Tag: 18/20

Mr Underhill’s, Ludlow, United Kingdom

[UPDATE: 2021-12-28: This restaurant is permanently closed]

In an ideal situation, I would have booked to dine and stay at Mr Underhill’s in Ludlow when I went there with Russell, Darcy and Bob. However, our visit coincided with the Ludlow Medieval fayre at the end of November – managing to secure a table was already a pure stroke of luck; but my fortune did not extend to getting the rooms. It appeared that all hotels in and around Ludlow were full also. So we ended up staying in Tenbury Wells – not ideal to find our way round this part of the country on a cold dark November evening with the GPS almost non-functional.

After getting a bit lost driving in Ludlow, we parked the car near the castle and then walked down to the restaurant. We got there just before 8pm, and were greeted warmly by Judy Bradley, and then led to the table straight away. The restaurant was buzzing – with no empty tables and everyone in good spirit.

To go with our aperitif (kir royale as usual), we were presented with a trio of olives (marinated, gougeres & flatbreads). There was only one set menu which was fine – Judy phoned me earlier in the day and checked if we would have any problems to the dishes (of course not!). We also asked for recommendation on the wine and Judy suggested half a bottle of albarino to start – it was a good choice.

The first course was a cone of marinated smoked salmon – the salmon was beautifully marinated and filled the whole cone. It was a very promising start to the meal.

The next course was white onion velouté with crispy shallot – the soup was full of onion flavour, and the sweetness and creaminess of the soup contrasted well with the texture of the shallot.

The third course was duck liver custard 2010 with sweetcorn cream and lemongrass glaze. Every mouthful of this made me want to eat more. The duck liver custard was already heavenly delicious on its own,, but it was elevated to a new level with the intense sweetness of the sweetcorn at the bottom of the little jar. It was an extraordinary dish. Bob, on his anti-plastic-straw campaign (yes, he hated plastic straws in drinks), said “you can put a plastic straw on it and I’d still like it”. Not that you could have enjoyed this with a straw anyway!

The fish course was hake on fondant tomato with chorizo & orange – the fish was very fresh and perfectly cooked, with a fine balance of tomatoes, chorizo (without going over the top with the quantity like some other places) and a fantastic orange sauce. At this point of the meal we enjoyed everything so much that we all agreed that we could have had a big plate of every dish on its own without any hesitation.

The meat course was slow roasted fillet of Mortimer Forest venison with venison jus, gin and orange vinaigrette, and girolles and baked potato mash. The venison was very tender, and went so well with the sauce that Darcy even forgot that the wine was there (now that’s a first!). The dish was not too heavy on the stomach either.

The pre-dessert was plum ‘sponge’ with star anise ice-cream – the “sponge” was a very refreshing plum granita. Overall a very pleasant taste.

For the desserts, we could choose from a menu of various dishes. Although Darcy was not a dessert fan, she went for the rhubarb crumble tart with clove ice-cream (and in her words, a dish “To Die For”!). Bob chose the sticky toffee pudding with creme fraiche ice-cream, which he claimed it to be “sticky toffeerific”


Russell went for the Highland parfait with flapjack wafer,  with Scottish oat praline, caramel and drambuie – he was disappointed with this one as he did not think it was anything special.

For me, being the adventurous one, I went for a dessert that was billed as “part savoury, part dessert” for those undecided: Oakly Park rarebit with anchovy sauce and delicate piccalilli. Interesting concept but it was definitely nowhere near a dessert. At best it could be classed as a cooked cheese course. 10/10 for the idea, but it’s not something I enjoyed that much.

We were one of the last customers to leave the restaurant, and before we left, we were given some shortbread biscuits to eat “on the road” – not that we needed them that evening, but it was something that we enjoyed the next day and reminded us of what an enjoyable meal it was. We agreed that it would be one of the restaurants we’d make a special effort to go back to.

