Sunday 19 April 2015

This was a slightly unexpected surprise – in the right way.  We had returned from a weekend away in Birmingham (which was expected to add to this series – but instead gets a post over on the main blog – see Birmingham and Music Matters – but didn’t) and our trip back “sort of” passed this place and I was expecting the normal “Sunday” menu and therefore nothing special.  I had read a Giles Coren review a year or so back and he spoke highly of it, but I did not bother to check any more details.

Firstly location.  Some references seem to think Shiplake, others Binfield Heath.  So we drove to the former and did not pass it so drove to the second and there it was – almost past it before we saw it.  Very quick turn into the car park – and really we were not yet in Binfield Heath.  If we had come from another direction we might not have found it.

Now you would expect that at 1 o’clock on Sunday lunchtime the place, if any good, would be heaving to the rafters; on entry it appeared almost empty.  It started getting busy about 2 – so obviously the local burghers eat later than most people!  Anyway when it is full getting out of the car park is slightly more difficult, thank goodness for parking sensors!

Welcomed into the bar I had a half of draught bitter and my wife a gin and tonic.  Long distance driving with a time arrival is always slightly stressful but we were soon able to calm down and look at the menu.  And this is where the pleasant surprise commenced.  Whilst the main courses were headed by Roast Beef with the usual accompaniment the rest of the menu offered a number of attractive possibilities.

But then we turned to the starters.  Which led to a question – where have sweetbreads gone?  Once upon a time a menu could not exist without offering sweetbreads and it was regularly a favourite of my wife’s.  Indeed it was about the

Veal sweetbreads

Veal sweetbreads

only offal she is ever prepared to eat.  But they are back (at least at Orwells) with Veal sweeatbreads appearing alongside some other interesting choices (wild garlic soup, roast pigeon, pork cheek, wagyu beef salad plus a couple of others).  I nearly ordered the roast pigeon but as my wife decided to renew her acquaintance with Veal sweetbreads I decided to join her, if only to avoid plate envy when they arrived.  I am glad I did.  Tasty and a welcome return to the menu – may I hope that menus everywhere starting adding such item!



Roast Duck

Roast Duck

For main course my wife was taken by the roast rump of Angus Beef whilst I ignored the roast tofu and the roast pork to choose roast duck, with some rhubarb.  I was slightly concerned that this would be sweetened but the waiter kindly advised that there was no sugar involved – just the rhubard to add some lift to the dish.  And obviously concerned about my mention of sugar (and diabetes) also spoke to the kitchen about preparing a sweet without sugar.  Done without asking and most professionally addressed – these little touches turn a place into the extra-ordinary!

The roast duck was absolutely, indeed stonkingly good.  Wonderful taste and the few jersey royals, alongside the spinach (and the small chunks of rhubarb) combined to produce a wonderful main course.  The roast rump of beef disappeared equally rapidly on the other side of the table – notably without any request there was an observation that the gravy was nowhere near the yorkshire pudding.  There was a lunchtime when gravy was poured on the yorkshire pudding – you do not do that in our house!!

Cheeses - English of course

Cheeses – English of course

I resolve the pudding problem easily by choosing three (all English – what a wonderful statement) cheeses – Riseley, Baron Bigod and Stichelton.  Riseley is a Wigmore cheese but the rind has been washed.  Baron Bigod was a new one to me which comes from Bungay and has some great looking cattle at the Fen Farm Dairy.  Stichelton is (as are the other two) unpasteurised and is closely related to Stilton.  All three were in good condition.  The list of choice for cheese was much longer but I always like to try ones I have not come across before as with two of these.



My wife had a somewhat different take on an apple and rhubarb crumble, the red wrapping around it being called “jelly” by my wife and she pronounced the pudding as being excellent and it certainly looked different.

The wine listing is wide ranging – we had a Shiraz, Polish River, Paulett wines Clare Valley 2008 (Australia) which went down very smoothly.   The Sunday lunch menu is £35 for three courses.  Our total bill was approximately £120 including tip.

Once we had reached home I then checked the dear old GFG and was far from surprised to see a 6 rating.  Which perhaps also goes to prove that I should trust Giles Coren too, always hard to know if one’s own tastes will match a particular restaurant critic.  The rating is well deserved and certainly on the showing even at Sunday lunchtime it was all good value and certainly recommended from here, in particular the care and attention of the waiting staff was very good.  We have visited one other 6 in this series of reviews – Chapter One – and I would firmly rate Orwells as better.