Monday, 4 July 2011

The Lamb, Satwell, Oxfordshire

While my sister was recently visiting from Oz I was keen to take her back to a good old fashioned English pub, preferably with good food and beer, in a nice country setting.  The Lamb at Satwell seemed to fit the bill; food recommended in the Good Pub Guide, supplied with an exclusive brew from the local Loddon Brewery and only about half an hours drive from our door through the gently rolling Chilterns.

Despite nursing sore heads from the night before we set off in good spirits, and were not even deterred by the sat nav leading us into a lay by nowhere near the pub before announcing; 'you have reached your destination'.  The pub itself is charming, a 16 century building, with nooks and crannies full of knick knacks, and a lovely sunny garden.  As the weather was typically English we chose to sit inside and got on with ordering a pint of the the decent Leaping lamb ale and a couple of glasses of wine.

The Ewing ordered the two courses and a drink for £15 from the set meal, (advertised on the website and on the pub's walls as being available all lunchtime, and before 7.00) tucked in the main menu.  Unfortunately, after taking our order, they informed us that as they were so busy earlier the deal was off.  Kindly, after checking with the kitchen, the waiter said they could still do it, less OK was the fact they still charged us full price on the final bill.

Her starter of potted shrimps came as a generous portion covered in delicious clarified butter and not served fridge cold, as is often their downfall.  The tiny pink commas of prawn were unusually, but successfully, cooked with a sweet mirepoix of celery, carrot and onion.

The Ewing's main was kipper with poached egg, sauteed potatoes and mustard sauce.  Rich and creamy, the smokiness nicely complimented with the tang of the mustard and chives.  It was a rich dish and would have been good with some bitter salad leaves, or green veg on the side to mop up the sauce and cut through the strong flavours.

My sister and mum shared the smoked mackerel with a poached egg and hollandaise, (requested on the side) and a braised shoulder a and grilled rack of lamb between them.  The fish came covered in hollandaise.  A shame as it was reported as being rather good once most of the sauce was scraped to the side.  The eggs come from the chickens kept out in he back garden, and this one was poached perfectly.

The lamb was the standout dish of the night, somewhat apt considering the pub's name.  Sticky strands of slow cooked shoulder and three fat pink grilled chops in a puddle of properly glossy gravy.  Accompanied by green beans and crispy roasties a small pile of gnawed bones was the only evidence left on the plate.

I chose the guinea fowl with red cabbage, roasted celariac and Penny Bun mushroom butter.  The meat was juicy while the red cabbage and celariac cake added a earthy sweetness.  Standout was the mushroom butter, a delicious, creamy addition with a deep fungal flavour.  Again the gravy was exemplary, although, like the Ewing's main, with all the rich, sweet flavours perhaps the whole dish was lacking a little zing of freshness.

The Ewing and I struggled on to pudding (in the name of research of course).  After a mix up that saw the table next to us served our original puddings we finally received roasted plums with amaretti and mascapone, and steamed apple and ginger pudding with ice cream.  Although she was rather quiet while eating her fruit the Ewing proclaimed it 'really rather good' later that evening.  Picking out the contrast between the soft fruit and crunchy almond biscuits as being particularly nice.

My choice was a proper rib sticker that had managed to retain the fluffy interior of a good steamed
pud. The ginger was a good addition and the cold vanilla ice cream the perfect foil. Even my sister, normally a shunner of all things sweet, enjoyed it leaving me to defend my desert from the probing fork on the other side of the table.

Overall a pleasant and enjoyable meal if slightly shadowed by a few small service errors.  The prices are pretty fair, the cooking good and the staff friendly.  The lovely countryside setting setting with big beer garden and barbecue area also make it an attractive prospect for a summers afternoon.  Especially if they're planning one of their advertised hog roasts.  For a pint of Leaping Lamb and a pig bap I may well be back.

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