(Photo: the post lunch waddle)
We have been meaning to go to the Crooked Billet in in Stoke Row since before I had grey hair. This anniversary a trip was planned, and we were finally set to go. Five minutes to blast off and I hear 'It was the Pot Kiln wasn't it?' So the Crooked Billet will have to wait.
From the moment that you see the veg patch as you walk to the pub you know you are onto a winner. We have been here a few times, normally with dog for a pub lunch then a walk. It is set in beautiful countryside and there are some rewarding walks, whether you want to go for a stroll or a two hour march.
This time we were went for the full dining experience. An anniversary lunch for five! Forget linen tablecloths or matching chairs, this is a place with no pretence - it does not need to be feign airs and graced. A simple seasonal menu with a few specials, and a children's menu too. The chief is renowned for his game cookery, so that does feature large on the menu, but there seems to be something for everyone.
I went for the full game experience. I had wood pigeon with celeriac and black pudding to start, a rather ballsy intro but a gamble that paid off. It was earthy yet refined and manageable. Home cured gravaldax and the ubiquitous goats' cheese may not have scored on the originality stakes, but the Pot Kiln has that Jessica Alba vibe - you know the gentle deceit of pretending to be the approachable girl next door while in reality being way out of your league. So, the basic eighties menu staples can cushion you from the challenge 'roe liver and foie gras parfait with muntjac lollipops'.
I was tempted to see if anyone could render the bullets also known as grouse edible, but good sense - or prejudice - prevailled and I went for partridge, a local speciality with chard and farcement potatoes (the humble spud with bacon and plums with calories injected in under pressure). Partridge is a favourite subtle flavour (or game for wimps) but whichever way it was cooked to perfection. The family had a roast rump joint, which they happily suggested would feed not just the recommended two adults but two children too. No fillet steak here, but a meaty cut with all the flavour and the flavour packed a punch.
It would have been sensible to have stopped there but greed tempted us on. The Valrhona chocolate and raspberry pudding looked like a door stop but miraculous it disappeared. Okay, I regret it now as a write like a beached whale, but at the time it seemed entirely logical to trough the lot: lightness offset the rich, and the sour balanced the sweet.
Reading the wine list there was little remarkable, many options that see interesting at around £34, but i bowed to my Dad's rationale that if a good restaurant can't do a decent house wine then they miss the point. Starters were around £7.50 and mains high teens. A special treat, but I am happy to save up for a repeat trip. I am so pleased the Hubster cocked up and we ended up here again, and I still have the Crocked Billet to look forward to, one of these years....maybe.
I waddled out like a beached whale. We did not for our regular stomp across the fields, but a crawl up to St.Frideswide Well. I took a deep slurp hoping that it's medicinal qualities will help my memories survive longer than my enhance spare tyre.
Ps should I have taken some pics of the food? Do you live in the moment and saveur, or snap for posterity.
Pps as you may have guessed - this is in no way sponsored :)