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Monday, December 2, 2013
A royal narrative in the making
UNDERSTANDING the ‘narrative’ of a restaurant is not a new concept to me. However, it is an idea that has only recently taken up any real meaning in my personal dining experience.
Telling the story of your establishment through the food you put on the plate is a great way to stand out from the overcrowded gastropub scene.
It can give a progressive eatery a real sense of identity and a way forward to create its own style.
One of those restaurants developing its own style is The King’s Head at Wye.
The old pub was converted earlier this year into a modern pub with its airy spaces, stressed-wood tables and metallic finishes, perhaps suiting the commuter clientele residing in the village.
It looks smart and it’s definitely somewhere you could easily lose hours socialising in front of the fire.
There are also village-produced teas, jams and chutneys on sale on the Welsh dresser, but it doesn’t strike a blow for originality until you get to the menu.
Just some of the ideas include Wye Bakery bread and dripping, crispy pig’s ears with Tartare sauce and the delicious-sounding venison burger.
The menu also comes with hi-tech QR code (like a barcode), which when you flash your mobile phone over will give you the day’s specials.
Happily, for those not technically minded, a short walk to the chalkboard will suffice.
My guest and I opted for a substantial sharing platter to start, comprising pork crackling and an apple-sauce dipping pot.
The home-made crackling pieces were full of flavour without being greasy and offered a classic delicacy with just a little thinking outside the box. It’s an obvious winner to start any meal in a pub, isn’t it?
My first course was the best of the lot – monkfish cheeks covered in tempura batter. The light, juicy flesh of the fish was complemented by the crispy batter and made for a superb appetiser along with a tangy Tartare sauce.
My guest took on the honey-glazed lamb sweetbreads with rosti potato swimming in a rosemary jus. Though easily polished off, my guest did think the jus was a little overpowering… a minor quibble.
Sticking to the narrative and using local meat-producer Godmersham Game, The King’s Head next served up pheasant breast served with red cabbage and baby carrots.
Though the breast was a little tough on the outside, the succulent centre was very nice. However, it was the extras that caught the eye – a pork chipolata added that bit of extra flavour to the dish, while the creative ‘game crisps’ (finely-sliced potato chips) really stood out for originality.
The other side of the table devoured a huge home-made chicken Kiev with seeping garlic butter and sauté potatos.
To finish, I opted for a tasty dark chocolate and walnut brownie, which could have done with a little more heat to grab the taste buds in a confrontation with the cold vanilla ice-cream.
My guest, meanwhile, chose the espresso crème brûlée, which had a superb flavour and again added a little twist to a classic dish.
Its airy nature made the pub a little chilly at times, but that could be easily remedied by the proprietors taking advantage of the beautiful open fireplace in the dining room, especially with winter drawing in.
The portion sizes were perfect and the service was spot on despite the influx of dining customers as the evening progressed.
The original ideas are great and the venison burger is still in my sights for my next visit – and there will definitely be a next visit.
Our total bill, including drinks, came out at a meagre £62.45.
The ‘narrative’ of the pub was maintained through the food, using local producers and variations on country-pub classics.
The menu had some really fresh ideas, hopefully pointing to a great future as long as the team consistently puts out the quality food of which it is clearly capable.
The King’s Head is not far away from becoming beautiful Wye’s jewel in the crown.