have lots of quirky touches, giving you plenty to look at: television screens with calming fish tank imagery, pictures of cows and pigs made up of words that inform you which cuts are which, and an old fireplace decked out in fairy lights, among other things. There’s a small and cosy paved garden area at the back for smokers and sunny weather, with the whole place giving off a traditional pub vibe with a few more modern twists.
Behind the bar, as you’d expect, is the option of a pint of draught Hobgoblin, sitting alongside Guinness, Doombar, Bath Ales Gem, Stella, Kronenbourg and other options. Cider drinkers can choose a draught Old Rosie or Thatchers Gold, and there are plenty of interesting bottles which include Old Mout fruit ciders and Jeremiah Weed.
What we were really there for, though, was the food, having heard plenty about their menu. A kitchen refurb this August means that they now have a greater capacity: we had been warned that service had taken up to two hours in the past for some people, but for us it was around a half hour wait after ordering.
Menu-wise, expect plenty of burgers with a variety of toppings, some more normal (cheese and bacon, for example), and others more outrageous (the combination of bacon and peanut butter apparently works very well indeed). Every burger is served with a choice of fries or coleslaw, plus pickles and the Hobgoblin’s chipotle mayo. Most are priced at between £8 and £12 (bar the heart attack-inducing Triple Bypass Burger), with vegetarian options, chicken wings and a range of sides also available.
For all four of us, the choice was a no-brainer: it was The Squealer (£11.95) that stood out from the extensive list. A light yet firm sourdough bun provided a tasty mechanism for transporting the ample contents: a generous portion of salad, a juicy and well-seasoned beef patty, plenty of strong and tangy melted Cheddar, rashers of smokey, crispy bacon and the crowning glory: a veritable mountain of juicy pulled pork, cooked over hot coals and hickory. Epic. And with the crunch of the apple running through the coleslaw (good to see that it wasn’t overly sloppy, with just the right amount of mayo), we took pleasure in the knowledge that we were also getting closer to reaching our five a day.
As we’d heard so much about the “dirty dirty fries”, we couldn’t resist: at almost £9 a portion they’re not cheap, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for. As it turned out, we were glad that we followed the bar staff’s recommendation of just one portion between the four of us, as even this was too much. Piled high and coated with a fantastic blend of spices, the fries were topped with a generous amount of cheese as well as a wonderfully zingy coriander mayo, and nestling underneath was plenty more of that amazing pulled pork that we’d enjoyed in our burgers. It really is a dish so dirty that they’ve named it twice.
Apparently the Hobgoblin will soon have a dessert menu, but with not a single one of our party of four finishing our meals, it really wasn’t needed on the day of our visit. And if you’re finding yourself looking at our photos and thinking “what’s the big deal with that amount of food?”, then steel yourself for The Kraken: the venue’s resident food challenge. It’ll cost you £25 to give it a go, which will get you a triple bypass burger, a full portion of dirty dirty fries, 12 super hot wings, pickles and sauces. Oh, and you can even add extras to your burger if that’s not enough. The challenge has been completed – by one person only – with a time of just under half an hour to beat.
I think I’ll give the challenge a miss. We’ll be back, though – we’ve already got friends from outside Bristol demanding to visit. Definitely recommended – but bring a large appetite…