I had such high hopes when I herd Bender bar were expanding upstairs and offering food. It is our localiest local - staggering distance, literally - but hadn't eaten there yet as the menu seemed, well, underwhelming.
And that really is the word to describe the dining experience - underwhelming. Nothing actively wrong, just passively below par.
The dining room is great: love the vintage radio/tv/film theme, love the miniature Madame Brussels balcony space. I really felt like I could settle in for the evening.
It is the menu that is uninspiring. Usually at a new venue I want to try everything, but here I was struggling to find anything I felt like eating. The vegetarian selection is very limited (and I think given the neighbourhood they are missing a trick here).
Anyway, I was pleased to hear that the Chicken Schnitzel was free range (selling point, perhaps it should be on the menu?) so I ordered that. My sweetheart went with the eggplant parmagiana.
Now the schnitzel was nicely crumbed and came with a few rounds of melted cheese on top (bocconcini?) but that's all it was: crumbed chicken. Limited flavour, little interesting about it. It was served with fried rosemary potatoes (best part of the meal) and a 'salad'. I say 'salad' as I don't class a pile of rocket (I thought we had got over this obsession) with a couple of cherry tomato halves on top, salad. Even if it has a swipe of caramelised balsamic and a shaving of parmigiano.
The eggplant parmagiana was robust, with a good italian tomato sauce. It was served with polenta wedges that were cold (!! that's just wrong) and the same 'salad'.
Then after our meals, whilst we were finishing our wine we were given the bread for the table (ok, so an oversight, I am sure it was meant to come earlier). And it was good bread.
Prices are good (but not good enough to make up for the disappointment).
I often find myself wondering why businesses make particular decisions. Case in point - why did the Thornbury local go for Italian, when there is already a plethora of pizza and Italian places within spitting distance (pizza faro, for the love of pizza). Obviously they know their clientele better than I, but I would have thought that they were aiming for the groovy bar set that like live music (same as downstairs) and middle of the road Italian food doesn't deliver that.
Food - 5
Drinks list - 7
Service - 6
Ambiance - 8
Value for money- 8