What a two-rosette restaurant should be (according to the AA!):
Excellent restaurants that aim for and achieve higher standards and better consistency. A greater precision is apparent in the cooking, and there will be obvious attention to the selection of quality ingredients.
These restaurants are also noted in the 2010 Michelin Guide.
We happened to be lucky enough to eat in two such establishments; well, in Ludlow, it’s hard not to! The first was The Clive, just outside the market town in Bromfield. We only popped in for a bar snack: The OH had a croque monsieur, which looked delicious. I opted for smoked salmon pieces mixed with dill and crème fraiche in rye bread. Equally lovely. It was a bit pricier than the usual pub fayre, but of a higher quality, and both were served with salad, one with chips too. The setting, despite being next to a main road, was quiet and calm, but held a bubbling atmosphere inside. Relaxing, friendly and tasty. A cut above the rest.
Second, and a quick change from our original plan of grabbing some more ‘good pub grub’ at The Unicorn, (a good decision when you read the reviews on their own website, although the food is meant to be nice enough), was the beautiful, Georgian Dinham Hall. With a three-course menu at £35 (although they only charged £32.50 when the bill arrived!), aperitifs and amuse-bouche to boot, this was excellent value.
Drinks and menus were served in the lounge, with an open fire (not, unfortunately, lit as it was a warm, spring day), comfy chairs and a range of books to browse. Aperitifs of roasted almonds, black olives and cheese sticks were followed with a roast pepper and tomato veloute served ‘a la table’.
Pressing of confit duck and foie gras was on order for me, and a cured salmon for the OH. My ‘pate’ of the two, served alongside crispy duck-skin and thin slices of pink breast were rich but lightened by the pea shoots. I wasn’t so enamoured with the celeriac cream however. It appeared to be a set egg white, a little like the ‘Iles Flottante’ meringues, and very sweet. The OH, on the other hand, thought they really set it off, so, as usual when it comes to food, it was a subjective addition to the plate!
Presentation throughout all dishes was brilliant; each taste and flavour was set apart where necessary and combined to perfection on the plate. The Salmon starter was no exception and a poached quail’s egg on top gave a rustic touch.
I’m not sure I’ve eaten Guinea Fowl before, but this was certainly very good. Little ‘rounds’ wrapped in crispy skin were perfectly soft and juicy, and the red wine sauce and cooking to perfection meant they fell apart in your mouth! There was no onion puree, as per the menu, but little caramelised silverskin onions gave the sweetness needed. Balanced with salty mushroom and Parma ham, this really couldn’t have been better.
Again, the OH’s main course was amazingly presented on a polished granite slab. With pink lamb, soft fondant potatoes, silky leeks and fresh pea shoots, the local ingredients really were the stars of the show.
Although I have a very sweet tooth, pudding is my least favourite of the three courses: I’d usually opt for two starters, or starter and main rather than a main and pudding. Since, however, there were three courses on offer no matter what, I chose the Caramel Parfait with Chocolate Ice-cream and Banana Bread while the OH decided upon Rhubarb cream with compote.
My plate was so exciting, I couldn’t decide what to eat first! I had a thin crisp of baked banana, three slices of caramelised banana, a blob of chocolate sauce, crispy banana bread on chocolate ice-cream and a ball of parfaited caramel rolled in crispy biscuit crumbs! After a spoonful of the caramel, which had that added crunchy texture, the flavour developed in the mouth. And combined with the sweet banana…well, like I said, I’m not one for puddings, but this was my favourite course of the three! It was so delicious, I didn’t even try the OH’s!
Each dish on this menu had obviously been thought through very carefully, with a combination of savoury and sweet, sugar and salt, silkiness and crunchiness. Presentation was outstanding throughout and the service, exemplary. Trusting that all ingredients were local and fresh, I would highly recommend this restaurant to everybody! The only fault I could find was that there weren’t more people dining; although the atmosphere was convivial, with just 6 of us under the stars in the conservatory, I couldn’t believe this beautiful house and restaurant wasn’t full to the rafters. And was it an “Excellent restaurant that aims for and achieves higher standards and better consistency”? Did it have “A greater precision apparent in the cooking, (with) obvious attention to the selection of quality ingredients”?
Yes, yes and yes again.