There’s a new menu offering at PLATE at The Bird as it welcomes its new Head Chef Kieren Ballam, says Emma Clegg.
The County Hotel in Pulteney Street was bought in 2018 by hoteliers Ian and Christa Taylor, and it opened 18 months later in a very different guise, as The Bird. This was an energetic, dashing and imaginative creative rebrand of an old-style, grand, all-rooms-the-same Victorian hotel resulting in an ultra boutique experience jostling with colourful, edgy design statements, upmarket luxuries and all-round artistic panache.
In 2020 the restaurant PLATE followed; a large space on the lower ground floor subtly divided with glass partitions into more intimate subsections. It’s a flamboyant, low-light space and the bold combination of terracotta and cobalt blue walls intensifies the snug vibes of the dining experience. Balancing this is a transformative influx of light from a large doorway that leads to the terrace and garden. The avian theme of the hotel is picked up in the restaurant with a central illuminated bar serving bird-themed cocktails such as Greenfinch and Chacalaca, and Toucan and Flamingo mocktails. The restaurant’s name is also reinforced with swarming mini groups of wall-mounted plates in contemporary designs. And the upside-down rowing boat attached to the ceiling that’s set with lights and dried foliage is another good talking point.
PLATE was relaunched in March this year after welcoming new General Manager Amy Gleadow and ex-Chequers Head Chef Kieren Ballam who has crafted and introduced a fresh menu. We were here to experience the restaurant’s new Sunday lunch offering. You cannot escape the fact that Sunday lunch is a family, traditional experience, so in a hotel and restaurant that specialises in unique concepts and styling, what was in store?
As we considered the course options we enjoyed an apéritif, a gin and tonic with the Kaleidoscope Gin created specially for PLATE, which features home-grown hibiscus, and a Robin cocktail enchantingly served in a bird-shaped glass with gin, prosecco, citrus shrub and lemon, with Tiki Bitters nestling rosily on the breast of the bird/base of the glass. Good start, we thought. Next we shared a platter of Bertinet sourdough with butters and Nocellara olives from the Nibbles menu. I was adamant it was not appropriate to eat all the freshly baked sourdough, but this policy failed as we were overcome by its airy texture, sweet tang and the trio of butters.
For the main dish I had Roast Chicken with Duck Fat Roast Potatoes with glazed carrot, maple parsnip, buttered greens and Yorkshire pudding. The chicken arrived perched on the crispy roast potatoes, with the other elements to each side and a jug of gravy to pour at leisure, a good thing as everyone has their own gravy serving preference. Our other main was
The restaurant’s name is reinforced with swarming mini-groups of wall-mounted plates in contemporary designs
Pan-fried Fillet of Sea Bream with leek gratin, rosemary salted fries and sautéed winter greens. Both were winning lunch combinations – undiminished by the over consumption of sourdough earlier – with the vegetable produce sourced from the no-dig kitchen garden at Homewood in Freshford, The Bird’s sister hotel (both part of Ian and Christa Taylor’s Kaleidoscope Collection). Other menu choices included Roast Rump of Somerset Beef or Roast Pork Belly with the classic accompaniments, or the vegetarian Butternut Squash and Smoked Applewoods Cheddar Wellington with confit leeks, rapeseed roast potatoes, glazed carrots, buttered greens and maple and mustard parsnips. There is also a Gastro Children’s Menu – for those who need simple combinations of pasta and sauce or fish and chips – so it can be a full family experience.
We concluded our meal with a Dark Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream and Apple and Rhubarb Crumble Tart with Vanilla Anglaise, both elegantly presented but with enough substance to fulfil that sweet yearning, even though room was at that stage in short supply.
The dishes arrived swiftly, looked beautiful, more than fulfilled taste expectations and the service was relaxed but exemplary. What more can be asked from a Sunday lunch?
Our meal for two at PLATE, without drinks, totalled £80.