Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday, dear meee-e. Happy birthday to me.
Yes, it was my birthday when we came for dinner at the Angel (71, seeing as you ask). It’s our season for celebrations – both of us have birthdays within a couple of weeks of each other and we have our anniversary, as well. This year, as a “cheer us up” after lockdown, we’ve thrown some money at it and booked a Michelin starred restaurant for each one. Not our “usual” Michelins near home that we might visit a couple of times a year. These are all a couple of hours away and needing an overnight stop. I’ve wanted to eat Michael Wignall’s food for a while, but we never managed to get to his two previous restaurants, where he held two stars at each.
There’s much to like about the Angel. This village pub dates back centuries but has been refurbished in a very modern style – think an upmarket stylish Ikea. It works. They’ve also kept all their Covid arrangements in place, even though it is no longer mandatory. Tables are spaced; staff wear masks; customers are also asked to wear them when moving about; there’s a one-way system in place to get to the loo; and the menus are available on your smartphone using a QR code. It made for a very comfortable and reassured evening. And that was helped along by a completely professional, yet friendly, front of house team
Alongside a tasting menu, there’s an “a la carte”, which is what we decided to order from. It’s modern creative food, well conceived and well executed. The only criticism is that portion size is very restrained – we’ve eaten larger portions on multi course tasting menus.
There’s snacks to start – call them canapes if you want to be posh. A single bite cracker topped with chicken liver parfait, a little trout filled tart and a couple of spoonfuls of a celeriac “soup”. A small sourdough loaf also comes, along with a cultured butter and whipped herby butter. This is the only carb you going to get to eat.
Arctic char was one starter. It comes with some sliced razor clam, a shrimp brown butter, and a few broad beans. The other starter was a few chunks of mixed tomatoes, with shavings of a lovage ice, goats curd and a tomato “essence”. Both of these felt very light and seasonal.
There was another freebie at this point and it was, possibly, the best thing we ate all evening. A mouthful of chicken sat in intensively flavoured ramen broth and, for a texture contrast, was topped by crispy lichen.
We both went with the same main course of lamb. There’s perfectly pink loin (my partner thought it underseasoned) and a forkful of very long cooked breast. Griddled Little Gem is, to my mind, a success on any summer plate. There’s a slice of maitake mushroom (which Google tells me I’d know better as “hen of the wood”.
We also went with the same dessert – very seasonal strawberries. This was tiny – gone in a couple of spoonfuls. With so little, it’s hard to recall flavours. The menu describes it as “English strawberries, aerated verbena parfait, local yoghurt & single estate olive oil”. I’ll take their word for that. It was fine.
And, finally, coffee and some very decent petit fours.