We’re happy to drive an hour from home for a “good” restaurant and we’ve been hoping to get to Roski for a while. And, it proved to be well worth it, even though the motorways were jammed and it took two hours. Of course, we rang them to let them know we were going to be late. They thanked us for doing so. Now, to say this is a “good” restaurant is something of an understatement. It starts with there being a nice room, with relaxed, modern decoration and comfy chairs – always important when you’re going to be sat somewhere for a couple of hours. And there’s staff who are at the top of their game, fully understanding what it means to be working in the hospitality business – friendly, knowledgeable but with a hint of formality. And there’s really good food – clever, inventive cooking of food that you want to eat, rather than feel you ought to eat, if you see what I mean. And a range of nice wines, by the glass – always handy as only one of us drinks alcohol.
There’s two menus. A multi-course tasting menu and a short carte. Most tables were opting for the tasting menu but, frankly, we find them a bit “heavy going”, these days and find it’s much more fun and satisfying to eat a traditional three courser. Even though this is a very short menu – just three starters and four mains – it was easy to find something we wanted to eat.
Bread came first. A lovely sourdough with a good crust. And Bovril butter which went perfectly. And, when we’d scoffed that lot, we were asked if we wanted more. Should have said “yes”, but didn’t. Then there’s some snacks. Or an amuse bouche, if you will. Well, not only were our bouches amused but the rest of us, as well. This was great fun – the chef’s take on the great British takeaway. So, there’s a single, triple cooked fat chip, topped with grated cheese, in a puddle of Wagyu beef chip shop gravy. And, an arancini of rice enclosing curried beef, with a lightly spiced curry sauce. Finally, your Chinese takeaway provides duck with hoisin sauce and cucumber – a grilled duck heart, slice of cucumber and dab of sauce.
Then it’s on to the starters. King prawns were a relatively new dish on the menu. There’s a couple of enormous ones, mainly shelled but with head and tail left on. They are room temperature, presumably deliberately so, rather than having hung around for ages. They are topped with a crumb – think a Chinese sesame prawn toast, blitzed up – and a very citrussy sweet and sour gel. For a texture contrast, each prawn is topped with a bit of pork crackling. The other plate is something of a signature dish for the chef – red cabbage Bolognese. Yes, it’s red cabbage. But it’s been very long cooked, sous vide, and then finely chopped. It’s packed with all the flavours you’d expect from a spag bol. You wouldn’t believe that it could, but it does.On the side, there’s dabs of green, white and red sauce to represent the colours of Italy’s flag – I think it was aioli, tomato ketchup (can’t recall the green one – maybe courgette).
If there’s been clever cooking with the starters, then the main courses seem much simpler. And, in that, is the cleverness. Fillet is never going to be as flavoursome as other steaks, but this one was as good as it gets. Onions were almost the star event – some long cooked and meltingly soft, others cooked till they were crisp. There’s also a little sauce and a slice of mushroom. Guinea fowl had been given a spice rub on its skin, so there was a little background hit of chilli. The rest of the plate was a take on sweetcorn – charred bits of corn, baby sweetcorn, sweetcorn puree. It could have all been a bit sweet but the spice and charring introduced a little balance of bitterness.
There’s only two desserts (plus a cheese option). One was a chocolate and cherry affair – ganache, ice cream, set chocolate, with a few cooked (?) cherries and dabs of cherry puree. Really light and fresh. The other was Anton Piotrowski’s winning dish from Masterchef, the Professionals. And, oddly, it was the dish out of the six plates we ate, that felt a little underwhelming. It’s a take on carrot cake, served up in a real flowerpot. Served warm, there’s a couple of different chocolate sauces in the bottom of the pot, topped with a sponge which you expect will taste of carrot, but doesn’t. And there’s a baby carrot stuck into it, to pull out and nibble, Bugs Bunny style. The pot sits on a plate which has a decoration of chocolate soil and a lightly spiced ice cream. It’s pleasant enough but you’d think this was a chocolate dessert, not a spin on carrots.
We finished with excellent coffee. It had been a lovely evening and it’ll be somewhere we come back to again – well worth the hour’s drive. Maybe one visit we’ll try that tasting menu.