Lunch@The Red Lion, East Chisenbury 2017

Last time we were at the Red Lion, earlier this year, Rock had a migraine and we had to leave before we had even started our lunch…just one of those things.  The time before that we left disappointed because, after having so many fabulous meals here, we had a lunch that fell short of our very high expectations.  Now we are back wanting to have our faith in this great place fully restored!

I get into the mood for lunch with a seasonal beer.  That Old Chestnut is a dark brown smooth bitter both malty and hoppy from the Ramsbury Brewery.  Perfect for the winter.   Rock has an organic apple juice from Luscombe with soda. Now we are ready for another Red Lion food adventure!

p1060173a.jpg

My adventure starts with the scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus.  The tortellono is made with wafer thin fresh pasta and deeply filled with a mixture of scallop and black pudding.  The swede purée is silky smooth, slices of piquant pear, herbs, baby onions, chicken jus plus additional cubes of black pudding and balls of pear all combine to make this heaven on a plate.  Wow!

P1060174a
Scallop & black pudding tortellono with swede purée, pickled pears and chicken jus

No starter for Rock – she is saving plenty of space for dessert.  Her main course is pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc.  The halibut is perfectly cooked, the purée and the beurre blanc bring a riot of flavours that beautifully complement the fish and the apple brings a tart, refreshing zing to the dish.  The combination of celeriac, celery, celery leaves, poached and fresh apple work incredibly well with the halibut.  She is loving it.

P1060176a
Pan-fried halibut with celeriac purée, poached Cox’s apples, Burbage shiitakes and a Noilly Prat beurre blanc

I have the roast partridge with cromesqui (a small savoury croquette), potato millefeuille, parsnips, prunes, quince and sauce poivrade ( a lightly peppered game sauce).  The partridge is succulent, the potato millefeuille is one of the best potato things I have ever tasted, parsnip purée and shavings of parsnip add different textures, the prunes add sweetness and the quince its own delicate flavour.  Plus the rich depth of savoury cromesqui is a delight. If we were not in a public place we would pick up our plates and lick them clean! Omg.

P1060180a
Roast partridge with cromesqui, potato millefeuille, parsnips, prunes, quince and sauce poivrade

The Red Lion has held a Michelin star since 2013 and this is due to the skill of Guy and Brittany Manning.  Guy runs the kitchen and Brittany moves effortlessly between front of house and dessert creation.  We have loved Guy’s starter and main courses, we have talked to Brittany as she dashes between tables, now we will find out if the Brittany inspired desserts live up to the exceptional standard that Guy’s dishes have set.

We decide to share the Red Lion Café Gourmand – a modest portion of five different desserts.  Served on a large piece of slate we have: a chocolate creméux; a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche; home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet; poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream; and a chocolate bark with salt, chilli, pumpkin & sunflower seeds. Rich, indulgent chocolate, incredible sorbet and flavours that are both surprising and wonderful.  Have I said wow enough times already….I don’t care.  Wow!

P1060181a
Chocolate bark, poached pear with a hazelnut praline ice cream, home-made granola with a rum punch sorbet, chocolate creméux and a citrus Genoese sponge with apple & créme fraîche

As ever, the service here has been wonderful.  We were mostly looked after by Ruth who was efficient, friendly and helpful.  On our way out we stopped at the entrance to the kitchen to thank Guy & Brittany for lunch and they happily took time to chat to us about some of our recent food adventures.

To summarise our experiences of the food at The Red lion….occasionally good, regularly great, often extraordinary.  This time round…absolutely extraordinary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Dinner@Box E, Bristol

Creating a restaurant in a shipping container appears to be a fashionable trend.  We are joining the party by heading to Box E on Bristol harbourside to meet our good friend Thorkell for dinner.  Box -E has Elliott, a former head chef at the Michelin starred L’Ortolan, in the kitchen. I say kitchen, Elliott cooks in one corner of the box, only feet from the diners.  His partner, Tess, leads a small front of house team.  This tiny restaurant, with only 14 seats, has had some rave reviews recently.  It really is time to see if eating while encased in a metal box is a good idea.

All the beers here are local and Thorkell has a Hop Hand Fallacy – a citrusy farmhouse ale from the Bristol brewers Lost and Grounded. I have a PMA from the Moor Beer Company, also based in Bristol, which is one of the best pale ales I’ve tasted recently.

I start with the crisp hispi cabbage with crab and lemon butter. It is delicate and very enjoyable. Thorkell bravely tries  the salt baked & pickled turnip with truffle and powdered cep.  I say bravely, because I’m not a big fan of turnips or truffle, but he loves it.  Rock decides not to have a starter – after enjoying quite a lot of the home-made bread we were given once we had taken our seats!

