Archive for January, 2017

Restaurant Review: Indian Essence, Orpington (Jan 2017)

Posted on: January 28th, 2017 by Simon Carter


Orpington, a London suburb just 30 minutes by train from Victoria, used to be synonymous with a rather patronising notion of the aspirant middle class. The stereotype was so engrained in class-obsessed post-war Britain that ‘Orpington man’ became an early pejorative figure. However, today’s Orpington would be characterised quite differently, particularly the leafy and the prosperous area of Petts Wood. With excellent connections to inner London and a good catchment of potential clientele, this is exactly the kind of outer London area that provides great opportunities for the savvy restaurateur.

With the benefit of local knowledge provided by his business partner, Jatindar Singh, it is little surprise that Atul Kochhar seized upon this opportunity by opening Indian Essence in 2012. Today this joins Benares, Sindhu and a host of overseas ventures in the growing business empire of Kochhar and Singh.

Less than five minutes’ walk from Petts Wood Station, the restaurant occupies an unassuming spot amongst shops and other eateries. On a cold Monday evening in January, when the streets were quiet and a number of other restaurants closed, Indian Essence managed to draw in a decent crowd. Clearly this is a placed loved by locals as many of those dining appeared to be celebrating special occasions.


Inside the restaurant we found a light and airy space, comfortably accommodating 78 covers. The carefully chosen décor of neutral tones makes a focal point of the large picture window into the kitchen. The furniture is comfortable and tables dressed in fine napery are sufficiently spaced as to make the presence of other diners unobtrusive.

Indian Essence is billed as a neighbourhood restaurant; however it seems impossible for a chef with the acclaim of Atul Kochhar to deliver anything but a destination product. Kochhar gained his first Michelin star whilst Head Chef at Tamarind and then a second for Benares. He plays an active role in development of the menu at Indian Essence and its head chef, Kuldip, regularly visits him at his development kitchen in West London. As witnessed on our visit, his cooking retains the integrity of Indian regional cooking with inventive modern touches.

On our visit we were sampling the tasting menu which was preceded by cocktails and poppadoms. The Passion Fruit Martini was astringent and slightly sour, a perfect palate cleansing combination of flavours. The Ginger and Pineapple Mojito was equally refreshing and both drinks were complimented perfectly by mini poppadoms and a trio of fruit chutneys (mango, apple and tomato).

With appetites whetted, the amuse bouche arrived promptly. This comprised of a vegetable samosa, classically filled with potato and peas. The accompanying dressing of coriander, mint and mango lightened the dish and left a fresh taste. The excellent timing in the delivery of this and all of subsequent courses – perfectly anticipating when we were ready to progress to the next course but never feeling hurried – was a hallmark of the efficient service which was clearly a tight collaboration between kitchen and front of house teams.


The first course, a variation on Aloo Tikki, saw the addition of dates and pomegranate which added sweetness alongside the savoury potato and sour tamarind. Traditionally plain, salted yoghurt would also be served, however in this case the yoghurt appeared to have been whipped, changing the texture of the dish. The overall result was lighter, slightly sweeter dish, which was well suited to a multi-course menu and perfectly matched by the accompanying Chablis.


Next we sampled a fish course, of King Prawn and Kingfish, cooked in the Tandoor. Needless to say, the extremely high temperature of the traditional clay oven has the potential to risk overcooking and is a test of the most competent of chefs. Thankfully, this was a test the kitchen team passed with flying colours. Both the Kingfish and the King Prawn were moist and succulent, enhanced by the slightly smoky flavours resulting from the tandoor method of cooking. A classic Guwurtztriminer provided an enjoyable and suitably aromatic accompaniment.


After a palate cleansing raspberry and strawberry sorbet, it was time for an intermediary course of Tandoori Murgh Makhanwala, which was served with a raisin pilaf. The variation on the word Makhani, meaning ‘with butter’ suggested we should be for a rich and heavy dish, however what was served to us was much more delicate and full of subtle flavours. The chicken was once again cooked tandoori style, however this time instead of being served dry it sat atop a flavoursome sauce. The pilaf was an excellent partner to the main dish, providing a canvas on which the full flavours came to life. The chicken and sauce were so gently spiced that any trace of heat was imperceptible and the predominant flavour was of tomato and ever so slightly sweet. Unusually perhaps for a white meat course, this was served with a very pleasant Pinor Noir.


