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The Essential Guide to Bristol
21 October 2009
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The Grain Barge

Venue Image
Venue Image
Hotwell Road,

(0117) 929 9347 

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byJerry Short20/11/2008
A dockside restaurant and bar that is truly ship shaped and Bristol fashion.

The Venue
The Grain Barge was an engineless boat built in the 1930s to be towed across the Seven Estuary with its cargo of barley and wheat. Bought by the Bristol Beer Factory in 2007, and moored on Mardyke Warf in Hotwells, it has been completely refitted using recycled industrial artifacts resulting in a clean and minimal decor.

It has two bars, one downstairs where live music is held on a Friday, and the upper bar which has panoramic views across the docks. The downstairs bar is also available for private hire every night of the week except Fridays.

Because of the large amount of glass in the design, the interior is well lit and airy, but on a summer’s day there are few better places to sit than on the open deck. Sun worshippers and smokers are predominant up here.

There are not a huge number of seats with dining tables and the alternatives are a large comfy sofa and lounge chairs, great for sprawling on but challenging to eat from.

The People
Inside, the atmosphere is relatively cosy, a feeling reinforced by the friendly staff who are keen to answer questions about the extensive range of beers the barge is famed for.

The clientele, presumably known as your shipmates, are a mixture of thirsty students, a gaggle of forty-something Guardian readers, a bevy of thespians and the obligatory media couples.

The Food
The chef in charge is Brazilian and she has apparently cooked in award-wining restaurants across the globe but, happily for Bristol, appears to have stayed.

There is a range of daily specials such as crisply grilled sardines with a vibrant lime and honey dressing for £6.50 or, if being on a boat is as close as you want to get to fish, there's tortilla with chorizo and leafy green salad at £5.50. Specials can go up to £11.50.

They also sell Pie Minister pies, and traditional pub classics like bangers and mash and a range of sandwiches.

Desserts go from £3.95 to £5.20 and include such glucose and fruit filled delights as raspberry and apple tart with ginger and honey ice cream, or the slightly intoxicating bread and butter pudding with chocolate ice cream and Baileys.

If you like themed evenings then The Grain Barge is the place to head. Tuesdays are Tapas Tuesdays, Wednesdays are wonderful pie and a pint night, where for £7 you can get a homemade pie and a pint, and on Fridays fresh fish from Cornwall is on the menu. It’s a little surprising, seeing that the barge is owned by a brewery, that they don’t start a Thirsty Thursday night complete with free lifejacket.

The Drink
The owners, the Bristol Beer Factory, clearly know a thing or two about beer and their award-winning brews are made with local malt and hops.

Pints of Red cost £2.60, while Number 7 is £2.70 and Exhibition is £2.80. There is a range of spirits including premium Polish vodkas, Highland malts and Cuban rums, and a fair list of Old and New World wines.

The Last Word
The owners are trying to be eco-friendly by keeping their food and drink miles to a minimum, which is to be applauded. But be aware, if you feel yourself swaying while drinking your first brew, it may a passing ferry making the barge rock, not the alcohol.
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