The Plough

Kimbolton Road, Bolnhurst, England, MK44 2EX, United Kingdom

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The Plough is tucked away in a scenic part of the countryside in Bedfordshire sufficiently out of the way that I could not get a mobile phone signal, and the waiters need to take the credit card reader to the odds parts of the restaurant where a signal mysteriously penetrates and allows the card to be validated. The original building dates back to the 1480s, complete with very low beams, but the building has been extended since, and there is a pretty garden at the back by a stream.

Martin Lee runs the kitchen and his wife Jayne the front of house team, having taken the premises over in 2005. The dining room is informal, with no tablecloths, and a short but appealing menu of British dishes. Starters were £5.95 - £9.50, main courses £14.95 to £18.95 with vegetable side dishes extra, mostly at £3.50 each, and desserts from £5 to £6.95.

The wine list has an unusual amount of thought put into it, running to around 150 choices, and with extremely detailed tasting notes on the wines in the “reserve” section of the list. The list started with fair mark-ups at the low end of the list, but has serious bargains as you climb the quality ladder. Arrogant Frog Chardonnay-Viognier 2009 was £19 for a wine that you can buy in the shops for £7, Plexus Duval 2007 was £38 for a wine that retails at £16, and Isole e Olena 2008 was £58 for a wine you can buy for £18. But as you move further up the list the real bargains begin. Esmonin Clos de Vougeot 2000 was £77 on the list, yet this wine will cost you £65 in the shops.  Mersault Clos de Barre Lafon 2005 was a remarkably fair £100 given that the wine actually costs £96 to buy retail, while Chateau Latour 1983 was £550 for a wine that will set you back £334 to buy. This list is a wine lover's’ delight.

Bread is made from scratch and was pleasant wholemeal bread (14/20). My starter of scallops with broad beans, mint, pancetta and pea shoots (£9.50) had nice broad beans and pancetta but soggy pea shoots, and scallops that were of reasonable quality but had not been prepared well, so a mouthful of the sweet flesh may have hard muscle attached (13/20). “Spring vegetable soup” (£5.95) was not liquidised so more a broth, and seemed to have hardly anything that you would count as a spring vegetable: canneloni beans, carrots, root vegetables and a surprising lack of seasoning (11/20).

Denham Estate venison steak (£16.95) was char-grilled and had good flavour, served with a fondant potato made with pleasant stock but which was less firm than ideal, decent spring cabbage, some rather superfluous and rather tasteless beetroot and a quite good red wine sauce (14/20). Brill (£18.95) was roasted and served with cooked vine tomatoes, asparagus, seasonal Jersey Royals and marjoram. The fish was capably cooked and the vegetables were reasonable but again lacked seasoning (13/20).

Iced lemon parfait came wrapped in a rather thick biscuit tuile, but the parfait itself had nice lemon flavour, supplemented by strips of lemon, but I was not sure why this was accompanied by rather flavourless and out of season cherry compote (which had been frozen when it was fresh). Just about 14/20 given the good parfait.  Rhubarb crème brulee was rather sloppily presented but had good custard, proper rhubarb flavour and a top that was not over-cooked (14/20).

Coffee was Musetti and was very good (15/20). Service was rather variable, with a telling “who ordered what” for one course, but this was not really a problem on a casual pub setting like this. The bill came to £40 a head for lunch, but bear in mind that this was with just one glass one wine between us.  Desserts seemed to me the most consistent course, but the food was generally quite good and the wine list was a serious bargain at the high end.

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