P1060115a
 Hake with curried lentils and cauliflower

Rock and I both have the hake with curried lentils and cauliflower.  The hake is perfectly cooked and surrounded by intense curry flavours that manage to enhance the hake without overpowering it.  Thorkell has the breast and confit leg of duck with spelt and rainbow chard.  The duck breast is suitably pink and it soon becomes clear that Thorkell is enjoying his food as much as we are.

P1060120a
Breast and confit leg of duck with spelt and rainbow chard

 

Rock is more than ready for dessert and has the chocolate mousse with salt caramel and peanuts.  The mousse is rich and intense, sweetened by the caramel, and with crushed peanuts providing crunch. Thorkell has the vanilla pannacotta with caramelised figs.  Unlike truffle and turnip, these are two of my favourite things and Rock is amazed when I don’t choose this as my dessert.  Thorkell loves it as much as I would have if I did not have an unstoppable desire for cheese…

Sheep’s Tor and Cornish Gouda are served with a sweet and zingy quince jelly plus the most extraordinary celery salt crackers.  Both are semi-hard cheeses, contrasting in flavour but each one is very good.  The crackers were clearly home-made and the best biscuits for cheese I have ever tasted….and I’ve tasted a few.

Dinner in this shipping container was a great experience.  It has been fantastic to catch up with Thorkell. The dishes here are combinations of interesting ingredients and they are very well executed.  Every dish is cooked to order, the beer is very good and the service is excellent – it really is a box of delights!

Lunch@King William, Bath

Our search for high quality pub food is taking us to King William in Bath.  In the latest Good Food Guide, King William is described as a local gem that serves seasonal, robust modern British cooking – let’s see how bright this gem can shine!

The beers on tap look suitably interesting.  Rock tries the Funky Monkey – a fruity English pale ale with hints of citrus from the Milk St Brewery of Frome.  I’m in the mood for something dark and the Plotline dry stout fits the bill perfectly.  Brewed by Kettlesmith in Bradford-on-Avon it successfully manages to combine chocolate and fruit flavours but it is not as full-bodied as I normally like in a stout.

Knowing that she has the appetite of a small child, Rock asks for two dishes from the children’s menu.  The first is a version of the King William tasting board.  Chicken popcorn, croquette of Bath chaps, spiced beef brisket, juniper cured salmon, basil pesto and Bertinet bread.

P1060077a
King William tasting board

I have the spiced beef brisket with red cabbage jam and shallot.  The beef is beautiful and the rich red cabbage jam brings the whole dish alive.  Time for another beer and I move on to pub’s own King William ale – not sure who brews this for them but it is a good malty bitter.

P1060079a
Spiced beef brisket, red cabbage jam and shallot

Rock’s next dish is battered fish with crushed peas and chips.  It is a suitably modest portion but the best things often come in small packages.  The fish is fresh, perfectly cooked and wrapped in a crisp batter.  The crushed peas and the chips are of the highest quality! Although a staple dish on many pub menus, most pubs deliver a very average fish and chips – but here it is fantastic. I have the pan roasted hake with crushed turnips and Bromham carrots.  Another perfectly cooked fish with firm flaky white flesh and crispy skin.

P1060084a
Battered fish, crushed peas and chips
P1060082a
Pan roasted hake

Finally, we  share a cinnamon and pumpkin creme diplomat with golden syrup ice cream and candied pecan nuts.  The diplomat is very creamy, the ice cream is not too sweet and the whole dessert is enhanced by the textures of the biscuit and the pecans.  Excellent.

P1060086a
Cinnamon and pumpkin creme diplomat with golden syrup ice cream and candied pecan nuts

We’ve had fabulous food and great, friendly and helpful service.  The pub has not been too busy, which is a shame because this really is a local gem… some of the people of Bath and some of the visitors to Bath are clearly missing out!

Lunch@Carters, 2017

We are with our good friend Douglas and returning to another of our favourite places – Carters in Moseley.  This is a place where you are almost guaranteed to find eating experiences that you have never had before!

There is another new beer for me to try, the Heathen Pale Ale from the Northern Monk Brewery, it is a bold and fruity IPA with tropical notes that will probably work well with the wide variety of flavours that are about to hit my palate.  It is a set lunch menu here with alternatives only provided for those with particular dietary requirements.  We begin with a variety of snacks: chicken liver cereal; Porthilly oyster cooked in beef fat; house charcuterie; and a kohlrabi, pine and salad burnet.

