07 September, 2008

Walnut Tree Restaurant

Last night was lovely. Tom and I were celebrating knowing each other for 10 years so we decided to go to one of the best restaurants in our area, and as it turned out, one of the best restaurants I've ever been to.

The Walnut Tree was owned for years by Franco Taruschio, and sadly after his retirement it went into a bit of a decline with a not very good appearance on one of Gordon Ramsay's fix a bad restaurant shows, and closure last year. This year, the restaurant reopened with the chef Shaun Hill at the helm (he used to run the well-known and very well thought of Merchant's House in Ludlow which I never managed to get to). Anyway, since the opening, the Walnut Tree has had great reviews so it was a natural choice for us, plus my cousins live close enough to babysit easily.

It's a very informal looking restaurant with dark wood, Matisseish black and white prints on the wall and pretty curtains but no fuss and not too much table linen. Can't stand those places where you feel like you're wearing the table there's so much cloth on it, and the chair too sometimes.

We started with a glass of champagne each (of course) and meltingly soft gruyere nibbles.

Dinner was as follows: (I didn't make notes but they have the menu on their website)

me: seared diver caught scallops with sesame dressing
Tom: salt beef, beetroot and potato salad and salsa verde

me: Aylesbury duck steamed and then crisp fried with a root vegetable puree
Tom: seared monkfish with mustard and cucumber sauce

We drank a half bottle of Nuits-St-Georges premier cru 1999 which was very expensive and very wonderful.

Pudding (and Shaun Hill says pudding not dessert) was a raspberry streusel tart for me and a lemon and amaretto posset with roasted apricots for Tom. We washed it down with a glass each of 2006 Krachen beerenauslese from Austria.

I feel hungry again just thinking about it. Shame I didn't take the camera but that's just a bit too conspicuous. Everyone looked like they go all the time. They always do, don't they! Whereas I spend the evening feeling like an interloper and that I must have laddered my tights. Still, if you went all the time it wouldn't be so much of a treat, I imagine.

Shaun Hill was popping into the restaurant from the kitchen to say hello to friends last night, wearing an apron like my grandma's and clogs. He has his own but also other chefs books on display. The whole place had a good unpretentious feel. The food was stunningly good. I'm not sure I could pick out any one thing though the scallops were sweet and moist and the duck was rich and delicious. Tom was blown away most by the spinach puree which doesn't mean he was unimpressed by the other food, just that the spinach was mindblowingly good, which is quite an odd thing to say about spinach.

Suffice to say it all looked lovely and tasted wonderful and we were pleasantly warm and tiddly rather than drunk. Their wine list is very well organised and clearly aimed at those who don't want to get legless as it has several good half bottles and lots to drink by the glass. Sensible as it's an out of town restaurant you need to drive to (thank you Jack for acting as a taxi and B&B).

We will definitely be going back.

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