If you really love a place…. you just have to keep going back to check that it is as good as you think it is. We first went to The Woodspeen in November 2015 and now we are back for a third visit. Today we are meeting our friends Jem & Sassy for lunch. Coincidentally, one of our favourite food critics, Jay Rayner, reviewed this place in the Observer at the weekend and he seems to like it almost as much as we do.
Jem & Sassy are Woodspeen virgins and they are immediately impressed as we enter the nordic minimalism of the smart restaurant interior. Sassy, being sassy, orders a glass of Château de Beaupré – a well-balanced rosé from Provence. Jem has a Peroni while I have a Cavalier golden ale from the Two Cocks Brewery.
Jem selects the smoked salmon with quail’s eggs and a potato & onion salad. Rock the soused mackerel with pate, cucumber and Horseradish. Sassy has the burratta (a pouch of mascapone filled with curd and cream) with peas, broad beans, white asparagus and hazelnuts. I have the crayfish cakes with a guacamole coriander salad. The smoked salmon comes in rich thick slices and Jem is very pleased with his choice. The burratta is a revelation – fabulous but not something any of us have come across before.
Our conversation, mostly about travel and the bizarre current state of world politics, is interrupted by the arrival of the next course. A fabulously colourful dish of broad bean filled courgette flower with nettle pesto, tomato and feta is placed in front of Rock. Jem is having the guinea fowl with sweetcorn orzo pasta, chard and a coriander dressing. Sometimes I really love the mix of fish and meat and so I am trying the turbot with ox cheek, broad beans, girolles and mustard mash. It is good but, for me at least, the combination does not work quite as well as I’d hoped. Sassy has chosen the sea bream with crushed peas, sundried tomato, spiced aubergine and a plot salad – presumably a salad made from some of the produce of their vegetable plot.
After seeing several portions of the egg custard tart with nutmeg ice cream being delivered to other tables, Jem cannot resist ordering one for himself. I always struggle to resist a panna cotta and I don’t put up much of a fight this time. The elderflower panna cotta with strawberries and a cucumber & lime sorbet is simply divine. Rock has the lemon meringue with white chocolate and Sassy the mint & raspberry pavlova.
Although my turbot & ox cheek fell slightly short of my high expectations…it was the only bum note in a fabulous symphony of flavours, colours & textures. As ever the service, on this occasion from Bianca, was superb. We still love this place and Jem & Sassy now understand why!
Postcript: after the minor coincidence of the Jay Rayner review, we turned on the TV last night to find two of the key men behind the Two Cocks Brewery being featured in an episode of Grand Designs! Spooky… Even spookier….a review of the farmhouse & brewery featured on Grand Designs appeared last month in a Daily Mail article written by a former colleague and old friend of mine.