Restaurant review: Florins, Princes Avenue, Hull

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Another week – and another restaurant has opened on Hull’s Princes Avenue. Dave Lee checks out Florins.

The last I heard of the Yorkshire Bank on Princes Ave in Hull was after it was robbed. Last February a cashier was handed one of those brusque notes demanding she hand over cash and the robber got away with £1,800. It can’t have been a satisfactory amount as the next day he did the same thing in a Natwest elsewhere in the town and scarpered with another £3,600. That time, though, the cashier managed to secrete a packet of pink dye into the bag of swag which exploded all over the money, rendering it worthless. The police caught up with the perpetrator and he’s now serving seven years.

I only mention this because the very same Yorkshire Bank where all this kicked off is now, less than a year later, a restaurant/bar called Florins. So unstoppably vertiginous is the rise of culinary culture on Princes Ave, not even recent crime scenes are safe from being gastronomified. Yes, I did make that word up.

(As an aside, I should apologise for reviewing yet another Prinny Ave eatery, but I can’t help if that’s where it’s all happening in East Yorkshire. When they stop opening them, I’ll stop writing about them. Anyway, back to the plot.)

Florins has been created by the same team that have enjoyed success up the road with Italian restaurant/bar Lucca and down the road with fish restaurant/bar Bait. The former I have eaten at but found underwhelming (not Italian enough, no local produce, bought-in puds) and the latter I can’t face eating at as it appears to have some kind of stand-up smokers shed built into the front window. It’s a very weird thing to open a restaurant and then ask diners to eat fish dishes while staring at the backsides of people stood in the window gasping on fags. Not my idea of a good night out.

Florins, though, I’m much more endeared to. The bank has been shorn of everything except the cash point (more of which later) and what’s left is a cosy, triangular dining room with a more compact bar at one end. You could seat probably 40 people with room for another 12 in the private dining room upstairs. This being Hull, the décor is the sort of shabby chic you’d have found in London a decade ago, with uncomfortable, transparent plastic baroque chairs and a surfeit of chandeliers. It’s pleasant enough, mind, particularly if you sit yourself in one of the slightly-too-snug booths. Apparently they open early if you fancy a breakfast and the bar is popular most nights with the cocktail crew, but I chose a Friday afternoon to sample their wares with a long lunch.

The menu covers a lot of ground, geographically. There is English, Mediterranean, Far East, Deep South USA and Mexican, but you would have to be particularly picky to not find several things you’d like. From the three-for-£12 grazing menu I can recommend the chicken satay (which was perfectly nice), the patatas bravas (if you add a grind of salt), the duck pancakes (which are marvellously tacky and come on a bed of zingy ginger and carrot salad), the baby back ribs (lovely and juicy) and the pork crackling, which arrives in a little tin bucket, are filling-testingly crunchy and so numerous that even the most hardened fried pigskin fan will struggle to eat them all. Unfortunately the pulled pork was a bit of a let-down as it’s served cold in a Kilner jar and so packed-in was the meat that the fat had re-congealed, leaving a rather claggy pot of unappetising meat.

The mains are equally generously sized. Tiger prawn and pesto linguine is a very attractive plate of colourful, unctuous pasta and well-cooked prawns and will leave you wishing you’d ordered fewer starters. There is a more-than passable smoked haddock, pea and Parmesan risotto and I’m reliably informed that the various burgers and steaks on offer are all very fair. I can well imagine.

The only duff main I encountered was the slow roast confit duck legs which (despite featuring fall-off-the-bone meat and a sweet and gloopy cassis and cherry sauce) had all the taste and texture of a mouthful of wet dust. Not sure what happened there but I dived for the dessert menu to take away the memory.

I fear that the puds at Florins are the same store-bought variety used by sister eatery Lucca as they look more like they have been constructed rather than cooked on the premises. They’re all pleasant enough, however, and the treacle tart is a particular tasty, chewy stand-out. Whoever makes them is doing an excellent job and all apologies if they actually are made in-house.

One peculiarity of Florins being in a recently closed bank is the cashpoint outside has to be serviced inside the building. This means that we were treated to the peculiar sight of a fully-armoured Securicor man traipsing in and around the tables carrying box after box of cash in and out to the empty and refill the machine. It’s an odd thing to see and also adds a little frisson of excitement when you realise that, although this is no longer a bank, there is still a chance that your meal may afford you a front seat at another armed robbery.

Prices: For £74, two of us had several beers, too many starters, mains and dessert. A bargain. Open, daily, serving from 12-9pm.

Florins, 38 Princes Avenue, Hull HU5 3QQ. 01482 343899, www.florinsbar.co.uk