JOHN CARTER takes the family for a full-on feast at a reassuringly busy restaurant at Regent Circus

Coal Bar and Grill

4 Regent Circus,

Victoria Road,



Parking: Yes

Disabled access: Yes

Adver ratings

Food: 8/10

Choice: 8/10

Decor: 10/10

Customer service: 10/10

Main course prices: from £5.95 to £24.95

TripAdvisor rating: 3.5/5

THERE was something rather heart-warming about our visit to Coal Bar and Grill on a cold and blustery autumnal night.

No doubt the modern décor helped to create an instant warm glow. And the exceptionally friendly service we received from waiter Michal is definitely worth a mention.

But, more than anything, it was seeing the restaurant packed to capacity that really left a lasting impression.

Living a short stroll from Regent Circus, it’s depressing to frequently walk past the row of restaurants and see empty tables and staff twiddling their thumbs.

There’s nothing more off-putting than eating in a place where the staff can listen in to your every word.

Maybe it was because it was the first Saturday after pay day, but on this particular night there wasn’t a spare seat in the house as couples gazed fondly into each other’s eyes, while other groups celebrated birthdays, and families like ours enjoyed a good, old hearty feast of food.

The décor is very much in keeping with the restaurant’s name, with blocks of fake coal illuminated in side panelling and string after string of ‘naked’ lightbulbs.

And the food itself? Well, it’s definitely hot stuff.

Michal couldn’t have been more courteous after showing us to our table, and we were soon sipping on our drinks and looking at the menu.

My partner chose a glass of shiraz (large, obviously —£5.85), I plumped for a Corona (£4.20), my daughter Millie an Oreo Cookie Shake (£4.65) and my son Austin a Raspberry Smoothie (£4.95).

The sharing board (£14.95) caught our eye for a starter, packed with tortilla-crumb chicken strips, garlic bread, pesto hummous with carrot and celery sticks, calamari, cheese nachos topped with sour cream, salsa and jalapenos, potato wedges, a sweet chilli dip and Louisana-spiced mayo.

While it was all very tasty, particularly the chilli dip, there was plenty for two, sufficient for three but not quite enough to satisfy the appetites of four.

Fortunately the main courses were soon on the pass and we were not to be disappointed.

Austin and I had had our eye on the full rack of ribs from the word go and weren’t to be swayed despite an impressive selection of burgers, pizzas, salads and food ‘hot off the coals’.

The full rack was priced at £18.55 and although I was disappointed to find it presented in two halves, the flame-grilled ribs braised in a spicy barbecue sauce were a winning combination.

After wolfing down the accompanying fries and coleslaw, Austin and I wiped our greasy hands with a sense of satisfaction.

Millie plumped for the grilled chicken calzone (£11.25) and there was a short-lived feeling of food envy as the giant offering was served (my full rack of ribs hadn’t arrived by that time).

Despite the huge portion, Millie was able to eat every last crumb and still have room left over for some pudding.

My partner chose the Coal veggie burger (£11.55), a plump brioche bun packed with grilled halloumi, sliced roasted peppers and flat mushroom, tomato, lettuce and red pesto.

This proved such a challenge she was unable to manage all the accompanying fries, much to my delight as I helped to clean her plate.

That meant she was definitely out of contention for dessert, although the obligatory extra spoon was, of course, requested.

There’s plenty of enticing options for those with a sweet tooth and in keeping with our ‘sharing’ theme, we ordered the chocolate fondue (£9.95) and a Lollapalooza for two (£8.95).

Both were a delight and a great way to end the night.

The fondue came with fresh strawberries, sliced banana, mini waffles and marshmallows to dip in a gorgeously-rich Belgian chocolate sauce. Equally sumptuous was the Lollapalooza, a gigantic bowl filled with ice cream, chocolate brownies, marshmallows, strawberries, chocolate sauce and cream. It was a fight to fill your spoon, with four greedy diners tucking in, but I like to think I did myself justice.

All in all, Coal Bar and Grill left us with a warm glow, ready for the steep walk back to Old Town.