A restaurant themed around a single ingredient is a tricky task to pull off, but it's a challenge that the team over at Jolly Hog are uniquely equipped to tackle. Known for their award-winning, British outdoor bred, RSPCA assured sausages and bacon at supermarkets all over the UK, these meat masterminds have created a menu dedicated to just one item from their oeuvre, showcasing its delicious versatility.
This weekend Jolly Hog's harbourside restaurant, The Pigsty, which usually serves up hot dogs and burgers, is operating a special small plates menu that puts the humble bacon rasher front and centre of every dish. In 2021, the pork aficionados sent Bristol wild with their pigs in blankets Christmas pop-up, and this latest experiment has proved just as popular, with slots for the three-day bacon fiesta sold out well ahead of time.
There is walk-up availability, or alternately you can order some of the limited edition menu through Uber Eats and get your bacon fix delivered straight to your door. But if you can eat in, we'd recommend it, as there's a celebratory atmosphere at the Pigsty as it embarks on its three-day pork fiesta aided in part by giant golden balloons spelling out B-A-C-O-N above the dining area. There's also a refreshing raspberry and dragon fruit sour bear on offer this weekend to help cut through fat the wash down a few more courses.
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If a menu dedicated to salty cured pork sounds a little heavy, rest assured there are plenty of options available that vary from comfort carbs such as bacon-wrapped onion rings and chimichurri bacon-loaded fries to fresh veggie-but-meaty dishes like corn on the cob, which comes rolled in butter, parmesan, parsley and double smoked streaky bacon.
In the evening, all the dishes are "sharing plates" priced between £4.50 and £9.00, with the breakfast menu's more hearty, non-sharing fare restricted to the earlier dining hours. For the adventurous, there are also three dessert options, including possibly the most intriguing item the Jolly Hog boffins have come up with - ice cream served in a streaky bacon cone.
Embracing the sweet/savoury mashup, I started with sourdough and a sweet, umami-rich butter made from The Jolly Hog black treacle bacon and a vanilla ice cream milkshake containing yet more treacle bacon, this time crushed and topped with flakes of candied bacon. This proved to be a winning combination; although the flavour of the bacon is subtle, it adds a chewy texture to the creamy shake with tiny flavourful salt bombs.
To follow, the blue cheese and bacon hasselbacks were a stand-out dish. Elegantly scored and crisp, the potatoes packed their own earthiness complemented by confit garlic and a generous drizzle of blue cheese sauce. The bacon may not play a leading role, but this plate most exemplified the "elevated" versatility the pop-up up is going for.
In comparison, the mozzarella bacon bonbons were a little underwhelming. The texture is gooey perfection, but with the exception of a slick of punchy piquillo pepper sauce, it's a bit of a plain mouthful.
There's no shortage of flavour in the bacon-wrapped al dente broccoli with spicy gochujang sauce. Also, in the wrapped camp are the 'bacon umami rolls' with feature enoki mushrooms, enrobed in double-smoked streaky bacon, marinated in a sesame and yakitori sauce. The taste was less intensely savoury than the name suggests, with the delicate flavour of the mushrooms slightly overpowered by its pork jacket.
Although the portions at Jolly Hog are as ample as ever, I'd urge you to save space for the deserts. Chef Vic's homemade cheesecake with candied pecans and double-smoked streaky bacon is soft and creamy with a comforting biscuitiness, the bacon acting like a traditional salted caramel topping.
The alternative offering, a vanilla ice cream with honeycomb, served in a cone made of double-smoked steaky bacon and topped with a candied bacon fascinator, is a visual showstopper and embodies the Willy Wonka aspect of the menu. The ice cream and conical bacon are enjoyable enough, but at £9.00, it is quite an expensive novelty single scoop.
The Jolly Hog's ode to all things bacon is a playful food adventure with curious combinations and plenty of creative flair. It may not always succeed in elevating the humble rasher, but with bacon this good, that doesn't matter.