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Saturday, 04 April 2020
WHEN it comes to tales of triumphant turnarounds, there’s no better example than the Bottle and Glass Inn at Binfield Heath.
For many years, the Grade II listed hostelry cut a sad sight as it lay disused and facing an uncertain future following its closure by previous owner Brakspear in 2013.
But David Holliday and Alex Sergeant, who reopened it in partnership with the village’s Phillimore Estate just over a year ago, can be rightly proud of what they’ve accomplished in that short time.
The pub now boasts a new 70-cover restaurant with an upscale yet no-nonsense menu of British classics with a modern twist.
Just months after reopening, it was quite rightly listed in the Michelin Guide 2018 and awarded L’Assiette Michelin, a new honour for eateries which almost reach the required standard for a coveted Michelin star.
Diners enjoy their meals in a spacious, contemporary and welcoming extension to the building while the original thatched pub still houses a cosy, intimate “locals” bar for those who just fancy a few drinks or an upmarket bar snack.
When my partner and I visited last week, we kicked off our culinary journey with one such snack — a Scotch egg with a deliciously crisp, freshly fried breadcrumb coating and a runny, deep orange yolk. This was accompanied by a satisfyingly dense and subtly sweet black treacle bread roll served with butter churned on the premises.
I opted for a starter of cured Cornish mackerel, which arrived lightly seared on the underside and beautifully presented with salt-baked beetroot, horseradish and dill. Meanwhile, my partner’s starter of Wye Valley asparagus and a slow-cooked hen’s egg was given a real kick by the accompanying spiced tomato jam.
Continuing with the seafood theme, I plumped for a main course of Cornish bream with roasted cauliflower, samphire, capers and dollops of smoked mayonnaise. This did not disappoint as the fish was cooked to perfection, with the skin crispy yet the flesh still juicy and moist.
Likewise, the vegetable accompaniments — which I bolstered with an extra side dish of roasted Hispi cabbage with chives and crème fraîche — had a delicious seared crust but a good amount of bite on the inside.
My partner’s rump and shoulder of Newbury lamb arrived on the right side of medium-rare and with creamy, puréed dollops of heritage carrot, wild garlic and tangy chunks of goat’s cheese. As with mine, it was a wonderful blend of textures and flavours that complemented each other well.
After a short break, I ordered a British cheese board as dessert and was presented with an intimidatingly generous selection of three cheese wedges with fruit, home-made oatcakes and fruit chutney.
My favourite of the trio was Mrs Bell’s Blue, a smooth and creamy blue-veined sheep’s cheese from Yorkshire, but they were all delicious and the other two, a Suffolk Brie named Baron Bigod and a semi-soft Surrey cheese named Tornegus, were a good counterpoint to the powerful flavour of the first.
By this point there was no space in my burgeoning belly to sample my partner’s dessert, a dark chocolate mousse with ice-cream and peanuts, but I’m reliably assured that it was delicious.
That evening’s menu boasted six starters and seven mains including, for the more adventurous, a starter of crispy pig’s head meat with Waldorf salad. Another highlight, which I have sampled on a previous visit, is the haunch of fallow deer from the estate with baked celeriac, pickled blackberries and black pudding. Our dinner was accompanied by a bottle of Blandine le Blanc, a refreshingly crisp, floral and slightly fruity French white, and the restaurant offers a wide selection of wines — as evidenced by the groaning cabinet displayed in the dining area. Perhaps just as importantly, the service was attentive and friendly without being overbearing, both at our table and when we enjoyed a few extra drinks at the bar afterwards. All things considered, the good folk of Binfield Heath are very lucky to have the Bottle and Glass on their doorstep. Whether you live in the village or a little bit further afield, it’s well worth a visit.
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