The main course on the tasting menu provides a choice of either Fish (Mangu Chara Cod) or Textures of Lamb.

The fish option was a generous fillet of cod, which had marinated with Malvani spices and then pan seared. It was served with potato and beetroot mash and a garlic and date sauce. Malvani cooking can be very hot however this dish was gentle and did little to measure on the Scoville scale. It did however make good use of subtle flavours such as the date and beetroot. The fish was also expertly cooked, resulting in a good texture and succulence.


The lamb was our favourite of the two dishes, with the contrasting textures and methods of cooking working extremely well. The lamb chop was soft and tender and the fat had been rendered properly to yield maximum flavour without charring any of the meat. The fennel based marinade was absolutely delicious and both flavoured and protected the meat during the cooking process.


The contrasting texture was provided by a Lamb Bhuna Gosht, which had been slow cooked and melted in the mouth. The sauce of the bhuna was rich and meaty and we were certain to mop up every last drop! The third element to accompany the lamb was a Daal Makhni, a vegetarian lentil dish, prepared with butter. The daal was simple in terms of its flavour profile and provided a pleasant contrast to the intensity of the meat dishes.


To accompany the main course we enjoyed a basket of naan bread, which were flavoured with Mediterranean ingredients such as olive and tomato. These flavours worked well with the main course and complimented both the lamb and cod dishes. The texture of the bread was soft and the dough seemed to have been enriched, resulting in a texture a bit like fougasse.

A very drinkable Cabernet Sauvignon accompanied both of the main courses.

Finally, the meal was finished with Almond Halwa and Chocolate truffle flan. This was dense and intensely rich and so a small portion of was more than sufficient. A light and creamy almond kulfi rounded off the sweet and provided a cooling end to the meal. A glass of Sauternes was an over-indulgence but very pleasantly ended the meal.


The tasting menu takes a culinary tour of the Indian continent, fusing together elements inspired by different regions and types of cooking. The overall effect is to distil an essence of Indian cuisine, as promised in the name of the restaurant. In each dish, the balance of flavours and textures was finely tuned. The only omission to this careful curation is a hot curry; however given the potential to overpower other flavours; this seems likely to have been a conscious decision.

At £47.95 (£77.95 with wines), the tasting menu is excellent value as well as a tour de force of modern Indian cooking. For lunch Indian Essence offers even better value, with two courses available at only £14.50. With highly courteous and efficient service to boot, Orpington man is onto a good thing!

Feature: Roux Scholarship 2017 Press Release (Jan 2017)

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 by Simon Carter

Anne-Sophie Pic revealed as honorary president of judges at Roux Scholarship 2017.

Roux ScholarshipInnovative three star Michelin chef, Anne-Sophie Pic will join the Roux family as honorary president of the judges at this year’s Roux Scholarship final.

Anne-Sophie Pic’s story is both remarkable and inspiring. In 2007, she became the fourth female chef to achieve three Michelin stars and the only woman to hold three stars at a restaurant in France, Anne-Sophie Pic, in Valence. In 2011, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants named her World’s Best Female Chef.

A total of six Michelin stars to her name; she holds two stars for Anne-Sophie Pic, in Lausanne, Switzerland and a sixth for La Dame de Pic in Paris. Anne-Sophie’s next challenge is to open her first restaurant in London, La Dame de Pic at the Four Seasons Hotel, Ten Trinity Square. Opening at the end of January 2017 it will feature the modern French cuisine for which she is famous.

Michel Roux, OBE: “We must congratulate Anne-Sophie Pic for the true leadership she is displaying by becoming guest president of the judges. And be thankful that despite spreading her wings in Europe and her increasing workload, this remarkable lady commits to spurring on the next generation. In particular, I hope this message encourages more female chefs in the UK to enter the Roux Scholarship.”

Anne-Sophie Pic: “I feel very honoured, to be involved with the 2017 Roux Scholarship, it is an interesting competition, emphasising both tradition and innovation. I believe that these two values are the two sides of the same coin. Within the tradition there is the idea of know-how and transmission, which are key to make the cuisine of a country lasting. I think one needs to know where he comes from to know where he wants to go. The question of roots is important to build our own path in life.

