Now Oliver loves a good tongue twister. Even so, it took a few attempts to get one’s teeth around this name: The Queen o’ t’ Owd Thatch.
Since the South Milford venue turned into a modern dining pub, it has been steadily making a name for itself.
A month or so after our September visit, it was named a runner up in the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2015, in the category of Best Sunday Lunch, for the second year running.
Not that we went on a Sunday though; my dining partner and I were lured to this particular pub for the two-for-one cocktails offered on a Thursday evening. A quite extensive list, I might add, which took the edge off the disappointment when I realised that the roof of this establishment wasn’t actually thatched. Inside, and the sense of a rustic pub has been retained along with the addition of modern touches, such as the bare brickwork alongside glass and chrome.
Owned by a bartender, chef and gardener, each of the trio’s expertise combine in the menu, with the produce picked from the garden and the creative dishes based on the season. These are complemented by drinks pairings, ranging from anything from a cup of Yorkshire tea to an imaginative cocktail.
Just a few tables were occupied as we took our seats, rather late in the evening, but the ambience was relaxed and the waitress welcoming and just the right amount of attentive throughout the evening. My dining partner and I were a little amused that the waitress was literally being shadowed by what we assumed was a waitress-in-training, one who didn’t speak or assist - merely hovered.
However, our attentions quickly turned to the serious business of the cocktail menu. I plumped for my favourite, a classic bramble, while my partner opted for a house favourite, a pink grapefruit G&T.
As we studied the menu, we decided to follow the recommendations to the letter, and so my starter of soused mackerel (£5.50), served with watercress, spring onion and radish salad with a split beetroot dressing came with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, Giddy Goose. Beautifully presented, this classic fish dish offered light and fresh flavours. My partner’s choice of chargrilled courgette, with fettle bon bons and a spiced tomato puree (£5) was paired with a Tempranillo Rosado, Candidato.
He couldn’t decided whether his dish was supposed to be served hot or cold – it arrived warm. In his opinion, he thought, being a vegetarian dish, it would have been better hot. This didn’t hold him back though, and the plate was soon cleared.
For the main, I’m afraid I fell at a hurdle and couldn’t imbibe as fast as I ate, and so the Pinot Noir, Mount Hector, suggestion for my duck breast and nugget, served with orange-braised fennel and courgette ribbons (£15) remained unexplored.
The duck was cooked as per chef’s liking and the tender, juicy and pink meat was sublime against the slightly salty crispy skin. The nugget added further flavour and texture. As good as mine was, I eyed my dining companion’s beef skirt rump accompanied by tomato stew, glazed carrots and gratin potatoes (£16.50). He had kept apace with the drinks and sipped a Cabernet Franc, Bodega Atamisque. He declared the meat was very tender and nicely seasoned – it being locally sourced from a well-established supplier.
The glazed carrots were not overcooked with enough flavour, and the gratin potatoes were a nice addition with a subtle flavour that complemented the rest of the dish nicely. Alongside the mains we ordered a watercress salad, with a thick and sweet treacle vinegar, and proper chips - proper as in chunky and cooked in beef dripping. Delicious.
On to dessert, and I opted for The Queen o’ t’ owd Thatch’s take on the Eton mess - raspberry mess, with jelly, sweetened cream and meringue (£5.50). The meringues exploded in my mouth, taking me from a satisfying firm crunch to soft chewy sweetness. The jelly added sharpness while the paired Sauternes, Lucien Lurton et Fils - yes, I was back on track - enhanced the flavours beautifully. My friend opted for the dark and milk chocolate, which came with white chocolate cookies (£5.50).
Deciding not to conform this time, he shunned the suggested Orange and Macadamia Alexander tipple and instead perused the post dinner cocktail list and ordered an Espresso Martini.
The conclusion was that his pudding was nicely presented and well executed, with the espresso martini well prepared and not overly sweet - just enough to round off the meal without leaving too sweet a taste on the palate.
At this point I admit I couldn’t eat another morsel or drink another drop, not even a post dinner cocktail peach and sage sidecar to ‘sharpen you back up’ as the description suggested. Indeed, I went to The Queen o’ t’ owd Thatch and dined like a king.