Address: Dinham Weir, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1EH, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1584 874431
Website: http://www.mr-underhills.co.uk/
Opening Hours: Dinner: Wednesday to Sunday arrival between 19:15-20:00

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in November 2010]

Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, United Kingdom

I have wanted to go to Le Champignon Sauvage for quite a while but never found a good reason to head towards Cheltenham for a visit. In March 2010 I have finally made it there during my gourmet tour round South-West England.

Le Champignon Sauvage is one of those restaurants that does not rely on the media for publicity. As far as I know, the chef, David Everitt-Matthias, has not appeared on television for promotion (and if he has, then he has only rarely been on) and he does work in the kitchen every day. So the restaurant really has to rely on the quality of the food to attract and retain customers. His wife, Helen, looks after the front of house service.

As we entered the restaurant, we were already warmly greeted by the staff. The bar area was relatively small, and so we decided to head straight to the table. The restaurant decor was simple and pleasing to the eyes – some of the bolder colours were dotted around the restaurant, and they were not intrusive. This was a good indication on the food – some bold uses of flavours but they worked well with all other ingredients that were pleasing to the palate.

For starter, I had roasted native lobster with miso glaze, risotto of oat groats, onion and orange, spiced bread – this was an outstanding dish, with the right amount of miso without overpowering the other delicate flavours. There was a generous amount of lobster, and the meat was moist and delicious.

Originally I was going to have “Fillet of cod, squid ink risotto, seared squid and belly pork” as the main course, but when I ordered this, Helen quickly pointed out that my starter was already a risotto-based dish, and I might want to consider something else because there’s risotto in my choice of main course and it might be a bit heavy. This was much appreciated – some restaurants would not have bothered pointing this out and I was just so impressed that Helen had this level of attention to details. So instead, I opted for the red-legged partridge, turnip choucroute, turnip and verjus puree. I was not a fan of partridge, turnip nor choucroute, but this was nicely cooked and well-presented.

For dessert, I chose the coconut macaroon, iced coconut milk and lotus seed ice-cream. I was expecting the dainty French macaroon for some reasons, but it turned out to be of the British kind. I usually can’t stand desicated coconuts, and the macaroon was full of the stuff, but I still managed to clear the whole plate. The sweetness of the coconut macaroon complimented well with the relative blandness of the ice-cream, but the textures worked well together also.

To round off an excellent meal, we were presented with a colourful plate of petit fours. We were so full that we could hardly finish all of them, but then it would be a crime to leave any on the plate!

On the whole, I was very impressed with this restaurant, with excellent food and flawless service. Certainly one I would be happy to go back to.

Address: 24-26 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2AQ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1242 573449
Website: www.lechampignonsauvage.co.uk/

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 12.30 – 1.15pm (last order: 1.30pm) ; 7.30 – 8.30pm (last order: 8.45pm)

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in March 2010]

Nathan Outlaw Restaurant, Rock, United Kingdom

It was Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Fowey that finished off my Cornwall gourmet trip on a high in 2009, and so in 2010 I have once again chosen Nathan for the grande finale of this year’s SW England foodie tour with my friends Darcy and Bob from the US. I felt this was an appropriate choice given that Darcy was a lover of seafood, and I knew that I couldn’t go far wrong with Nathan with his forte in seafood cooking and his use of local produce – being by the sea really helps!

As the Marina Villa hotel in Fowey was sold off, once again Nathan had to find a new venue to move to. He already has the Seafood & Grill at St Enodoc Hotel in Rock since middle of 2009, so it’s a natural choice to move his flagship restaurant to the same place. For those who are not familiar with the geography of SW England, Rock is in North Cornwall and is located on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary to Padstow. It’s a tough place to be competing with Rick Stein’s well-known seafood empire which dominates Padstow.

The restaurant in Rock had only opened for about 4 weeks when we visited, so certain things still needed to be ironed out, even though most of the staff followed Nathan’s footstep from Fowey to Rock. The sommelier might not be completely familiar with his wines, but he was certainly knowledgeable, and recommended a very nice bottle of Austrian white wine, after I set out the rules of “no Chablis, no Riesling” for the evening. He was even prepared to open a new bottle to let us try a bit first, as I am not a fan of Austrian wine generally – but this was a clever move for him as the wine was light and refreshing, and so we ended up with the bottle to go with the meal.