What I find really exciting about the Roux competition is that, from a classic recipe, there is a lot about taste and interpretation. I am sure I will be amazed by the creations of these young chefs. I am very impatient to discover all these talents!”

Michel Roux Jr: “Anne Sophie Pic is one of the most brilliant stars of French gastronomy, combining exotic spices and flavours with classic techniques. There is a purity that flows through every dish that never fails to delight.”

Alain Roux: “For many people, the name “Pic” says it all. As one of the few female three star Michelin chefs, she is highly respected, not only in France but internationally offering inspiration to all aspiring chefs. Chef Pic’s style of food, her interesting yet subtle approach and creative use of quality seasonal ingredients is exceptional. She powerfully combines a feminine finesse with unique flair sometimes creating unusual combinations but always guided by an excellent palate ensuring she gets the most out of her dishes. For me, having worked myself at Maison Pic, it is simply bringing the family back together again
which is always lovely.”

Roux Scholarship 2017 closes at midnight on 31st January.

There is still time for aspiring scholars to enter and win the chance to cook for chef Pic at the final. Simply submit a recipe for four people using this year’s ingredients: One whole fresh rainbow trout (1.5 – 2kg), 800g live mussels, accompanied by two garnishes, one of jasmine rice and a second of your choice. A sauce must accompany the dish. To apply go to for the full details and the competition rules.

The judges will select the best 18 recipes from those submitted. These chefs will be invited to cook their dish and a ‘mystery box’ dessert challenge at regional finals to be held in Birmingham and London on Thursday 23rd March 2017. Six winners will go through to the final cook-off.

Chef Pic will head the panel of judges alongside joint chairmen Alain and Michel Jr, the final will take place at Westminster Kingsway College London on Monday 10th April 2017. They will be joined by James Martin, David Nicholls, Brian Turner, first scholar Andrew Fairlie as well as previous winners Simon Hulstone (2003 scholar), Sat Bains (1999 scholar) and André Garrett (2002 scholar).

At the final, six finalists will be given a recipe and ingredients for a main dish, either classic or modern and three hours to prepare and present it to the judges. The winner will be announced at a prestigious award ceremony at The Langham, London, that same evening.

Live stream of Award Ceremony

Fans of the competition can tune in live from 7pm on Monday 10th April via to enjoy the full ceremony including behind the scenes films and a master class of the final dish by Michel Jr and Alain Roux. The event will culminate with the Roux family announcing the name of the winner in front of an audience of prestigious guests from the world of hospitality.

Our sponsors

The Roux Scholarship is sponsored by a number of companies including: Aubrey Allen, Bridor, Cactus TV, The Caterer, Direct Seafoods, Global Knives, Hildon Natural Mineral Water, The Langham London, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, L’Unico Caffe Musetti, Mash Purveyors Ltd, Oritain, Qatar Airways, Restaurant Associates, TRUEfoods, and Udale Speciality Foods Ltd.

More details about each of our sponsors are available on our website

AA Restaurant Guide Rosette Awards Press Release (Jan 2017)

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 by Simon Carter



 The AA has been awarding Rosettes to restaurants since 1956, with the top award of five rosettes being introduced in 1991.  The multi rosettes are awarded bi-annually in January and September and for the first time this year the AA is announcing a new Five Rosette award in January.


The restaurant achieving this coveted five AA Rosette award is Gidleigh Park in Devon.  Michael Wignall (pictured), one of the country’s most respected chefs, moved to Gidleigh Park in January 2016.  He is well known for having a great respect for food and an ever evolving style which creates unique dishes full of flavour, underpinned by a contemporary, less formal approach to fine cuisine.

Alistair Sandall, Commercial Manager at AA Hotel Services said, ‘While the awarding of new five rosettes is usually included in our main Hospitality Awards in September we all felt that we could not delay this award until then.  Michael Wignall has transferred his exquisite skills and style to Gidleigh Park and has made this undoubtedly worthy of this accolade.’ 

