The WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017 follow another year of dining out in hundreds of restaurants, pubs and cafes. The awards aim to celebrate the very best eating experiences we have had over the last 12 months. Awards 2017 part 1 focused on restaurants, part 2 focuses on pubs and part 3 will focus on small independent food providers.
In 2015 we found several sensational pubs. In both 2016 and 2017 we have not been quite so fortunate – with many places falling short on imagination and quality. However each of our top 3 pubs, shown below in alphabetical order, are definitely worthy of their place.
King William, Bath
Not in the most fashionable part of Bath but well worth the short walk from the town centre. Fabulous beers on tap and interesting food that is beautifully prepared. Informal, friendly atmosphere and great service. King Review
Punch Bowl, Crossthwaite
Cumbrian hospitality at its very best. Warm, welcoming and beautifully prepared food presented with style and good humour. Should be near the top of the list for any foodie visiting the lake district. Punch review
Red Lion, East Chisenbury
Our favourite gastropub was in peak form when we visited a few weeks ago. Guy & Brittany Manning deliver dishes that are always good but often exceptional. We’ve been dining here since before they earned their first Michelin star …and that was back in 2013. Lion review
Food Awards – Part 3, on small independent food providers, will follow in the next few days.
The WadeandRockandFood Awards 2017 follow another year of dining out in hundreds of restaurants, pubs and cafes. The awards aim to celebrate the very best eating experiences we have had over the last 12 months. Part 1 will focus on restaurants, part 2 on pubs and part 3 on small independent food providers.
We have had an extraordinary year in terms of visiting restaurants of the highest quality. As usual, we have narrowed it down to 3 UK restaurants that we loved the most, plus an award for the best international eating experience. The top UK restaurants are listed in alphabetical order followed by the winner of the international award.
Arras is relatively new and we hope it continues to thrive… as it produces very interesting dishes. Balancing a combination of flavours is the key when being inventive and this kitchen contains people with very finely tuned palates. The balance of flavours often borders on perfection! Arras review
When you visit a place that has two Michelin stars it is impossible not to have very high expectations. At Marcus they delivered food that met and exceeded those expectations and the level of service and attention to detail was extraordinary. Marcus review
The Woodspeen, Woodspeen
The Woodspeen is the only establishment in any category to have appeared every year in our Awards. Their success is due to the excellent food and service that they consistently deliver every single time we visit. Wood Review 1Wood Review 2
The Artist, Bucharest
The Artist gave us one of the best eating experiences we have had anywhere in the world. Extraordinary food presented in exceptional ways – almost like a culinary theatre! Artist review
The WadeandRockandFood Awards parts 2 and 3 will follow over the next few days.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Kohlrabi, pine & 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.
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.
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.
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.
Fig Leaf ice cream with Billy Auger cobnuts
Coffee & chocolate ganache
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!
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.
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.
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.
Tarte of fig & hazelnut, fig leaf ice cream
Coffee & petit fours
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!
Today we are having a special lunch, with close friends and family, at a very special place. Marcus is a two Michelin star restaurant in Belgravia and the flagship of the Marcus Wareing group. The kitchen is led either by Marcus himself or by joint chef patrons Mark and Shauna Froydenlund.
After a glass or two of prosecco, we are presented with an amuse-bouche of rabbit in a sort of Japanese style steamed bun. This really helps to put us in the mood for more food of the same great quality. For the first two courses, I’m sitting near Lani, Muffin and Ilia. Rock is at the other end of the table next to Gino and Sid. Rock, Muffin and I have the salmon, calamansi (a small citrus fruit), cucumber, shallot & buttermilk. Highest quality salmon in a beautifully balanced dish. Lani and Sid have the burrata (a soft Italian cheese) with pea, hazelnut and truffle cream.
Salmon, calamanzi, shallot, buttermilk
Burrata, pea, hazelnut, truffle cream
For the starter and the intermediate courses we are drinking Miss Terre, Domaine de la Senechaliere – a well-structured and flavoursome white from the Loire Valley.Edda, who is the only vegetarian on the table, loves her vibrantly coloured starter of heritage beetroot, cheese mousse, pine and girolles.
