This is a post that I’ve nearly finished for some time, but life being what it is, it has been but on the back burner on more than one occasion. I’ve visited Little Barwick House twice, in 8years and to be honest it could well have been twice in 8months. Tim & Emma Ford spent their formative years working at some of the highest regarded country house hotels the UK has to offer, places such as Summer Lodge & Sharrow Bay. So expect more of the same, floral pattens & classical cooking.
We had pre meal drinks in the drawing room which was homely with out being overtly so & amateurish, the bookshelves are as you expect from a chef, filled with cookery books & old restaurant guides, along with family pictures. But that isn’t to say the Fords are lodged in the past. Courtesy, service and customer care are high on the agenda without being stuffy & starched, it’s no mean feat which Emma Ford pulls off brilliantly. Whilst perusing the menu & wine list we are served some outstanding olives and salted nuts along with pre meal drinks. The lunch menu is limited to a classic 4-4-4 menu format, which shows Mr Ford’s heritage & grounding. You won’t find any of the current fad for foraged weeds on his menu, but instead impeccably sourced produce, treated with care & respect.
With the choices made we moved through to the dining room, again it’s the classic starched linen & polished cutlery, which has sadly fallen out of favour lately. Personally I find it can give that air of refined opulence, that the attention to detail is paramount to your host’s operation.First up a selection of bread rolls, I went for cheddar roll which looked something akin to a cheesy bap from up north, which was a good contrast of textures with a big wallop of cheddar in the flavour department.
After water & wines were poured the starters duly arrived. My dining partner went for the scallops with bacon & butternut squash purée, all safe and classic combinations which apparently went down a treat. I ordered the pressed terrine of maize fed guinea fowl with fruit chutney & piccalilli. Time & time again I order such dishes in restaurants and there is such a variation in quality: too dry; under seasoned; too hard because it has been pressed under 4 pergals of milk. Thankfully Mr Ford understands how to do terrines, clearly it was firm enough for a generous slice which just melted in my mouth, the contrast of dark & white meat evident enough to give that ever so slight game tang that guinea fowl has about it, making it more luxurious than it poorer poultry cousin, chicken. Old school style in its presentation: with its picked chervil; razor sharp edges to the quenelle of chutney and fronds of curly endive, it still didn’t detract from setting the bar high & demonstrating that a chef with confidence in his own style & ability will out shine any TV show winner or Heston wannabe.
Whilst we waited for our mains to arrive there was the usual wait which always gives you the chance to see what everybody else is eating. unfortunately Little Barwick wasn’t particularly busy for lunch so there was only two other tables in. Fortunately entertainment was on hand as we listened in to another table on the other side of the room. No that either of us were straining, because quite frankly the semi deaf, retired Major could probably be heard outside. The xenophobic Daily Mail-esque pontifications were actually quite hilarious to listen to
Did Johnny Foreigner over there in Greece asked to be bailed out, NO! he bloody well didn’t. So why are we doing it?
My partner went for the roasted breast of Gressingham duck with wild mushroom risotto, whilst I was sucked in by the roasted saddle of roe deer with red cabbage & juniper berry sauce. Having spent time in Italy all be it a few years ago I can be a stickler for what constitutes a risotto. If you can mould it in a ring, a risotto it ain’t, which is unfortunately what what my dining partner got. It tasted great but the texture was all wrong, it lacked the creaminess and the lovely around the mouth feel of a proper risotto, coupled with the parmesan tang of umami. My main course on the other hand was a triumph, succulent pink roe deer with juicy fruity red cabbage and a crisp straw potato galette as texture. In lesser hands the juniper berry sauce could have been an accident waiting to happen, but Mr Ford has a deft palette & touch, which brought the whole dish together nicely. From the pictures below some of you may notice that we both had the same vegetables on our mains, this I feel is one of the sacrifices you have to pay when dining on a cheaper lunch menu.
Again after our plates had been cleared the retired Major could be heard going on about ‘Johnny Foreigner’ keeping us entertained. Whilst I thought the dessert option on the menu was a balanced offering, nothing really jumped out for my partner, so dined alone for the last course. I’ve always got a soft spot for chocolate on a dessert menu & often it’s a toss up between that & cheese. The dark chocolate & coffee terrine, dark chocolate sauce and grand marnier ice cream was a good choice. Rich and unctuous as in something that you thought only Nigella could make. Although the presentation was dated & the chocolate sauce played second fiddle to the excess of crème anglaise coupled with a mysterious syrup, it actually ate remarkably well.
So to the nuts & bolts of lunch at Little Barwick House. Would I go again? it’s a resounding yes. The quality of ingredients coupled with technique is a winning combination. Service is top notch but in an unobtrusive way. Nothing is hurried yet you don’t feel that you’re being neglected. Little Barwick House can be hard to find making it all the more worth searching out.
Lunch: £23.95 for 2 courses, £27.95 for 3courses
Little Barwick House,
T: 01935 423902
F: 01935 420908