The restaurants awarded new four AA Rosettes are –

  • Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond, Balloch
  • Morston Hall, Blakeney, Norfolk
  • Typing Room, London E2

The new three AA Rosettes restaurants are –

  • AG’s Restaurant at Alexander House Hotel, Turners Hill, Crawley
  • Anglo, London EC1
  • Boringdon Hall Hotel (Gallery Restaurant), Plymouth
  • Bovey Castle, Moretonhampstead
  • Céleste at The Lanesborough, London SW1
  • Crossbasket Castle, Blantyre
  • Inver Restaurant, Strachur
  • The Elderflower Restaurant, Lymington
  • The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa, Taunton
  • The Olive Room, Ilfracombe
  • The Square, London W1
  • Tuddenham Mill, Newmarket

Restaurants awarded three AA Rosettes are all outstanding restaurants that achieve standards that demand national recognition well beyond their local area while those achieving four AA Rosettes are among the top restaurants in the country.  To achieve five AA Rosettes, the restaurants are the pinnacle of the nation’s restaurants where the cooking compares with the best in the world and exhibit breath taking culinary skills and set the standards to which other aspire to and yet few achieve.

Gidleigh Park

As you round the corner on the long, winding drive on the edge of Dartmoor, the sprawling half-timbered mansion materialises against a lush backdrop of trees, with the River Teign flowing languidly past the front. The Aussie shipping magnate who built the property in the Arts and Crafts style in the late 1920s obviously intended to show his guests that he was a chap of substance, and it still gets jaws dropping today. It’s a charming and stylish place of impressively high standards, fully in tune with the needs of 21st-century sybarites, so everything is set up for pure indulgence and relaxation – there’s even a hot tub on the roof these days – and something would be amiss is there wasn’t an A-list dining option.There is: Gidleigh Park has one of the top restaurants in the country. The place was already in the Premier League of country house destination dining thanks to the long residency of chef Michael Caines – big boots for any successor to fill, but Michael Wignall (ex Pennyhill Park in Surrey) is a chef of the requisite calibre. He took the helm in 2016 and has shown that there are going to be thrills aplenty under the new regime. Wignall’s cooking is technically precise, clever without ever losing its way, and everything looks perfect on the plate.  A light touch means you can tackle the seven- or ten-course tasting menus without being overwhelmed, and meat-free versions of both ensure that veggies are not sidelined. Otherwise, the carte offers up five choices per course, or lunch is a good entry point if you want to get a measure of the place for pretty much half the price. Ensconced in oak-panelled majesty in one of the three dining rooms, you might as well splash out on some wine. An authoritative list of around 1,300 bins awaits, with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic sommelier to steer the way.

Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond

These days, just about every name chef has a place in the city and somewhere in the countryside, and Edinburgh star Martin Wishart has a gorgeously sited venue on a bank of Loch Lomond, probably literally a stone’s skim from the front door to the water’s edge. Naturally, views from the dining room are over the gently ruffled waters of the loch, and a little creative ruffling has been brought to the latest Ian Smith design job. Graeme Cheevers brings his own productive energies to the Wishart style, which matches a strong commitment to natural produce with head-turning visual display.

Morston Hall

On the edge of the Blakeney National Nature Reserve in coastal North Norfolk, Morston is a flint-knapped 17th Century country house with commanding views of the briny – a heaven-sent location for sourcing prime produce from land and sea. Inside, it’s a supremely civilised set-up, run for a quarter of a century with personable warmth and easy-going charm by chef-patron Galton Blackiston and wife Tracy. The conservatory dining room looks the part in delicate vernal green with fresh flowers abounding, and polished service ensures the evening runs like a well-choreographed routine. After aperitifs at seven, guests take their seats for the eight o’clock show that is the seven-course tasting menu. The pre-selected wine flight bears all the hallmarks of thoughtful selection based on testing and tasting, and is well worth the extra layout.

Typing Room

The old Bethnal Green town hall was built at the end of the Edwardian era, and is uniquely suited to have become a 21st-century hotel. The space where council memos were once hammered out on manual typewriters is now an independent dining room, designed along impeccable modern lines, including an open-to-view theatre kitchen with five evening shows a week and four lunch matinées. Time spent at international reference eateries Noma and Per Se, and productive periods under London maestros Tom Aikens and Jason Atherton, have refined Lee Westcott’s output to a rare pitch of concentrated creativity, and even where dishes look perfectly straightforward, they reveal unexpected depths of intensity from one mouthful to the next.

