Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Bristol’s Star & Dove shuts. Are more gastros to go?

Update: The Star & Dove is again open and seemingly under new management. Details to follow...

Totterdown’s gastropub and restaurant Star & Dove has closed, at least in the short-term. But can we judge anything from this experiment in food and beer mismatching?

Despite its prime parkside position, expensive and extensive refurbishment just two years ago and a location on a Yummy-Mummy thoroughfare, the pub seemed to have been in trouble for some time.

At first the new owners tried to do everything: a restaurant upstairs with a pub and bistro below. Then as the gastro element stalled there was a Thai night, a steak night, a quiz night and a jazz night. There was everything, except a reliable supply of real ale, lager or cider.

Of late the top-floor top-price restaurant remained firmly shut and the pub itself kept its doors shut in daylight, opening only in the evenings and weekends. And while the current owners Eamon and Christiane have lined up someone to take over, it is clear that this vast landmark is going to be shut for sometime.

But is this just one business dream that went wrong or an early example of tougher times for the gastro?

A few years ago the received wisdom was that the ‘wet trade’ was dead. We were told that those pubs that traded on drink sales alone were as definitely doomed as Damocles’ beenie.

It was handed down as gospel that only those establishments who ran a 24 hour hot and cold all-offal buffet of potted oxen and lark’s spleen catapulted it directly into the ballpool and family fun area could survive.

But sometimes the world doesn’t just turn on its axis. Sometimes it sashays, it shimmies, it grinds its bits in your face like a lap dancer who needs the extras to pay her orthodontist.

Now it looks like the world has once again turned and the only pubs that seem to be able to thrive in this new climate of enforced austerity are the beer-only paradises whose culinary range extends no further than the holy trinity of the British tapas: crisp, pickled eggs and nuts.

The gastros’ other rivals also seem to have better equipped to deal with the downturn: Takeaways takings are up, fast food is selling more swiftly and the chain restaurants are thriving in a flurry of vouchers. Even the top end restaurants are discounting with lunch deals and lowered prices.

Are the gastro pubs caught in between them? After all they are the very middle of the middle market: too informal for big birthday or anniversary meal but too expensive for a casual dinner or a working lunch.

So is this the start of a trend? Are the gastros starting to suffer? Are drinkers’ pubs near you busier than those that went gourmet? Is dinner money being spent on drink and then a takeaway at home?

The evidence here might be anecdotal but for the gastro Star & Dove in Totterdown it must seem real enough for Eamon and Christiane at the Star & Dove.

Read our pub review of The Star & Dove here.


Nickname unavailable said...

Ineed the Star and Dove is in new hands. From the makers of The Martket Place on St Nicholas Street, BS1 we bring you The Star & Dove. Over the last couple of months we have listened to the comments of all and are underway of implementing a lot of changes. We have introduced a new sitting room with childrens area, showing kids dvds everyday. The restaurant will soon be open again, serving the same fantastic food as downstairs, within a more intimate setting. We've intoruced more seating in the garden at the back and new benches out the front. We have a wide selection of lagers and ales in stock, come and take a look at the changes we'd love to see you!

Anonymous said...

has it closed again as of Jan 2011????