Before I write anything about the Rupert Brooke, I must confess to a conflict of interest;
I know the man who has taken it over and transformed it into the new look pub/restaurant you see today, and I have also a minute shareholding in the parent company Chestnut Inns. That said I will endeavour to offer you as fair and even an account of my lunch there yesterday, as I possibly can.
I was alone as heading back to London from Northants so took the opportunity to drop by for lunch. First appearances are a modern refit in a chic but still country style. I don't know what the old boozer looked like, but I doubt it had any resemblance to the fairly large space there today.
I started with a local half cider and a good rendition of chicken liver paté. They were kind enough to swap the brioche for brown toast. I don't understand the fascination or popularity, because I LOATHE BRIOCHE WITH A PASSION! Sweet bread simply ruins a decent pate or foie gras by overpowering any delicacy in the flavour.
Next I had the sea trout which was slightly underdone, so dark pink on the very inside. it came with a delicious clear jus and winter veg, the combination of which worked extremely well. On balance I would have preferred it cooked completely through, however, like tuna and salmon dishes everywhere these days, the just so version seemed to be very popular with the punters. It was hard to fault the freshness and taste.
This I washed down with a viognier from the Rhone I believe, which at £8 a 250ml glass, was a steal. The rest of the wine list is extremely good value and selected I was told by the wine merchant sister of the owner.
I finished not with a pud, but seared duck liver, white beans in a tomato and seasoned stew with confit duck leg. Yes this was on the starter list rather than the puds, but I couldn't resist. This was a rich and sublime combination that was a perfect end to a quick stop. A stunning Chilean Pinot Noir (something I thought I'd never say) aided in the final destruction of all that delicious flesh and fibre.
In summary, the RB is a superb place for small or large gatherings - a conservatory and a large private room with private balcony upstairs for either. It is cosy and welcoming, but big enough to cope with running children and casual drinks around the bar. The food is ambitious but honest and executed with care and attention. The front of house and service could not be more helpful - another large difference on your average free house in the region!
Good luck to the RB, as having only opened three months ago, they have a way to go to become truly established, but given the contented faces and warm goodbyes, I somehow think they'll achieve it with ease.