AG’s Restaurant at Alexander House Hotel

In a sprawling 120 acres of Sussex-Surrey borderland, the red-brick manor house is an architectural mash-up comprising a castellated neo-medieval turret and soaring factory-style chimneys. Inside, the designers have been busy funking up the bar and lounge with assertive splashes of psychedelic colour, but sensibly sticking to a more sober palette of royal-blue upholstery and white linen to reinforce the fine dining mood in AG’s, the principal dining room (there’s also a sleek brasserie called Reflections). Innovative technique and eye-catching presentations are the hallmarks of dishes that have their roots in the classical repertoire. Everything including the bread is made with craft and attention to detail, and it’s all backed by a compendious wine list.


The new order of fine dining is to chuck out the chintz and proffer an unpretentious attitude, to focus on the ingredients and to maximise flavour with various whizzy techniques. The guys behind Anglo do just that, in a simple room with a light modern feel, the space watched over by a small service team who are as professional and informed as they are youthfully exuberant. Some plates are brought to the table by the chefs, which is also part of the new order. Owner Mark Jarvis is an experienced hand, having kicked off his career at Le Manoir over a decade ago, and head chef Jack Cashmore has Sat Bains on his impressive CV. They’re turning out some eye-catching food, inspired by British produce – hence Anglo – and offered up via a lunchtime à la carte and 5-course tasting menu, and a full-bore 7-course tasting menu in the evening. Everything arrives looking beautiful on attractive crockery, and flavours hit home.  Dinner comes with an optional wine and beer pairing for each dish.

Boringdon Hall Hotel

Only a few clicks outside Plymouth, Boringdon Hall is a spa hotel with a rich past. Back in the Tudor day, it became crown property during the Dissolution, and was then gifted by Henry VIII to one of his court favourites, Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Today’s attractive mix of stone walls and mullioned windows with ultra-mod spa facilities adds up to a powerful enticement, and the deal is surely sealed in the Gallery Restaurant, which, as its name suggests, overlooks the beamed Great Hall with its intricate carved furniture and little crannies. Scott Paton rules this roost, with food that is full of surprises and inventive energy.

Bovey Castle

Built in 1890 by one William Henry Smith (WH Smith to you and me), Bovey Castle was first opened as a ‘golfing hotel’ by the Great Western Railway company way back in 1930, and both associations are acknowledged in today’s dining options: Smith’s Brasserie and the big-hitting Great Western restaurant. It’s a property with a real sense of drama – big, bold, and glamorous, with a spa and that golf course to help pass the time until dinner. The Great Western is an equally lavishly done out space, suitably romantic with an art deco swagger. The kitchen is headed up by Mark Budd, a local chap who always had his eye on the top job here, and he hasn’t wasted any time making his mark. Regional ingredients from land and sea loom large in good-looking contemporary dishes that reveal well-honed technical skills and even a sense of fun.

Céleste at The Lanesborough

London is hardly short of gilded relics of empire, but this grand old mansion on Hyde Park Corner is in the Premier League. The Lanesborough offers a world-class level of luxury and service, but if your budget’s not up for stratospherically-priced rooms – personal butler included – you can sample the hotel’s oligarch-friendly glamour by booking a table at Céleste, the opulent dining room. And those tables come glistening with top-class crystal and silverware, beneath a glass-domed ceiling that reflects a trio of shimmering chandeliers, and blue and white friezes resembling delicate Wedgwood china. Modern French cuisine is the kitchen’s thing, cooked with top-level skill under the aegis of French super-chef Eric Frechon, although day-to-day delivery of the Frechon style is in the talented hands of head chef Florian Favario. The kitchen and über-professional front-of-house team may be as French as a camembert baguette, but the first-class materials underpinning the menu are resolutely British.

Crossbasket Castle

Crossbasket is a castellated beauty, dating in parts from the 16th century, and following a multi-million-pound refurbishment it can’t surely have looked this good in all its 500-year history. The luxurious, traditional decor is entirely in keeping with the building, with just nine sumptuous bedrooms to ensure a personal touch. The restaurant follows suit with its lavish colour scheme of red and gold, and with the names Albert and Michel Roux Jnr looming large, well, you just know the culinary bar is set very high too. The service is formal, professional and spot on, while head chef Alex Thain is the man charged with delivering on the promise of the Roux association. There’s evidence of classical thinking on the menu, alongside a light modern touch and contemporary ideas, and the wine list covers the globe while remaining true to the auld alliance.

