Editor's note: the head chef at the time of this review, Dominic Chapman, since moved to his own venture The Beehive.
Dominic Chapman continues to produce consistently enjoyable British food in this Michelin-starred pub in Paley Street. The room is a little larger now following an extension, seating 72 diners comfortably. Tables are well spaced and the building is more attractive inside than out, the exposed wooden beams creating a traditional English country pub feel to the room.
The wine list is much more ambitious than you might expect, reflecting the wealthy clientele that the pub attracts. So while there are some modest priced options like the Juan Gil 2010 Jumilla Petit Verdot at £26 for a wine that retails at about a tenner, you can also find Rioja Alta 904 2000 at £90 compared to its retail price of £34. The prestige wines can have some aggressive mark-ups: Grange 1990 was listed here at £2,650, yet can be found in a shop for £498, and Petrus 1993 was £3,100 compared to a retail price of £1,490. Nor is there a corkage option.
Nibbles involved a pleasant Scotch egg with a liquid centre, rabbit with pork fat on toast and, best of all, deep fried prawns. The shellfish were fresh in that day and had a lovely sweetness (15/20 on average but the prawns were better). Bread is made in-house these days, and I particularly liked a tomato brioche, but flatbread was also excellent (16/20).
Butternut squash soup was nicely fluffed up, served with gruyere cheese and good croutons. The soup had good flavour and was well seasoned (15/20). Escarole (a variety of endive less bitter than some) salad with pears, toasted walnuts, celery and Roquefort was nicely balanced, the dressing good (15/20).
Line-caught sea bass from Cornwall was served with buttered leeks, wood blewit mushrooms and walnut pesto. The fish had good flavour and was carefully cooked, the pesto a harmonious companion to the fish (15/20). Rabbit and bacon pie was very enjoyable, though a little less so than I recall from a previous meal; it just seemed to have less intense flavour, though the pastry was well executed and it was certainly still very enjoyable; the rabbit was a local Berkshire one apparently (16/20). On the side, triple cooked chips were superb, crisp on the outside and cooked properly through (17/20). Hispi cabbage can easily be watery and dull, but here it was precisely cooked and seasoned (15/20).
Rhubarb trifle was very enjoyable, using Yorkshire rhubarb, though I found this version rather less satisfying than the summer trifle that I have eaten here previously (15/20). Apple tart was also good, the Cox’s apples carefully cooked, the pastry delicate, the vanilla ice cream having plenty of vanilla flecks and rich flavour (16/20). Coffee was Musetti and very pleasant, accompanied with petit fours including a very good honey madeleine and chocolate truffle. Service was excellent, our waitress who used to work at the Box Tree in Ilkley particularly impressive. The bill with drinks came to £80 a head, which seems to me good value for such an enjoyable overall experience.