The chicken liver cereal is fantastic – the light chicken liver paté works beautifully with a variety of toasted cereal.  The oyster is interesting.  There is far too much fat on the house charcuterie for any of us to really enjoy it.  And the kohlrabi peaks with salad burnet are an interesting palate cleanser.  Rock, who will not put an oyster in her mouth, is given an Evesham salad as an alternative and a pair of agricultural scissors to eat it with.  The salad appears to be a pot of cress.  She trims off a few stems, it is actually a pot of micro herbs… but it is a little bizarre!

The next course is pine mushroom porridge with Moliterno al Tartufo.  Moliterno is a hard Italian, truffle laden sheep’s cheese served with a small wooden spoon (which we all found to be distracting).  The dish is essentially a highly flavoured mushroom risotto.  It is very good.

P1060060a
Pine mushroom porridge with Moliterno al Tartufo

The fish course is Cornish monkfish with artichoke, kale and smoked bacon fat.  My  monkfish is firm but Rock and Douglas both think their fish has been overcooked.  The artichoke puree is very smooth, the kale gives texture and the bacon fat gives flavour.

P1060061a
Cornish monkfish with artichoke, kale and smoked bacon fat

Next we have highland grouse with beetroot and elderberries.  The dish is vibrant in colour and flavour.  The beetroot and elderberries make the soft breast purple and the breast is complemented by the crisp texture of the confit leg.

P1060067a
Highland grouse with beetroot and elderberries

Dessert is a fig leaf ice cream (the second fig leaf ice cream we’ve had in two weeks – see The Woodspeen) with cobnuts from the Augernik Fruit Farm.  The sliced cobnuts sit on a crisp caramel that covers the ice cream.

Coffee is served with a strong, dark and delicious chocolate ganache, spiced salt and water mint.

Overall, we’ve enjoyed our third visit. The setting is serene and the service is excellent.  However, we much preferred Carters when the menu gave diners some element of choice – as on our first visit.  On our second visit, we enjoyed the food but found the coffee making process a little pretentious.  This time round, the food seems to be heading in the same direction as the coffee!

 

Lunch@The Woodspeen (take 5)

The Woodspeen is currently our favourite place to eat.  It is rare to find a place that is relaxed and informal yet consistently delivers food, drinks and service of the highest quality.  We are here for our fifth visit with great confidence that lunch will be outstanding.

Sitting in the bar, Rock orders a Raspberry Crush made by Luscombe, served with a cocktail stick of fresh berries.  I have a Cavalier Golden Ale from the Two Cocks Brewery. These are served with a bowl of home-made crisps.  The crush, the ale and the crisps are all top notch.

We move into the restaurant for our starter of quail breast and crispy leg with chicory & orange jam and a cauliflower puree. We are sharing the starter and, one of the things we love about The Woodspeen is that, when you share a dish, they don’t just give you one plate and two sets of cutlery.  They carefully divide the food onto two small plates and dress it – so you receive a proper but smaller version of the original dish.  The quail is superb.

P1060016a
Quail breast and crispy leg with chicory & orange jam and a cauliflower puree

Next I have the roasted cod with pancetta, cavolo nero, girolles, onions and a cep puree.  The fish is perfectly cooked, the pancetta and cavolo nero bring texture and flavour and all the other elements of the dish work together – it tastes fantastic. Rock has the pan fried sea trout with baby gem, peas and horseradish potato. Another perfectly cooked piece of fish, another fabulous dish.

P1060030a
Roasted cod with pancetta, cavolo nero, girolles, onions and a cep puree
P1060024a
Pan fried sea trout with baby gem, peas and horseradish potato

Brown sugar custard with wholemeal crumble, blackberries and a berry sorbet is Rock’s choice for dessert.  I have the tarte of fig and hazelnut with fig leaf ice cream.  Both desserts are sublime.  This is followed by great coffee and petit fours.

P1060032a
Brown sugar custard with wholemeal crumble, blackberries and a berry sorbet

The whole experience has been as outstanding as we had hoped.  The food has been extraordinary, the service from restaurant manager André and his team has been exceptional.  This consistency of quality is remarkable – every time we come here they manage to wow us!

 

Lunch@Arras, York

After a fabulous morning walking round York Minster and the city walls, we are heading for Arras and lunch.  Arras is a relatively new restaurant opened by Adam and Lovaine Humphrey who, though both English, had opened the original Arras in Australia before being drawn back to the UK.