Inver Restaurant

Pam Brunton and Rob Latimer have made quite a metaphorical splash on the shores of Loch Fyne. Their low-slung whitewashed cottage sits in splendid isolation by the water’s edge, and a well-designed interior spec provides contemporary simplicity tempered by a couple of real fires. A stack of vinyl records provides a cool backing track. If the interior brings to mind the purity of Scandinavian design, well, that is perhaps no coincidence, for Pam’s time spent at Noma in Copenhagen has helped inspire her culinary approach too (check out the cookbooks on show to find further clues). The menu reflects the seasons and the local terroir, and modern cooking techniques enhance the ingredients to maximum affect.  Children have their own wee menu, and the wine list, like everything else here, lifts the spirits.

The Elderflower

A moment’s stroll from the quay at Lymington, The Elderflower is a traditional-looking double-fronted restaurant in the old part of town, opened in 2014 by Andrew and Marjolaine Du Bourg, a partnership with its entwined roots in Yorkshire and the Charente. Low beamed ceilings and smartly linened tables establish a sympathetic ambience within, and Andrew’s menus, honed by valuable experience in many of London’s premier addresses, are overflowing with intelligence and enthusiasm.

The Mount Somerset Hotel & Spa

A handsome Regency pile in four acres of hilltop grounds, Somerset House lords it in the bosom of the Blackdown and Quantock Hills. Within, it’s the very template for classic country-house style, jazzed up with a modern note here and there, its period features – high ceilings, ornate plasterwork, polished wooden floors, open fireplaces, and a sweeping centrepiece staircase for when you feel the need to make a grand entrance – all remain pristine and play their part in building an air of luxury and refinement. New head chef Mark Potts has upped the kitchen’s game, steering a creative, contemporary country house line, and packing its menus with top-grade produce with West Country ingredients play a leading role.


The Olive Room

One of the most encouraging aspects of the contemporary dining scene is that a cutting-edge kitchen might as easily be found on the tranquil north Devon coast, not far from where the ferries depart for Lundy island, as in the metropolitan heartlands. So it is with Thomas Carr’s thrilling modern repertoire at The Olive Room, which at one glance is just the dining room of a local guest house, but at another is so much more. Cream walls and engaging staff set a relaxing tone, but the cooking will have you sitting up and taking notice, and there is a compact list of well-chosen wines to accompany.

The Square

A new era began for The Square in March 2016 when, after a quarter of a century at the helm, former owner and driving culinary force Philip Howard announced its sale to Marlon Abela. Fear not. Abela heads up a high-end transatlantic portfolio and knows a thing or two about the restaurant business, so the formidable reputation built here for refined modern French-oriented cuisine that utilises a wealth of thoroughbred British produce remains intact. The room was never a show-stopper, but it is refined and gently contemporary: abstract art on pearlescent walls, polished wooden floors and generously-spaced tables dressed up in pristine linen. This is Mayfair after all and dishes unashamedly mix high and humble.

Tuddenham Mill

The old mill may have ended its grinding days in the 1950s, but its heritage remains intact at the present-day boutique hotel. For one thing, the stream that turned its waterwheel has been dredged of centuries of silt and is now a thriving wildlife habitat, while the majestic wheel itself, framed by beams and glass walls, forms a diverting centrepiece to the first-floor restaurant. Head chef Lee Bye is a country boy with an instinctive feel for the surrounding region.  

Restaurant Review: The Perch, Binsey Nr Oxford (Dec 2016)

Posted on: January 5th, 2017 by Simon Carter


The Perch is nestled on the western edge of the city in the hamlet of Binsey.  This thatched pub, with its origins in the 17th Century, is accessible from the city either by a drive up Binsey Lane, a long single track road, or by foot on a delightful Thameside walk.  Thus, although you are unlikely to ever stumble upon The Perch by accident, the time spent getting there is worthwhile. On a dark winter’s evening, we took the least picturesque of those options. Clearly, another visit on foot in the summer, when the pub and its extensive gardens can be seen in all their glory, is essential.


Another advantage of its semi-rural location is the ample parking outside. Once inside the welcome is warm and the ambience relaxed. The open fire and log stacks, low ceilings, oak beams and exposed brickwork are classic features pleasing to the eye. In 2015, owner Jon Ellse lovingly renovated the old fashioned pub resulting in a modern gastro feel.

