Restaurant review: The Kensington Arms

From the outside, The Kensington Arms, known locally as ‘The Kenny’, is a quaint, traditional pub nestled between houses and a railway in the heart of residential Redland. But a quick glance at their menu reveals all you need to know about this hidden gastronomic haven…

Since its opening in 2007, The Kenny has steadily built up a name for itself as a much-loved gem on the Bristol pub circuit, adored by local drinkers and food-lovers alike. The venue describes itself as a proper gastro pub serving modern British dishes, and in August its menu underwent a revamp, turning its focus to sustainable produce. Masterminded by Head Chef Oscar Davis, the new menu is a colourful and contemporary take on British cuisine, showcasing the very best of food from the South West.

The evening of our visit, we found that despite its culinary reputation The Kenny has managed to preserve the perfect balance between a fitting space for fine dining and a cosy and down-to-earth local. The main dining room sits slightly away from the bar, with an open kitchen that creates a more relaxed and inclusive atmosphere. The walls are decorated with an eclectic assortment of paintings and pictures, reminiscent of a French bistro (though the picture of the severed pigs head on the wall behind us was slightly perturbing).

Seated in a comfortable corner with full view of the kitchen, we were given a brief explanation of the menu and then left to our own devices to pore over the dishes on offer. The menu is select but considered, and each option exudes the passion of the chefs behind it.

Choosing what to eat was by far the hardest part of the evening. Their popular Wednesday steak night coincided with our visit, adding to the indecision, but we settled on the Scallops with Malt Glazed Pig Cheek and Marmande Tomato for starters, followed by the Fish of the Day and Courgette over Coals for the mains (my companion’s vegi/peski/very flexi lifestyle made choices slightly easier).

When the starters arrived we were instantly sold. All beautifully presented, the sweet, meaty scallops melted in the mouth, impeccably paired with the tender pig cheek where the dripping sauce gave the dish a salty, charcoaled kick. The Marmande Tomato – essentially just tomato in tomato sauce with slices of nectarine on top, was perfectly simple but completely delicious.
Already loosening our trousers, we watched in awe as the mains arrived. The Fish of the Day, an on-the-bone cut of Brixham Brill, was sweet and juicy with a satisfyingly crispy skin, and its silky chicken butter sauce allowed the parsley to shine through without overpowering the delicacy of the fish. Adorned with mushrooms, radish and bacon and a plate of (somewhat unnecessary, given how full we were) crispy roast potatoes, the dish was faultless and the plate was, of course, polished clean.

The grilled courgette was my favourite and most surprising dish of the evening. Vegetarian dishes are limited at The Kenny, and our expectations for a main course that’s fundamental element is just ‘Courgette over Coals’ were admittedly low. But how wrong we were; the ewes’ curd was smooth and delicate, and the embellishing sumac, hazelnut and chimichurri added a polyphony of textures and flavours that exploded in the mouth. Sides were a delightful Chargrilled Hispi Cabbage and Burnt Leeks in Brown Butter that were sweet and rich.

It was a mission at this point to continue, but on we battled in a unstated agreement that no plate would go unfinished before the dessert menu arrived on the table. There was little discussion about what we would choose, and promptly a Sticky Ale Pudding and Vanilla Affogato were being devoured.

Sitting back, enjoying the last dregs of the wine, an extremely drinkable white Corte dei Mori Vermentino, The Kenny left us in a state of replete, slightly delirious bliss.

It’s clear why this boozer-cum-gastronomic haven in the heart of Redland’s reputation precedes it. Original, carefully considered dishes that convey a love and passion for the craft, complemented by a relaxed-yet-charming dining room – we left, hearts and stomachs full, discussions only of how soon is too soon to plan our next visit.

This meal for two, without drinks, totalled £96.50.
The Kensington Arms kitchen is open Wed–Sun. Hours vary, check website for details:
35-37 Stanley Road, Redland, Bristol BS6 6NP; Tel: 0117 944 6444