Simply put The Whitebrook provided one of the best meals I have ever had, and eating at the last dinner service before the 2019 Michelin Guide for the UK was announced, it was clear it was going to retain its star.
The only option is the 7 course tasting menu at £82pp, (which is fantastic value), served up by a small front of house team in a low ceilinged building from 1707. Its setting in the stunningly picturesque hamlet of Whitebrook near the Wye Valley provides a back drop for foraged herbs and ingredients that run as a theme through the menu.
Caramelised onion purée on goats curd with wild garlic, and chicken skin and carrot are served up as canapés to accompany the pre-dinner cocktails – they make a mean Negroni. The chicken skin is remarkable for its delicacy and snap, releasing a deep chicken flavour cut through by the slight pickle of the carrot. The goats curd is equally notable, smaller than a 10p piece, it whacks a punch of flavour that is tempered by the onion and simultaneously rounded off by and cut through with the wild garlic.
The amuse bouche of cauliflower purée with cauliflower and yarrow, a surprising cold dish, proved a delicate intro that acted to cleanse the palate for the meal.
Smoked beets with black pudding was the first starter, the lovely strong smokiness mingling with the richness and chocolate notes of the crumbled black pudding and then cut through by the sharp purée and onion.
The first of two fish dishes, and the second of three starters, was a large Orkney scallop. It is without question and compare the best scallop I have ever tasted among the many I have had over the years. It was not just the fact that it was perfectly cooked, translucent, caramelised and tasting of the deep sea; it was balanced perfectly with the turnip and the miso which commingled with the caramelised edge of the scallop so that every element was enhanced to a level that should not be possible. It was a tour de force in the view of everyone in our party.
The final starter was the duck liver parfait with croquette and duck gizzard. It was a light airy mouse, again cut through by a sharper ingredient, this time gooseberry. The nuts offered needed texture, while the croquette had an alluring hint of clove.
The plaice, a firm hunk of translucent sous-vide fish, was just beautiful. The pickled foraged mushrooms and artichoke cut the rich mushroom sauce to balance it all, pine oil with the fish bringing a note of the forest.
The pork main course was pink, deep, fatty, rich and unctuous. It was well done, but was the only dish missing something; it needed pickled pear to help cut through and add another dimension.
A blackberry and chamomile swirl was a palate cleanser before the dessert of an aerated light raspberry mousse, the perfect way to end the meal.
As I said, it was a dinner beyond compare. It is not the quickest of meals, but this is unimportant; you feel so relaxed and the food is so good that it is to be accepted as part of the experience. Make sure you go to The Whitebrook; the chef-patron, Chris Harrod, deserves his star and more importantly deserves your support. You won’t be disappointed.
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