Heritage beetroot, cheese mousse, pine, girolles
Gigha halibut, spring beans, shrimp, dill
For the intermediate course Ilia and I are both having the scallop, curry & apple with a roast beef dressing. It is a dish of surprisingly delicate flavours – the curry and roast beef could easily overpower the scallop but this is a skilful kitchen. Edda has the asparagus, smoked egg yolk & pickled turnip. Lani and Sid have the amazing Gigha halibut with spring beans, shrimp & dill. It is the favourite savoury dish of the day for many.
Now it’s time to change places. Rock moves to sit between Neko and Rufus, while I move to enjoy the company of Cali & Edda. With the main course we are mostly drinking another Loire Valley wine, agamay from Domaine Levin. This is a berry flavoured ruby red with some subtle notes of spice. Cali & Edda both have the agnolotti with almonds, Cuore del Vesuvio ( an Italian grape tomato) and rocket. Rock has the mushroom, fregola (a Sardinian soup pasta) and cauliflower served with cleverly engineered wafer thin discs (yes, discs) of consomme.
Agnolotti, almond, Cuore del Vesuvio, rocket
Mushroom, fregola, cauliflower, consomme
Meanwhile, the carnivores can choose between lamb and duck. Neko and I both have the Herdwick lamb with pea and mint. Apart from beautiful pieces of tender lamb there is a crispy piece of lamb breast and a roundel of confit lamb. It is superb. Rufus has the Goosnargh duck with cauliflower, mushroom & cumin…he must be enjoying it because his plate is soon clean.
After several bottles of prosecco, white and red wine, an amuse bouche, starters, fish or veggie courses, and main courses…do we have room for dessert? Omg, yes. But, not before we move again. This time Rock sits between Van and Ilia while I find myself between Wanda & Ziggy.
Most people fall into the trap of choosing the warm chocolate, cacao and salted caramel ice cream – it just sounds so comforting. A breast-shaped cone filled with warm chocolate is placed in front of me and I think I’m in heaven. At least that is until I try the dessert chosen by Wanda and Geno – bergamot, meringue and iced tea. It is full of sensational flavours – it is to die for!
Warm chocolate, cacao, salted caramel ice cream
Bergamot, meringue, iced tea
Finally, as if any of us want this dining experience to end, we are presented with petit-fours – a lemon parmentier and a bitter orange macaron plus packages of hand-made chocolates filled with salted caramel to take home. Wow!
The whole experience has been fantastic. Great food and exceptional service, especially from Nicole – who was looking after our table. All enjoyed with the very best of friends and family. Same time next week?
Going out for Sunday lunch can be a challenge if you don’t want a traditional roast. We are with our good friends Rufus and Lani and, with this in mind, we want to introduce them to the wonders of The Woodspeen. Late changes to our plans meant that we were late booking a table and, as a result, there are no free tables until 2.15pm.
We arrive early, knowing we can sit in the bar area, with the hope that a table will become available earlier. The restaurant is absolutely packed – even the bar area is busy. Lani has a glass of champagne, Rufus a G&T, Rock has an elderflower pressé and I have a Cavalier bitter from the excellent Two Cocks Brewery. Our hopes for an early table dissolve and we are finally seated at around 2.35pm.
Rufus starts with the pigeon, pickled parsnip, apple, watercress and malt crumb. Rock has chosen the game terrine with duck parfait, quince, smoked apple & raisin chutney. Lani has the cured mackerel with horseradish remoulade, crab croquette, fennel and orange dressing. I cannot resist the roasted scallops with pork cheek, mulled wine pears, thyme and shallot purée. We may be late to the table…. but it has been worth the wait.
We order a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine du Colombier that should work well with game dishes. It is a medium bodied red with flavours of dark fruit and spice…perfect. Rufus and Lani are both having the venison pave and faggot with mustard mash, bacon choucroute, swiss chard & blackberry jus. I have picked the partridge with home-made black pudding, blackberry & apple compote and cavolo nero. Rock does not ignore the game theme and goes for the rabbit tortellini with pumpkin soup, sherry vinegar syrup and celery cress. We are all very happy with our choices though my black pudding was maybe a little too moist for my taste.
We are enjoying ourselves enormously and it would be unreasonable to leave without looking at the dessert menu. Rock and I share the pistachio and olive oil cake with fennel, honeycomb & goat’s cheese ice cream. Rufus and Lani share the spiced cranberry and orange pavlova with lime cream. Both desserts are truly beautiful.
We came looking for something other than a traditional Sunday roast and, once again, The Woodspeen has delivered. Creative cooking, fantastic flavours and, apart from the initial wait for our table, great service.