The main restaurant, conservatory, terrace and gardens can seat up to 200 in summer. A permanent marquee is also used for private functions. The conservatory where we had dinner on a weekday evening in December, was kept pleasantly warm by patio heaters.

Food at The Perch delights in its variety, simplicity and honesty. Dishes are freshly prepared and generously portioned. Combinations are classical rather than original but no less successful for that. Sourcing is important being local if possible, such as Kelmscott salami and chorizo, or regional, with squid from Brixham and fish and mussels from Cornwall.

A seasonally changing menu of eight starters, 11 mains and six desserts (including cheese) supplemented by daily specials, caters for all tastes. There is an unusually good choice for pescetarians and vegetarians. The former includes potted kiln smoked salmon, fish plate (beetroot cured salmon, kipper pate, house cured mackerel and crayfish cocktail), squid, sea bass, mussels, and fish and chips. Vegetarians will also be pleased with options including a veggie board, roasted cauliflower soup, globe artichoke with roasted heritage carrot, potato, parsnip and wild rice cakes, pumpkin and blue cheese tart, butternut squash with roast pepper and roast cauliflower. These dishes show the versatility of the kitchen, not that burgers, pies, pates and roasts are neglected; the venison suet crust pie which we almost chose, looked especially delicious.


A Sample Photo of a Pie at The Perch


Starters prices are very fair indeed, given the quality and quantity of the ingredients: starts range from £5.95 to £9.95, mains from £12.95 to £16.95, and desserts £5.50 to £5.95. English cheese and accompaniments are priced individually at £3.75 or four at £12.  An embarrassment of choice meant we had difficulty choosing.

The Butcher’s Board (£9.95) was an accomplished starter: the goose breast was gently smoked, enhancing its firm flesh and gamey flavour; home corned beef had a soft texture and a melting quality; game terrine was rich and well-seasoned; Kelmscott salami was deliciously spicy. Served with sweet pickles and gerkins which gave the acidic lift this charcuterie platter needed, this dish would easily satisfy any discerning trencherman’s appetite.

Perch Butchers Board

A surf and turf starter paired Brixham Squid with Kelmcott chorizo (£9.95). The seafood was accurately timed to be soft and firm without being rubbery. The chorizo offered a spicy hit, whilst sauteed Swiss chard and mustard crutons gave crunch and a mildly sweet and sour note. This was more contemporary starter in which all the ingredients worked well together.

perch squid

This could also be said of the seafood special of the day (£20) featuring king scallops. They were large, sweet, succulent and spankingly fresh, with a caramelised crust to add colour and flavour. Celeriac puree gave an earthy smoothness, rocket leafs a peppery freshness, and roast apple wedges provided a gentle acidity to cut the richness of the scallop. The addition of black pudding and Parma ham crisps added welcome savoury notes and contrasting texture, although for balance of the dish needed more of these elements.

perch scallop

A simpler main was Ale battered Cornish fish with triple cooked chips.   (£13.95). The freshness of the fish was irreproachable and the beer batter well made. However, it would have been even better if it had been cooked more crisp, as parts had an avoidable sogginess rendering it heavier than necessary. The chips were as they should be: crunchy outside and soft inside. A generous helping of well-made tartare sauce and minted peas completed this favourite classic.

The dessert menu featured classic winter warmers, perfect for a cold December evening, such as spiced poached pear with chocolate sauce, treacle sponge and fruit crumble. The latter featured a comforting spiced plum, blackberry and almond crumble. Served in a metal pie dish which emphasised its traditional Britishness, the buttery richness of the topping was a perfect partner for the autumnal fruit compote beneath. The accompanying scoop of ginger ice cream was smooth and well flavoured, also acting as a rich sauce as it melted.

perch crumble

Cold desserts included baked white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake and a selection of sorbets and ice creams. Spiced apple sorbet and coffee ice cream were velvety smooth and deeply flavoured.

perch sorbet

Overall, this was a very successful visit, the minor blemishes not detracting from the undoubted skill in the cooking. This was enhanced by the wine list, which avoided greedy mark ups and the efficient, courteous and knowledgeable service.

A short walk around the grounds afterwards reflected what a summertime gem this would be. With river frontage and plenty of outdoor seating, The Perch would be an ideal stop for anyone on a scenic walk from the nearby city. There is a shed bar, too, which serves beer on tap and burgers and other bites. Wonderfully simple but probably very effective.