As it’s the final evening of a week-long gourmet trip and we had a whole day of travelling around sightseeing, we were all too tired to decide what to eat in the a la carte menu, and so we chose the easy way out and opted for the tasting menu.

The first dish that was presented to the table was Smoked Mackerel with pickled vegetables, olive bread and smoked salt. It was beautifully presented (as you can see below). Taste-wise the verdict was mixed – I thought it was good but Russell did not enjoy it too much, but then he was not a fan of mackerel anyway.

The first 3 courses were all fish – it’s a showcase of Nathan’s skills in cooking seafood:

(1) Lemon Sole, with caper potato dumplings and parsley sauce

(2) Brill, with angels on horseback, seaweed and squash

(3) Bream, mussels and saffron with olives and tarragon

It’s hard to find too many faults with these dishes. The only (slightly) negative comment at the table seemed to be on the brill which was slightly on the dry side and overcooked.

The next course was still around the seafood-theme:

(4) Scallops, with hogs pudding, Jerusalem artichoke and apple. When we finished this course, the staff asked how it was – We all agreed that this was one of the best dishes we had during the trip, as the scallops were very fresh and perfectly cooked. The other ingredients complemented the scallops really well, with no one single ingredient dominating the overall flavour. We were told that the scallops just came in on the day and were only delivered at 4pm.

After four courses of seafood, the next course was a meat course:

(5) Venison, chicory tart with hazelnuts, parsnips and thyme. Nearly every restaurant we went to on this trip featured venison on the menu. This one might not be the best, but then it was very good, with the meat not too dry or overcooked.

There were 2 desserts that followed:

(6) Stem Ginger Cheesecake, with poached rhubarb and ginger ice-cream

(7) Almond Financier, blood orange and pistachio with yoghurt sorbet

I must admit that I shivered when I saw “ginger cheesecake” and “ginger ice-cream” in one dish – although I love using ginger in cooking savoury food, I am not a fan of ginger biscuits or in desserts. One of the indicators of a great chef (as opposed to a good chef) for me is that he/she can make me enjoy a dish full of ingredients I don’t like. With this ginger cheesecake from Nathan, while I can’t say that I would go back and choose this dessert specifically, I could quite happily eat another one if I had to. So that’s nearly a total success!

The desserts were nice, but lacked that certain edge that made the dishes unforgettable, like the ones I had in Fowey.

It’s probably a bit unfair to try to compare the restaurant at Fowey against the current setting in Rock. After all, the Fowey restaurant had an absolutely stunning unobstructed view – sitting halfway up the hill looking out to the Fowey estuary. The blinds were closed in the restaurant at Rock, but I didn’t expect the view to be anywhere as good. The service was friendly and informal, though some details still needed to be worked on – but this was to be expected given the early days of this venue and certain aspects still needed to be ironed out. In terms of food, the quality was still as good – fresh produce, nicely cooked. However, it lacked the excitement and the “wow” factor at Fowey – Nathan explained that this was due to the smaller number of staff in the kitchen and that limited what he could achieve. This was compensated by the scallops dish at Rock – the dish was so good that everyone at our table agreed that it would be one of our top 10 dishes to die for!

Certainly a restaurant I would look forward to returning to in the near future – in the meantime, the only thing I could do was to tell friends and colleagues heading down to Cornwall to forget about going to Padstow for seafood at one of Rick Stein’s eateries; instead, consider heading to Rock instead for an outstanding dinner at Nathan Outlaw’s.

Address: St. Enodoc Hotel, Rock, Cornwall, PL27 6LA, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44(0)1208 863394
Website: www.nathan-outlaw.com/

Opening Hours: 
Lunch: Friday & Saturday 12:30 – 14:00
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday: 19:00-21:00

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in March 2010]