Our first visit at lunch today, fixed up on the spur of the moment when we discovered that Stovell's is closed Saturday lunchtime . We both opted for starter and main from the a la carte menu and a glass of tasty Rosso di Montalcino, and we left thinking we'd had a good time and that it's likely we'll return
We've travelled fairly widely within our local area (Berks/Bucks/Surrey) to find places we can really enjoy and look forward to. Its harder than you might think, albeit that we have a huge number to choose from. Sure we have some very fine restaurants, but they're mostly hugely expensive and hard to secure a table. We have a raft of one, occasionally two, Michelin star restaurants, but most of them disappoint by comparison to their London peers and frankly we don't use them much in our local area these days. And then we have gastropubs or equivalent by the zillion, and some are very good without offering quite the quality and imagination we'd like to enjoy locally if we could.
It's in that context that we chose Stovell's today, and indeed we think that this might be a find. Everything we ate today was cooked properly and presented nicely, from Amuses Bouches to coffee. The food was tasty and nothing jarred. The flavours are not as intense as we'd ideally hope for, but its better than decent. We were a little taken aback by the pre-starter food delivery. A little glass of butternut squash soup, a variety of good bread, smoked and salted butter, two spreads, one of pork dripping and one of what tasted like taramasalata, and ( I think) a semolina? cracker topped with Bacala and some fennel. Maybe a little OTT? We always consider these free dishes carefully as its often a taste of what's to come. Here, the soup and semolina dish were rather bland , and the dripping served perhaps too soft and warm, and it did get me a bit concerned about what we might get next. For me its very simple- unless your freebies are as good as the food on your menus, don't give them.
But my wife's broth of leaves and my scallops , both complex dishes with lots going on in them, put our minds at rest, and likewise the main courses of rabbit for me and slow cooked pork in a very tasty jus confirmed that this kitchen cooks very nicely . We enjoyed our side of turnip bubble and squeak too.
Service was well timed and pleasantly delivered throughout, and is a strength we thought. The restaurant itself bears some comment. Its a kind of traditional, comfy, country kind of place , and pleasant enough. However the food they serve in it is rather more contemporary and in my mind there's a little jarring between the food and the environment in which its served. At £110 including service for two courses, a glass of wine each and coffee . If the wine had been a bottle , and two courses became three, then the bill might easily pass £150 for two- by no means outrageous for quality food and attentive service, but neither is it a bargain. But all in all we enjoyed it and I'm sure we'll be back.