A big event for us last weekend…our first meal out with the baby! He’s three months old now, but I’ve been terrified of taking him out for a meal as he can be quite unsettled…but The Grace on Gloucester Road was the perfect environment.
We walked in to find plenty of diners with either babies or dogs (or both) in tow, and we actually had an NCT group meet-up at a huge table behind us – with plenty of other small people around, we figured it would drown out any crying from Oscar…
After a friendly welcome at the bar when we arrived, we were taken to our table, which had a third place setting with highchair and plastic cutlery for the little one – he’s too young at the moment, but it was a lovely touch, and shows that the team at The Grace really do listen when you book. The place had a really nice buzz to it, but you could still hear the gentle music in the background – we felt really at home. And there’s a hidden garden out the back too, which is a real suntrap in the summer…
It’s now been nearly four years since The Grace opened, with the Zazu’s Kitchen team at the helm. They bill themselves as a community pub, and take great care in sourcing both their drinks (with local, national and international options available) and their food. Head chef Charlie Sutton cooks everything from scratch on-site, and with a menu described as “simple, fresh and cooked with integrity”, we were eager to see what their offering was all about.
A Diet Coke for me and half a Cosmic Pop for the other half (he was driving), and we enjoyed the opportunity to take a good look at the menu while the baby was still asleep…
The lunch menu features both small plates designed for sharing (it was recommended to us that we order four between the two of us), and homemade sourdough pizzas, along with a small selection of sides. It was great to see a range of dishes that were different from normal pub fare – but I was surprised to see no marking of dishes suitable for certain dietary requirements – I’d have thought that should now be the norm…
The first dish to arrive was the octopus, Jersey Royals, capers and smoked paprika (£7.50) – I love Jersey Royal season! The potatoes didn’t disappoint either, nice and tender and well seasoned. In all honesty, though, I think their rich, creamy flavour masked the delicacy of the beautifully cooked octopus – I’d have been happy just with the seafood, capers and paprika.
The celeriac, aubergine and lemon thyme cannelloni, spiced tomatoes, pine nut crumb (£6) was next on the list, the charred aubergine used in lieu of pasta to wrap the celeriac filling. You could smell the lemon thyme as soon as you lifted your fork to your mouth, and combined with the tender tiny dice of celeriac, the flavours were beautiful. The pine nuts were a great addition – they added both flavour and texture to a dish that otherwise melted in the mouth.
We were both huge fans of the goat and pork rogan josh meatballs, coriander and yoghurt (£7.50): the meat was soft and succulent, and the blend of pork and goat just right so that the flavour of the goat came through. Both sauce and meatballs alike were fragrantly spiced, with a heat that grew with every mouthful, tempered by the cooling yoghurt and the spike of the fresh coriander.
We decided we had to try one of the pizzas too, and opted for the pork belly, honey and harissa glazed bell peppers (£11.50) – it’s nice to see topping choices that are different from the norm. The thin base was a little soggy towards the middle (it was a knife and fork job) but lovely and crisp on the edges, and while the pizza wasn’t crammed with toppings, it wasn’t stingy either – there were just enough for all the flavours to come through. The peppers were soft with a little bit of fiery heat, the honey offering just a hint of sweetness that was the perfect pairing with the generous chunks of melt-in-the-mouth pork. Delicious.
The menu also features a selection of small desserts to share, priced between £2.50 and £3 each, or at 3 for £8. It would’ve been rude not to try all three, and we started with the Greek yoghurt, orange, spiced honey (£2.50). Very breakfast-like, the thick, slightly sour yoghurt and the tang of the orange segments were lovely with the sweetness of the honey, which was incredibly delicately spiced.
The chocado, candied lime (£3) turned out to be a chocolate mousse made with avocado – and it was super-rich. It had an almost ganache-like consistency, velvety smooth and with an almost earthy flavour, and the thin sliver of chewy, sweet lime was beautiful.
I can honestly say that the sticky toffee pudding (£3) was the best I’ve had in a long time. The sponge was very light, not stodgy like many can be, and the sauce rich, and with a caramelised, almost fruity flavour. The pecan crumb turned out to be large chunks of pecan, which added a bit of crunch.
All in all, we were pretty damn impressed. The atmosphere in The Grace was lovely, the food beautifully presented, the menu choices nice and varied and the flavours fantastic. It’s a great place for a catch up with friends or family, it’s perfect for small children and babies, and the staff were both friendly and incredibly helpful. We’ll definitely be back.
Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this 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.