Railway station pubs are rarely renowned for their cosy, local vibe, but as vibrant melting pots of people from all walks of life, they are often excellent.
The Sidings is no exception. Residing at the bottom of the uninspiring high rise opposite Temple Meads, the former Reckless Engineer has had a thoroughly modern makeover.
Gone is the rather shabby frontage that may have made many a weary traveller think twice about venturing inside, to be replaced with smart black signs on the grey exterior, promising craft beers, coffee and brunch and great food to share.
Owner Punch Taverns has picked a theme and run full steam ahead with it for this refurbishment. Cast the eye from a steam locomotive mural on the far wall, past signs warning you to ‘beware of trains’ and ‘mind the gap’ and come to rest on a large clock with names of UK stations.
Framed vintage Great Western Railways posters adorn the walls above a real mismatch of seating arrangements, from big, comfortable booths, to long wooden tables and benches, to plastic stools atop polished wooden floors.
The effect is modern and perfectly pleasant, if slightly lacking in personality.
A large, wooden-topped, welcoming bar is laden with goods to suit everyone – people passing the time, new arrivals with plenty to celebrate, those popping in for a quick pit stop, returning locals, visitors and everything in between.
While the drink selection is extensive – with craft ale, gins and soft drinks aplenty – the food offering is wisely kept relatively simple, with light bites, sharing plates and weekend brunch on the menu, while Barrel and Stone’s stone-baked pizzas are heavily promoted as the meal of choice.
In keeping with the trend of station pubs, it doesn’t come particularly cheap and a Fentimans ginger beer (without the rum) will set you back £3.05. Offers are available and any three craft ale cans or bottles can be bought for £11 at any time of day.
While the venue is notable for its rather generic qualities, the clientele injects a degree of intrigue.
Booths are occupied with people of all ages – tables of suited men, perhaps enjoying a couple of swift halves before heading for the train home, a couple talking intently, drinks barely touched, and a mother and child concentrating on a colouring book to pass the time.
Two friends tuck into pizza, while a lone man sits at a table in the middle of the pub, broadsheet paper open, walking stick by his side as he slowly sips a pint.
No one group interacts with another; indeed service is friendly but impersonal. This is a place for people passing through – each with their own individual story and journey – and it is far from a local where everybody knows your name.
The refurbishment of the former Reckless Engineer, that carved itself a bit of a niche as a biker and music venue, has no doubt widened the appeal of the pub. The result is a venue that makes for a perfectly pleasant, but pretty predictable pit stop.
The Sidings, Temple Gate, Bristol, BS1 6PL
0117 3290 793
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