Let’s start with the negatives – there are only two and they are both small.  Firstly, some of the tracks on the Arras lunchtime playlist are a little bizarre.  I like driving rock music when I’m…driving.  When I’m having lunch I want something a little more chilled.  Second, I am briefly disappointed by the relatively limited beer menu.  It doesn’t take me very long to choose Maris the Otter by Brew York, a smooth English bitter named after the Maris Otter variety of malt.  However, my modest disappointment disappears when I read the food menu.  Three courses, just three choices for each course – but every choice sounds interesting!P1050981a

Rock starts with the grilled mackerel, brassicas and apple.  The mackerel has been marinated before grilling and it works perfectly with the brassica and apple.  I have the braised pork cheek with fermented rye grain, sauerkraut jelly and mustard sauce.  The pork is as tender as anything and the great flavours of sauerkraut and mustard are there but they do not overpower the pork.  Both dishes are beautifully presented and taste fantastic.

P1050984a

Is Arras going to be one of those places that presents you with fabulous starters and then follows with far less inspiring main courses?  We soon have the answer…a definite no.  Rock is even harder to impress than I am – but she really is impressed by her roast poussin, celeriac remoulade, mushrooms and lovage emulsion. How have they managed to infuse so much flavour into a roast poultry dish?  My stone bass with puy lentils, cucumber and crab is also wonderful. The fish is perfectly cooked, crispy skin and flaky white flesh. Balancing a combination of flavours is the key when being inventive and this kitchen contains at least one person with a very finely tuned palate.

P1050987a

As is often the case, we decide to share a dessert.  Another exquisitely presented plate arrives with cinnamon crumble in the centre, topped with a yoghurt sorbet.  Segments of orange, chunks of orange jelly and small pieces of frozen berry all sitting on a red berry jus surround the crumble.  Plus, draped across the plate… a square snake of vanilla and ricotta mousse. It is a fantastic collection of sweet and sharp, soft and crunchy taste sensations.  Again the quality of each component and the balance of flavours borders on perfection.

P1050992a

All five dishes were incredibly well balanced with some unusual flavour combinations that really worked – if Arras can do that consistently they should be in line for a Michelin star!  We also had really informative and efficient service from Charles.

If you live in York or you are planning to visit York and you want a high quality food experience – we strongly recommend that you try Arras.

Dinner@The Star Inn, Harome

When we went to The Star Inn at Harome a few years ago, we absolutely loved the food and the ambience of the place. It has been a regular in both the Good Food Guide and the Good Pub Guide for a very long time. So tonight, as we head there for dinner, our expectations are absurdly high.

It seems bigger and smarter than I remember and now feels a little more like a fine dining establishment than a gastropub. We are soon presented with an amuse bouche of warm cheese and fennel sablets with a Hambleton ale relish. The sablets and the relish are both excellent.

P1050926a
Cheese & fennel sablets with Hambleton ale relish

I order a pint of the Two Chefs ale. I last had this beer at the Pipe & Glass and the name refers to the fact that it was created by James from the Pipe & Glass and Andrew Pern from here at the Star at Harome. I was not overly impressed when I tried it before but, second time around, I am really enjoying the fragrant notes of cinnamon and nutmeg that come through the ale.

Rock has the gravadlax of oak-smoked halibut with sourdough crumpets, oyster emulsion, mayonnaise and sea vegetables. It is perfectly fine but she is not as wowed as she hoped to be. I have the freshly steamed Isle of Shuna mussels mariniére. I am wowed – the mussels are superb.

Planning ahead to leave room for dessert, Rock has another starter for her main course – ravioli of beer braised oxtail with fresh horseradish shavings, kitchen garden flowers, leaves and vegetables. She is surprised to find that the ravioli contains very little oxtail and a significant amount of chicken mousse. She doesn’t like the dish at all and leaves it almost untouched …on the plus side, now she has plenty of room for dessert.

P1050943a
Beer braised oxtail ravioli 

We are being looked after by Jen and Alex. The ravioli is immediately taken off the bill and both work hard to try and ensure that Rock is enjoying herself. I have the saddle of local venison cooked over charcoal with a startling range of accompaniments – coffee bean carrots, pistachio cake, pickled cherries and ‘twiglets’. The venison is very good and, although I enjoy some of the added extras, I am starting to feel that the kitchen is trying too hard to be inventive.

Rock moves on to the spiced braised pineapple with a pineapple sorbet and she is back in the game. I have the gooseberry and lemon verbena rice pudding with an elderflower custard doughnut. The rice pudding is a great balance of sweet and sour and I have an excellent elderflower spritzer to go with it.

While we can’t ignore the ravioli, which was a travesty compared to the oxtail pasta dish we had at Mannion & Co, the rest of the food was very good indeed. The drinks were excellent and the service, from Jen and Alex, was superb.