Visited a couple of new restaurants this weekend and thought it would be good to share some comments, as both were very good.
The Pinch - we had tried to book this a few times and found it was usually full. So with some rare advance planning we booked early in the week but even so they could only fit us in at 8:00. It is a smallish restaurant with 20+ covers and a function room at the back. It is on the site of an old institution "Le Petit Cochon" and I think it is a reincarnation. The menu is pretty short with 3 or 4 choices per course. After an Amuse Bouche of mushroom soup with truffle oil, we had “Duck Liver Pate” and a “Duck, Quail Egg and Roquefort Salad” to start. We followed with a “Scallop Brochette with Truffles and Saffron Tagliatelli” and a “Rack of Lamb on bed of Cassoulet”. All the food was well cooked and enjoyable. Weaknesses were a doughy frozen baguette instead of decent bread, a fairly average wine list, and oddly shaped crockery - my lamb was served in what could have passed for hospital bedpan, which made it tricky to eat from. Total bill was £68 for two, without desert or coffee, including approx £14 on a bottle of house French Cab Sav. All in all, pretty good value given the quality of cooking and quite generous portions (for example 5 large scallops in the brochette).
The Wheatsheaf at Combe Hay - inspired by this weeks Michelin ranking of this pub as a “Rising One Star” we booked a table for Sunday lunch. It is quite a short drive out of the centre of town (10 to 15 mins). It has a great setting in an old village with a nice terraced garden with tables etc - it will be great in the summer. The Sunday menu was pretty short, three starters, three mains and three deserts. The first sign of quality was two types of homemade bread rolls, with some excellent butter. We then had the “Pork Belly with Black Pudding and a Apple Salad” and “Seared Tuna, Pineapple, Pomegranate and a Wasabi Foam”. Both were very good although the wasabi foam let the tuna down a little as it lacked punch. Mains were “Roast Halibut on a Vegetable Risotto” and “Roast Beef Sirloin” with all the trimmings. The Halibut was probably one of the better dishes I have had in the last 12 months, with a great risotto of tiny baby vegetables including peas, broad beans, carrots, and turnips. The beef was also good, with excellent cauliflower cheese, however it didn’t really show the deft touch that the Halibut did. Probably simply a limitation of trying to turn out a hearty roast lunch for the many walkers who seem to stop at the pub.
We finished by sharing a cheese plate and then sharing a bread and butter pudding. Cheese was well presented, nicely mature. The English cheeses (Stilton and Cheddar) were on top form; the French (Pont-l’Evêque and Bȗche) were good and ripe but maybe a little past their best. The bread and butter pudding however was a bit of a let down as it seemed as if the custard had scrambled around the bread rather than being absorbed. Coffee to finish was good. Good beer on draft (Butcombe), local Cider (Cheddar Valley) and a long wine list going from some good house wines to some top Bordeaux (Palmer, Latour etc). We drank some house Chianti and Chablis and both were very good (£6 a glass). I understand that the dinner menu is far more extensive than the limited Sunday lunch menu – we will report back when we have tried it. Total bill was £80 for two, which included six glasses of wine and coffee. Very good value for this standard of food - this is going to be a regular haunt.