Set the Bar, Lord Street, Wrexham. Tel: 01978 312548
Food quality 8/10
Children welcome - yes
Disabled access - yes
Set the Bar are beefing up Wrexham’s night life in legendary ways.
The Lord Street bistro was visited during the North East Wales Legendary Pie Challenge in which 16 eateries from across Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham vied for the title of producing the best pie, using ingredients that told the best tale about their town or business.
I was among the mystery diners trying out Set the Bar’s ‘Albert’s Fray Bentos’, a meal which turned out to be owner Fern Evans’ personal tribute to her late father.
But good-tasting food wasn’t the only criteria being assessed by the judges sent by competition organisers, the three Destination Management Partnerships in North East Wales. Creativity and presentation was also high on their wish list.
And there was plenty of originality in Set the Bar’s slow-cooked steak pie with oxtail. Lavished in a rich gravy topped with a buttery carrot and swede mash melt it proved a real treat. Sadly on the night I visted with my partner there were few takers within the bistro’s dining quarters. Set the Bar had been deserted by dejected rugby fans following Wales’ Six Nations clash with England earlier that day.
But while the surrounding tables were rather empty that was certainly not the case with my meal which was brimming with zest as well as its unique presentation – in a traditional Fray Bentos tin.
Fern drew inspiration for her creation, apparently, from recalling how her late father, Albert, used to overload his cupboards with the classic tinned steak pies.
She charged her chief, Chris, with reinventing the meal. It arrived with a complimentary bottle of Budweiser lager, which had been her dad’s choice to wash his favourite meal down.
There was also an appetising bowl of red cabbage as a side dish, which proved a heart warming addition on a chilly February night.
The pie was tasty and rich on the palate with juicy, chunky pieces of steak. It was a no-nonsense offering that deserved genuine consideration for the 2017 Year of Legends Pie Championship – although sadly it failed to make the short list of three for the recent finals which featured a live cook-off at Coleg Cambria.
But Set the Bar is more than just about pies and tradition. Its bistro menu parades homemade burgers and vegan and vegetarian specialities that our proudly sourced – as was the steak pie – from Wrexham town centre suppliers such as Covent Garden greengrocers, Hugh John Jones butchers and the Sumang Thai shop.
My partner chose her meal from one of the selection of appetising burgers, plumping for the sweet potato which arrived with salsa, guacamole and mint yoghurt as well as side dishes of fries and a salad garnish. It was quickly tucked into and proved a filling feast.
Reasonably priced at £7 the burgers are not the only value on the menu at Set the Bar. You can feast on three tapas dishes for £9, including gyoz (Asian steamed dumplings), tender pork ribs and butterfly shrimps. Or if you are after something lighter there are small plates of sausage and mash, Singapore noodles and flat iron steak for just £6.
Service was prompt and friendly and while at this time of evening (around 8pm) diners are likely to find their chat drowned out by the bar music and large screen TV, there is a genuine warmth about the place. For active diners the bar has pool, Wii and board games, while for the music lover there are often live sets at weekends.
If you fancy eating al fresco on warmer evenings the bistro’s roof terrace makes Wrexham look positively Mediterranean.
For the moment Set the Bar customers will be happy for a welcome refuge from the late winter cold. Since it was established at the former Fat Cafe Bar premises next to Wrexham Bus Station this is an eaterie that appears to be going places itself.
It may have just fallen short in its Pie Challenge quest, but as owner Fern said on the diner’s web site: “We hope you enjoy it as much as I know he (her father) would have”. We did – it was truly legendary.
Albert's 'Fray Bentos' slow cooked steak and oxtail served with red cabbage and a bottle of Budweiser £8.95
Sweet potato burger with salsa, guacamole and mint yoghurt/fries £7
Pint of Tetley bitter and coke £5
See full story in the Chester Leader