“Excellent in every way”; “a high-end star”; “a gem outside London” … readers continue to heap praise on husband and wife Laurie and Jackie Gear’s Artichoke – a “small place with a great ambience” that seems to get everything right.
Really confident clued-up staff help things along nicely, the well-oiled open kitchen adds its own entertainment, while the food is reckoned to be outstanding value for the quality on show (not least a three-course set lunch for £30). Laurie’s team are capable of delivering “unassuming world-class dishes” from an ever-evolving repertoire that runs in tandem with the seasons while hoovering up the best from the region’s producers.
Regulars have their own favourites from the line-up: a picture-pretty plate of smoked haddock tartare with Royal Russet apple, radish and “beguiling” horseradish cream; a fat juicy roasted scallop with charred octopus, carrot, sea beet, pork and tarragon dressing; a vivid plate of Yorkshire grouse with blackberries, blackberry sauce and a cornet of foie gras ganache. Our own top picks include dishes from nearer home – notably saddle of Buckinghamshire venison partnered by smoked celeriac purée, a marvellous blue-cheese crumble, poached quince and cavolo nero.
Presentation has “reached new heights” of late, especially when it comes to desserts such as a lemon bavarois with Arbequina olive oil jelly, citrus salad and powdery lemon thyme sherbet, or one reader’s favourite of “amazing” rice-pudding soufflé. Perfectly matched wines top things off admirably, while vegetarians get their own lunch menu and an eight-course tasting menu in the evening to match the meat-and-fish menu – and it’s all brilliant value to boot.
“We keep having to think of special occasions to justify going yet again” admits one fan – but when there’s “fantastic food at a great price served by staff who understand food and wine in a comfortable restaurant” – why wait?