[Aymestry, Herefordshire] The Riverside

With an entry in the Good Food Guide and an online menu extolling the local provenance of ingredients, there was much to look forward to. We went with high expectations but, unfortunately, they were not met. It’s not that we had a bad meal. We didn’t. But it could have been much better. Should have been much better.

It’s a nice place. Very rustic – all uneven floors and rickety furniture. And service was pretty decent.

My partner’s starter was described as a “Cheddar dumpling” but was, effectively, just a ball of creamed cheese. It sat on an onion puree. Not well executed and just not very nice to eat. That was followed by a fillet steak which came from an unspecified rare breed, raised in the county. It didn’t have much flavour, even for fillet, or seasoning and we wondered if it had been cooked “sous vide” and then not finished in the pan to give it some caramelisation. There was a celeriac puree, some greens and sauté potatoes. The best thing on the plate was a separate little bowl of a beef ragu – full of flavour. That’s “full of flavour” in a good way. Unlike the “full of flavour” of the industrial strength brown gloop that passed as a sauce and which was drowning the steak until it was scraped off.

My starter was spot on for summer. Herefordshire lamb, supplied by local butcher, Mark Hurd in Weobley, had been long cooked and turned into a croquette. It came on a bed of peas, broad beans and mint. For a main, I think the sous vide machine had been brought out to tackle my duck breast (also from Mark Hurd). Certainly there was no crispy skin and who wants to eat flabby duck skin. That came with some nicely sautéed oyster mushrooms. And there was a dollop of overly sharp walnut ketchup. This all sat in a mini-lake of thin sauce which had little flavour. Main courses came with bowls of carrots and new potatoes to share.

Dessert was the best food we ate. We both chose the wimberry parfait. I’m pretty sure that wimberries are not grown commercially in the UK and these had been foraged on the Long Mynd in Shropshire. It’s a well made parfait with a good balance of sweet and sharp, with a yoghurt sorbet cutting through the richness. It’s all helped along by a berry sauce.

We ordered coffee and wished we hadn’t . The worst restaurant coffee we can recall in a long time. Thin on flavour and served barely warm.

Dinner served as a reminder that, whilst the Good Food Guide is a usually reliable helper when travelling, it is not infallible.