Next Door has got pretty much everything you want from a neighbourhood restaurant. An interesting room (the building is a 17th century timber framed one), a warm welcome, good service, a short menu of food you really want to eat and, of course, a kitchen that really knows how to cook it. Yep, pretty much everything. However, it’s not our neighbourhood and we’d never have come across it, without its entry into this year’s Good Food Guide. So, even though it’s a 40 minute schlep down the M56, that entry meant it had to worth a try. And it’s definitely going to be worth future schleps.
It is a short menu, just four choices at each course. But everyone should find something they want to eat and I’d have gladly eaten any of the items. There was lovely home made bread to start. For one starter, endive had been grilled so that it was sticky soft and had lost all of its bitterness that you get in the raw state. In truth, I wasn’t sure of this at first – I like the bitterness when it’s a salad, but it grew on me. And there’s bits and bobs of Old Winchester cheese and anchovy to perk up a savoury element. For the other starter, Jerusalem artichokes had been roasted and were also getting nicely sticky. There’s hints of wild mushroom and truffle and it’s really autumn on a plate.
Fillet of Welsh black beef usually comes with kidney and its accompanying sauce also has a kidney element. My partner has an aversion to the offal but it was no trouble to make changes to the dish to suit. In place of the kidney sauce, was a powerful one – think a posh HP brown sauce with all the elements of sweet, savoury and tangy. The steak is perfect at medium rare and it comes with an inspired use of the very much undervalued swede. For me, there was Cheshire pork chop. Cooked perfectly to medium rare, it’s still juicy and very tasty. There’s bubble & squeak and hints of the classic pork accompaniments on the plate – sage, garlic and lemon in the sauce. And a nice touch is to serve bowls of kale and new potatoes, to share. As with many restaurants, things have been plated “cheffily” but it’s nice they haven’t forgotten that the prime aim is to feed you.
Then Vicki gave us the dessert menu. She runs front of house while her husband, Richard, is the chef. There’s three desserts and cheese. She explains the cheese deal. They only serve one cheese (which changes over time), buying a full wheel, configuring the accompaniments to suit its particular flavour. Now, that’s a brilliant idea and more places should do it. So, we’ll both have cheese, please. I’ve forgotten the name of it but recall it’s a very rich creamy semi-soft cows milk one from Jersey. It’s really good and served in peak condition, along with homemade crackers, homemade onion pickle and shreds of pear. And they give you a knife & fork to eat it with, just like they do in France.
There was good coffee and a chocolate truffle to finish. Vicki has been a sommelier in the past, so knows her wine and was able to offer my partner three excellent glasses to match the three courses.
This had been a really nice evening and chatting about it filled the 40 minutes drive back down the 56.