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Star-spangled chef John Campbell (ex-The Vineyard at Stockcross et al) is well and truly back in the big time at this converted boozer just a few miles from his old stomping ground. Billed as a ‘smart country restaurant without formality’, The Woodspeen incorporates a pubby bar with Berkshire ales on tap, plus an airy conservatory-style extension with a sparkling open kitchen, vaulted ceilings and picture windows – the perfect setting for Michelin-starred food with strong seasonal accents. As expected, everything is “just perfect” – from char-grilled potato salad with horseradish, buttermilk and hen’s yolk or roast scallops with chorizo, broccoli and red pepper to roast cod with salsify, braised onion, and potted shrimps or local venison with malt-potato gratin, parsnip, cabbage hearts and chocolate. There are also big porcine platefuls and ribs of beef to share, while puds maintain the creative streak – how about a combo of crème brûlée, banana cake, pickled blueberries and muscatel ice cream. Service is charming, unobtrusive and efficient to a fault – although additional praise is heaped on the restaurant manager, who makes everyone “feel very special”.
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13 January 2015
So pleased to have John Campbell back within reasonable striking distance. Dishes, as expected, are prepared to an impeccable standard with such choices as Cod with caper & raisin puree and a parsnip cream or Venison loin with faggot, all presented beautifully. Outstanding starters are Wild Mushroom risotto and Pumpkin soup with rabbit tortellini. Smoked salmon and mackerel also make an appearance, whilst the vegetarian can choose from : truffled potato, goat’s milk and crisp quail’s egg, or for main course, a potato terrine with girolles and ricotta fritter, or tarragon gnocchi with pickled dressing. Some dishes are served to share like the Cottage pie, but no doubt it ain't no ordinary pie. I love the décor which is a contemporary country look at its best showing a vaulted, fine wood ceiling and a decorative bed of tall plants divides the room attractively. The sparkling steel kitchen is open to the eating space being run in calm and orderly fashion and diners park themselves at a simple set of tables and chairs, otherwise there are a couple of upholstered benches. The wine list offers a good range which brings me to service which is on the whole good, but gets marked down for forgetting to deliver our wine a second time. However, being just months into operation, we consider this a minor hiccup. Last visit we were with guests who were also impressed.
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