The Tilbury is near the village green in Datchworth, not far from Welwyn Garden City. The dining room is simple, with plain wooden tables and no frippery. The menu is appealing, with British classics. Starters are £4.95 - £9.50, main courses £12.50 – £26 (mostly around £16) and desserts £5.50 - £9.95. The wine list is split between Old World and New, a page of each, with decent growers but significant mark-ups. Examples are Boschendal Pinot Noir Chardonnay blend 2007 at £32.95 for a wine that costs around £8 retail, Blackstone Merlot 2006 at £35.50 compared to a shop price of around £8, and the excellent Chateau 2002 Musar at £46.95 for a wine that can be purchased for around £12 retail.
Piri-piri prawns were cooked a little longer than ideal, served with chorizo and cherry tomatoes with a spicy sauce, topped with chopped herbs – the sauce had a good chilli kick, though I found the elements of the dish rather odd in combination (12/20). Better was raviolo of salmon, crayfish and scallop, in a lemongrass and ginger bisque. The pasta was pleasant and the bisque had a refreshing quality (13/20). Beer-battered haddock was served with home-made chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. The haddock was cooked properly, the batter crisp and the peas were fine, and this was probably the dish of the night (14/20). The chips were decent, seasoned well but suffered from being slightly soggy in texture, though this is often a problem if you don’t triple cook your chips.
I went for a more ambitious lobster thermidor, served with a “spaghetti” of shredded vegetables. The lobster would have been better if it had been cooked a little less long; it was not chewy but was heading that way, while the cheese sauce was merely pleasant (12/20). For dessert, a passion fruit parfait had good taste and texture, a few raspberries as garnish were nice, though a brandy snap was rather hard, and a smear of chocolate on the plated added nothing useful (13/20, though the parfait itself was better). Cherry ice cream was made on the premises but need a lot more cherry flavour (11/20). Service was casual but pleasant, and portions were certainly generous.
The bill came to £58 plus service per person, though this included the Chateau Musar and the lobster. Overall this was certainly a distinct step up from regular pub food, and for the area it must seem practically miraculous.