Upstairs: a buzzy bare-brick space with elaborate carved-wood bar and close-packed tables heaving with shirts-and-ties. Downstairs: a demure, even dowdy, dining room with spacious booths sporadically occupied by a quieter, older crowd.
Both: a menu that reads somewhere between nursery food and gastropub, and service that manages to look professional but act erratically. The food is well priced yet hit-and-miss: potted prawns, venison scotch egg, and pea and ham hock soup all serviceable but unexciting; fish pie well made and generous with the salmon; other mains poor, with flaccid roast (we presume) potatoes accompanying dry spit-roast pork, and a nasty haddock-flavoured roux sauce swamping an omelette.
In all, a drab background against which the excellent wines shone brightly. The Bleeding Heart owns a vineyard in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, and offers several of its cuvées here at good prices. The 2010 sauvignon blanc (£9.75 for a free-poured half bottle) was sophisticated yet vivid, and the 2009 pinot noir smooth and silky; the shiraz has been lauded by Robert Parker.
Overall, a slightly odd experience: we suspect the Bleeding Heart trades a little too much on its two-century history while feeling, ironically, dated.