We’ve wanted to eat Marcus Wareing’s food for ages – at least back to an early episode of Great British Menu when he cooked what must be the definitive custard tart. Unfortunately, that’s not on restaurant menu. But that was the only disappointment of the evening. Everything was pretty much faultless as I suppose you’d expect from a 2* place (except they’d mislaid our online reservation which had been confirmed to them when a member of staff rang two days before the meal). There’s a small quibble that food doesn’t always come absolutely piping hot, on warmed plates. And food that doesn’t come piping hot is cold by the time you’ve finished the plate.
There was no issue with one starter – it was intended to be served at room temperature. Not a salad, as such, but nicely seared scallops were presented, cut in half, along with celery and a creamy sauce made with the roe, and topped with frozen pequillo peppers. Really fresh. Really good.
Veal sweetbreads came two ways. A single just cooked one and more, rolled into a sausage shape and given a crisp coating. Artichoke, peas and pea shoots added to a lovely plate.
We took a fish course next. I really like cured salmon – it has the unctuousness of smoked salmon and the freshness of just cooked. A couple of langoustine was a good addition. Even better were the few chunks of pickled cucumber, which gave a sharp crunchiness. A buttermilk and lime dressing worked surprisingly well. Cod was bang-on cooking , with the fish just flaking away. White asparagus and razor clams were a clever addition – not just for their flavours but because they looked so similar that you weren’t quite sure which was which until it was in your mouth.
Onto the mains and suckling pig was a star dish. Nothing wacky or cheffy here. Just the meat presented in different ways, each perfectly cooked. A tiny chop; a piece of long cook belly with superbly crisp skin, a couple of other bits. There was crackling, of course, and a very thin, very crisp slices of fennel. And slices of tomato, almost as thin as the fennel, but given something of a heat treatment to soften them and bring out the flavour. A scattering of pomegranate seeds was a skilful counterpoint to the sweet pork fat. Galloway beef fillet comes with a slightly irritating £8 supplement. I never like to see supplements on a fixed price menu and certainly not on one priced at £105. But it was as flavoursome as you’d want – but then, Galloway is one of our favourite breeds to eat. The menu suggested it came with oyster but this was the intriguing leaf that tastes exactly like an oyster. There was also “monks beard” – apparently only grown in Tuscany and only available for about five weeks of the year. Pleasant enough – a bit like samphire.
Neither of us are big on desserts but it seemed right to order one. Lemony cream and soft meringue came sandwiched between two discs of baked filo. I really liked this – citrus sharp but not overly so. The other one was not such a success – a chewy nougat base, topped with a rice and cloying toffee cream, itself topped with chocolate. The restaurant doesn’t go down the route of amuse bouche and pre-dessert. But it does serve a third dessert from the menu,for sharing. This was cubes of pineapple and cubes of pain perdu (or eggy bread as you’d better know it). In truth, it was no better than OK which is, perhaps unsurprising as we hadn’t fancied it enough to order it.