I’d assumed that the “In” was something of a play on “Inn” and that we’d be having dinner in somewhere that had once been the village pub (a stone in the outside wall says the building dates to the 1400s). It was a bit disappointing to find that we weren’t. But that was the only disappointing side of the evening. For the rest, it was a great success. As often when travelling, the Good Food Guide was a reliable source of information. The Venture In is a well run gaff with efficient, friendly front-of-house and a kitchen knocking out belting plates of food.
We had an aperitif in the small bar, where they serve a canape and olives. There’s a short fixed price menu - £44 for three courses (with the odd dish attracting a small supplement) – together with a handful of specials and the occasional change to the printed menu caused by an ingredient shortage.
For example, there was no crab, so scallops were substituted in one starter – a ramekin filled with spinach, the scallops and a rich Thermidor sauce. It was absolutely fine, although the scallops were very delicate and a bit overwhelmed by the sauce in a way that crab probably wouldn’t have been. Herring roe isn’t something you’re going to come across every day. Here, it’s given a coating and lightly crisped. For all the world, it looked like pork scratchings, although obviously nothing so butch in texture and flavour. There’s a fennel pickle and a handful of well dressed rocket, both of which work well with the roe.
Confit duck leg was excellent with moist meat and crisp skin. Accompaniments were very thoughtfully worked out. Spinach contrasted well with the fattiness of the suck, as did a thick slice of fried apple. There’s also a crisped slice of potato dauphinoise and a very regional faggot, giving a little hint of offal flavour. And, for seasonality, a few spears of asparagus.
Across the table, there was a whole lemon sole, served on the bone. It was perfectly cooked to the “just flaking” stage and you’d probably be happy if that was all that was served. Yes, it was that good. But there’s also asparagus and Jersey Royals. And a well executed beurre blanc – exactly the right sauce to complement the fish. Served separately for us to share was a plate of green beans and carrot and parsnip “chips”. A bit superfluous, as you’d got everything you needed on your main plate. But delicious extras all the same.
It’s often the case that we find desserts to be a bit of a let down in comparison with the savoury courses. But not here. A lemon tart is the second best I recall eating (the winner remains the one at Murano in London). But this is a very close runner-up – crisp pastry case, lemony filling (sharp but not overly so) and, in a nice texture contrast, the top had been brûléed. It comes with a ball of lemon ice cream sat in a lovely crisp pastry basket. Trifle was an excellent mix of the right flavours and textures but could have been improved still further with a bit of sharpness in the fruit and/or the warmth of sherry. It was almost just a bit too sweet, as it stood. But this is nit-picking over a particular favourite dessert.
Coffee was good and came with petit fours – a jelly, fudge and a chocolatey one. A thoroughly enjoyed evening and absolutely recommended.