Monday, 21 June 2021

Cigar ice cream rounds off a traditional English dinner

THINK of a traditional English dish and you may consider a Sunday roast, fish and chips or bubble and squeak.

THINK of a traditional English dish and you may consider a Sunday roast, fish and chips or bubble and squeak. But the owners of the Plowden Arms in Shiplake have taken a trip back in time to uncover the true heart of food on these shores — the origin of some dishes stretch back as far back as 1300.

The pub has a relaxed, traditional style with a wood fire, soft lighting and music from the Twenties which gives a relaxed mood.

The menu was diverse, and I took the opportunity to try a number of dishes I would never have usually contemplated tasting.

Starters included goat’s cheese croquettes, with a salad of grapes, walnuts and Oxfordshire honey. Another option was the 18th century-style herrings in oatmeal, with lemon salad and lemon mayonnaise. In fact, I was eager to sample the hot scotch eggs, which I’d heard about by reputation, and they were certainly different from the pre-packed fare we have become used to. The egg yolk was deliciously runny and contrasted well with the crispy pork coating.

For the main course, my instinct was to opt for the rump steak and it proved an excellent decision. Weighing in at 300g, it was amazingly tender and well complemented by a marrow bone sauce and triple-cooked chips. My companion chose tender duck breast, accompanied by 15th century Lancashire haggis, creamed savoy and roast turnips. According to the chef, female ducks are more tender than males, and they were cooked pink to perfection.

For dessert, a “healthy” amount of whiskey was used in the chocolate pudding to provide a real kick. The cigar ice cream — made using real crushed tobacco — was a slight Heston Blumenthal twist. In fact, the whiskey overpowered the cigar flavour, and the result was boozy and satisfying. My companion’s poached rhubarb with set custard provided a tantalising end to a lovely meal.

To round off the traditional dining experience, I also sampled this month’s “forgotten drink” — a rhubarb, lemon and rosemary tipple, that had a surprisingly modern twist to it.

Food may have come a long way over the last few centuries but after a meal like that, it’s tempting to wonder whether progress was ever necessary.

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