It’s smokin’ over in Wells
Derelict building waiting for the wrecking ball?
Nah…for those in the know, this is the hottest new bar and restaurant in Wells, which opened just before Christmas. Housed in an old electrical substation on Princes Road, The Subhouse is a laid back, American-style smokehouse with an industrial vibe. You don’t get many of those in rural Somerset.
My sister was down from London for the weekend so we decided to try it out. Currently The Subhouse is open Weds-Sun. If the name board’s on the wall and the open sign hanging on the metal-grilled door, then come right on in…
The outside may be stark and austere but the inside is warm, filled with a buzzy crowd of all ages – there were several kids eating when were there – and very welcoming, with the owner Alex Silk and his young, good looking (yes, I’m superficial) team, greeting everyone like old friends – or maybe they do just have a lot of friends.
The building had been empty for over 20 years when Alex set about ripping out rotten floors and collapsed ceilings to reveal its industrial concrete and brick shell.
He’s now created a bar and restaurant with a warehousey feel, with exposed brick and rough chipboard walls, hand-painted walls, vintage signs and retro styling.
During the restoration, Alex fitted the restaurant out with salvaged metal and wood and vintage finds. The tables are made from metal bed frames scavenged from a London hospital and scaffolding; the front of the bar was once part of the basketball floor of the old Kings of Wessex Centre.
Industrial-style concrete stairs lead up to the first floor…
…where you can play a game of Mario Kart on the N64 (no, I have no idea what that is, you’ll have to ask a young person) in the retro gaming room. Games change regularly, and you can scoff while you play.
– or how about a game of Ker-plunk?
There’s also a smaller dining room up on the first floor with a big wooden dining table – great for a group of friends – and a squashy leather sofa.
Back downstairs, there’s a tiny back yard (far too chilly to do more than slip out and take a quick snap).
Eating’s a highly sociable activity here, where you grab a place at one of the long tables, peruse the menu, and then order your food and drink from the bar.
Passing up the house plate of pulled pork, smoked brisket, mac and cheese, slaw and fries (tempting but I wasn’t wearing my elasticated trousers), a long list of burgers and teriyaki skewers, I ordered pulled pork in a brioche bun. Slow-cooked over hickory wood in their own smoker, the pulled pork was succulent, smokey and blooming delicious. Came with a big enamel bowl of peppery, crisp, crisp fries and some homemade slaw (would’ve liked more of that, but I’m greedy). You can upgrade any of the meals to include dirty fries – melted cheese and pulled pork – if the mood takes you. Next time, next time.
My sister’s huge bowl of hot and spicy smoked BBQ chicken wings proved too much for her to handle so she took them home and ate them cold the next day (when they tasted even better, she said).
We washed it all down with a heavy glass tankard of Pistonhead Amber beer and a fruity Sweet Cheeks cider (it’s Somerset after all). There’s a choice of three house wines and plenty of non-alcoholic drinks, including retro soda pop floats, iced tea and an interesting selection of milkshakes. The person sitting next to me was slurping up a not-if-you’re-on-a-diet Cookie Nut milkshake (peanut butter, Oreo and honey). No room for desserts, which included salted caramel brownie and bockerknicker strawberry, I’m afraid.
The Muddy verdict:
Good for: families (there’s a kids’ menu; highchairs are available; older kids can eat with the adults or up in the retro gaming room on the first floor), groups of friends, couples. You’d be fine on your own too.
Not for: those who want an intimate meal for two; diners sit at long, shared tables. Vegetarians look away; this is a place for those who love their meat.
£££: Very reasonable. Burgers/buns, fries and slaw £8-9. House plate £12. Sides £3-4.50. Kids £6. Desserts £4. Beers £3.60-4.60. Ciders around £4. Milkshakes £2.50.