Toby Gritten has come to terms with the fact that if this latest iteration of the Pump House is not a success, he will have to bid farewell to a business that he has built up for the last 13 years.
In a fast-changing industry, those 13 years at the helm makes him one of the city’s longest-serving restaurateurs.
But in a sign of the times, he has recently said goodbye to his other Bristol pub, the Bird in Hand in Long Ashton to concentrate his resources on the Pump House and his second pub, the Redan Inn in Chilcompton in Somerset.
Back in Hotwells, Gritten himself was serving coffee on Thursday morning to one of the first customers who had just dropped his children off at nearby Hotwells Primary School.
It was only the second day of the Pump House’s new focus of a deli, bar and kitchen, with its doors now opening at 7.30am from Monday to Saturday, and 10am on Sundays, serving Wogan coffee, Bertinet pastries and bread baked within this former Victorian pumping station.
The deli counter serving charcuterie, cheeses, salads and more, with a rotating selection of sandwiches alongside homemade scotch eggs and sausage rolls available to eat in or takeaway.
Continuing to operate as a shop which proved incredibly popular with the local community during lockdown, the Pump House now sells fresh fruit and vegetables every day – bought by Gritten each morning at the fruit market in St Phillip’s – as well as a curated selection of dry store goods, wines and local beers.
Gritten, who worked as a chef in Bell’s Diner in Montpelier and the Albion in Clifton before taking on the Pump House, will be continuing to offer fish and chips, and looks likely to focus nights on specific foods for guests dining in, such as mussels or côte de boeuf.
The Pump House’s Covid-19 manifesto explains “that things are going to be different and of the ongoing mountain of which we still need to climb”.
“This has been a catalyst for change,” said Gritten on how the coronavirus pandemic has forced his business to adapt.
“Even before Covid, it was harder and harder to run a pub. This is a different thing to do, so we’ll just see how it works.”
Many Hotwells residents made their daily shop at the Pump House when it became a provisions store during lockdown, and Gritten hopes to welcome them back inside now that lockdown restrictions are easing, with the pub able to seat 36 people inside and 83 people outside with new social distancing rules.
“The beauty of this place is that all of the tables have got a big space between them. With the sun out, it can survive.
“I’ve given myself a few months. If it does not work, it will have to close. We can’t run at a loss. I’m going to give it one last go and see.
“We have to adapt, take it day by day, see what happens. This is the last throw of the dice and I’m hoping that people will embrace it.”
Main photo by Martin Booth