June update: The WildWood – The food factor

26 June 2009
June update: The WildWood – The food factor

"The food is really, really first-class. I'm very positive about it, the level it's being pitched at and the standard it's being produced at in the kitchen," says Rupert Cleveley, mentor to Dom Wood's semi-eponymous bar and restaurant, the WildWood. Food was key to WildWood's conception. "I wanted to give people good, honest food at a good price that, when put in front of them, has the wow factor," says Wood.

This has translated into an all-day menu of breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner dishes, ranging from eggs and soldiers (£4) through crab cake with lemon dressing and mixed leaves (£6) to slow-cooked duck leg with pak choi and carrot and star anise purée (£14). Before it was put into practice, Wood admits the concept had a slightly more restauranty feel to it. "We've had to move with the times and change it accordingly," he says. "The main thing was that we didn't get ahead of ourselves."

The kitchen is now hitting 65% GP on food. "The level you are working at for a new opening, that's not bad at all," says Clevely. "And as you drive up sales all that will happen is your GP will rise and rise."

Of Wood's three full-time staff, two are in the kitchen. His chef, Sarah McDonough, is his girlfriend's sister, whose recruitment circumnavigated any risk of employing a chef with an ego, says Wood. The kitchen porter is also full-time and has shown such aptitude in the role that he now helps with prep and Wood is considering helping him apply for a catering course.

Aside from the menu - which includes other classics such as eggs Benedict (£6), traditional Caesar salad (£6/£8 small/large), fish pie (£9), and the Wild Wood Burger (£9) and changes every two months - Wood has put on free tapas dishes from 5pm to 7pm in the week, tempting people in for drinks in the hope they might stay for dinner. "I got the idea from France," says Wood, "serving bits of cheese and tomatoes, hoping that the salty food will stir their appetite and make them order a full meal."

Both Wood and Cleveley agree the venue needs to work on tempting people in with deals. "So long as you get enough people in on entry-level-priced dishes, then the menu is perfect," says Cleveley. "It's about getting them to order in the first place." So Wood has started experimenting with a buy-one-get-one-half -price offer and started brainstorming other ideas to up the footfall.

90 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB
0117 929 3627


The last month has seen WildWood take £2,000 in a day for the first time. "We had a business meeting at the back - it was packed out front, we did a lot of covers. It made me realise that there's no reason why we shouldn't be doing days like this the whole time," says Wood.

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