I wouldnt usually have posted another review only a few months after the last, but naf’s interest in the red deer , which provided last night’s meat course, suggested to me that I should. So here it is (it’s what I’ve just sent to the Good Food Guide):
Inexplicably, a Michelin star continues to evade Adam Reid. On the plus side, the restaurant has moved up a couple of place in the usually reliable Good Food Guide – now standing in 11th place, actually above a number of 2 star places. As I say, inexplicable about the Michelins.
Little has changed since we were last here earlier in the year. It’s still a relaxed environment (with a fine soundtrack playing unobtrusively in the background). Briefly chatting with Adam after the meal, he said that he’s now happy with the format of the six course tasting menu and, whilst individual dishes change through the year, there’s a basic theme to how one course runs into the next. Not only is he happy, but we’re happy too – this is a menu format which works for us, as an alternative to our preferred traditional three course meals. Places that have many more courses are just too much like hard work!
There are snacks to start the meal. These are prepared at the chef’s counter in the restaurant and are served by the chef (it’s a nice touch that everything is served to you by a chef who explains what it is). First up, is an intensely flavoured broth. They roast onion, beetroot and red peppers to make the base for this. It’s gone in two swigs and we both looked at each other and said that we bet this might be the best thing we eat. It really was that good. It wasn’t the best – but it was a close race. There’s then “dips and crackers” – a dish of smoked cods roe and another of a lemon crème fraiche with pickled spruce tips. There’s pickled veg and crackers to dunk. They make their own ham from the Middle White pig and there’s a couple of slices to nibble on. And slices of cured salmon and Doddington cheese. With their own chutney and mustard to enhance the flavours. Finally, a slice of malted sourdough and beer butter. It’s all been excellent.
The first dish on the menu is thin slices of raw scallop, with slices of cucumber, peppers and dill pickle. They use the pickle juice to make the dressing and it really sharpens everything up. This is a pretty much perfect balance of flavours and textures. Reid’s take on our local “tater ‘ash” is a signature dish. It takes a fine dice of raw sirloin steak, mixed with an equally fine dice of vegetables and dressed with a mushroom catsup which adds a really nice sweet/sharp. My companion in life has an aversion to raw beet but, as last time, it’s no problem to simply replace the meat with pearl barley. It works just as well.
Then there was my favourite dish of the evening. A small fillet of halibut had been lightly smoked before being poached (?). The sauce is a light chowder of cockle, corn and potato. I thought the smoking contrasted really well with the sweetness of the fish and the corn but, across the table, the view was that it detracted from the flavour of the fish. Meat followed, in the form of Cumbrian red deer – bang on for seasonality. There’s a couple of slices of loin, cooked to medium rare. That sits on a “stew” of long cooked venison leg, with crisp bacon matchsticks and mushroom. The rich venison sauce was a work of genius. My companion, not usually a fan of venison, rated this probably the best ever eaten
It was now back to the chef working in the restaurant to prepare and serve the last two dishes. There’s cheese of course. They use St James – a ewe’s milk one from South Cumbria. It’s really nicely flavoured with that savoury, yet sweet, flavour you can get in some French semi-soft cheeses. Here the chef puts a slice on the plate and lightly blow-torches it, before topping it with Armagnac soaked prunes, a walnut crispbread and a little honeycomb. Just fab.
*And finally, apple is long cooked so it becomes sticky and almost jam like. That’s topped with a very thin pastry “biscuit” and an artfully shaped spoonful of cold custard. Apples and custard? What’s not to like? Possibly, my life companion’s “best dish”. *
*Service is faultless – from the chefs bringing the food, the servers taking away the dirty plates and keeping the water topped up and the excellent sommelier who provided one of us with the wine flight, a different wine perfectly matched to each course. *
An absolute cracker of an evening.