Well done indeed. The Granary Grill at historic Weston Park is fast becoming one of the most popular restaurants in the region.
Saturday nights. They’ve died something of a death, haven’t they? Thanks to Simon Cowell, Domino’s Pizza and the invention of the onesie, we’re now slaves to the sofa when Saturday comes.
Dreams of Mad Men-esque cocktail parties fill the heads of many a bored housewife, while one Match of the Day blurs into another for the snoozing settee-dwelling menfolk of the nation.
All in all, we’re stuck in a rut. We need something to shake us from our sedentary state. And that something might just be Weston Park’s Granary Grill.
The Grill is set in the stunning 1,000-acre grounds of the 17th century stately home in Weston-under-lizard. And, yes, it’s as impressive as it sounds.
From the moment you pull up on the driveway of the imposing Granary building, a welcoming light enticing you in from its huge windows, you know you’re in for a treat.
Once through the doors, it’s all clinking glasses, flickering candles and a busy, yet not intrusive, open-plan grill, the domain of head chef Guy Day.
The room itself feels smaller than its 70 seats, a cosy, split-level affair anchored by a bar heaving with every spirit you could think of. There’s also a rather nifty collection of real ales on offer.
Empty bottles of champagne topped with candles and pictures of farmyard animals are dotted around the room, warm and snug touches that do not detract from the special-occasion feel.
On our arrival, a friendly young chap seated us on a little two-seater near the door, prime people-watching real estate. The room was book-ended by a large family gathering celebrating a birthday and two sets of 50-something friends discussing everything from university fees to where to holiday this summer. It’s a relaxed yet bubbly atmosphere, the bustling grill at its centre the beating heartbeat.
A glass of bubbly and some homemade bread later and it was time to choose from the menu, which changes with the seasons and uses the finest and freshest ingredients each and every day.
Starters on the recently-changed spring menu include smoked chicken, avocado and mozzarella salad with a pancetta crisp, Thai spiced sticky prawns with spicy shredded poppadoms and salsa and Mr Moyden’s Wrekin Blue cheese Caesar salad.
We however went for the warm Alsace bacon and onion tart with char-grilled asparagus for £5.95 and crab croquettes with tomato, spring onion and coriander dipping sauce for £7.50.
The tart was warm and light and the croquettes as fresh as can be. The zingy dipping sauce really bringing the dish to life.
Now, as you can guess by the name, there’s only one option for main course. The steaks at the Grill are some of the finest around, all sourced from UK assured farms, and pretty much overshadow everything else on the menu. So it was a 6oz rump steak served with a grill garnish and chips for £11 for him. The steak was succulent and melt-in-the-mouth moreish and the huge chips crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. It was polished off in next to no time.
In the interest of variety, I went for the £10.25 lemon and thyme marinated chicken breast in foccacia bread served with fries and a zingy mayonnaise. The chicken was tender and bursting with flavour, its peppers and spring onion garnish really intensifying the taste. The mayonnaise was the perfect chip-dipper too.
There are a few other temptations on the the mains’ menu, including baby back ribs with Chef’s BBQ sauce, grilled chilli marinated swordfish and tenderloin of pork, but, looking around, most people were selecting the steak.
The usual extras, including green peppercorn, mushroom sauces and garlic and herb aioli, garlic mash and crispy onion rings, are also on offer, allowing you to create your perfect tailor-made steak supper.
By the time we’d put down our knives and forks, we thought we were beaten, napkins flung on to the table in surrender and belts just that little bit looser.
But, after a quick glance of the dessert menu, we decided to man up and soldier on.
Pineapple and polenta upside down cake and a deep fried jam sandwich were among the delights on offer.
But there were two very clear choices for us – the crème fraiche and vanilla cream with fresh berries, passion fruit and a thyme tuille and the incredible chocolate and marsala mousse on a chocolate brownie with chocolate shavings, warm cherries and cream.
Now, if that collection of words doesn’t get your mouth watering and tastebuds tingling, nothing will.
And they were just as good as they sound. The crème fraiche and vanilla cream was light and the berries literally bursting with their gloriously fresh flavours.
The brownie meanwhile was very naughty but veeerrry nice, the thick chocolate mousse on top sweet, sumptuous and with a wonderfully boozy after-taste.
Contented and relaxed, by this point the entire restaurant had sunk into an easygoing atmosphere that so many places aspire to but rarely achieve. The super-polite staff had ensured everyone was fed and watered but not bothered all night and there was a general vibe of “aren’t we all having a lovely time” among the diners.
After so many Saturday nights parked in front of the gogglebox, greasy takeaway perched on the tray in front, it reminded us why it was still worth making an effort and heading out into the big wide world on a weekend.
The fact that the bill popped up at a very reasonable £60ish only added to my pleased-as-punch feeling and we all but glided out of that restaurant back into the cool night air.
After visiting you can also feel a sense of smugness at the fact you’ve just helped the Weston Park Foundation charitable trust, which works all year round to preserve and maintain the estate.
Proceeds from the Granary Grill go towards the trust, ensuring the house and its collections and parkland remain open and in tip-top condition for the public to enjoy. Eat some pudding and preserve a piece of history at the same time? Don’t mind if I do.
So Chef Day and his staff seem to be doing everything right. And, just when you think it can’t get any better, up pops a new deli and cafe.
This latest offering is the result of a refurbished shop space and the deli boasts countless cheeses, cured meats, homemade pastries and savoury tarts, as well as the obligatory pasta, sauces, nibbles and desserts.
But it is the cafe section that’s the real treat, allowing you to start the day with a rich freshly-brewed cup of coffee and a breakfast of free range scrambled eggs or an all butter croissant with butter and jam. While at lunchtime, it’s all about the handmade sausage rolls and seasonal salads. The cured meat and local cheese deli platter with pickles and hoummous for £8.65 being a particular delight.
So whether it’s a sophisticated night out you’re after or a lazy afternoon, Weston Park appears to have all bases covered.
Of course nothing’s perfect, our table by the door was a little drafty that blustery Saturday night, so much so the couple next to us asked to be moved to the section upstairs where it was a little warmer. The dress code is also a little informal for the stunning setting. Yes, there’s a relaxed vibe going on but there were one too many pairs of tatty jeans and old trainers for my liking. But perhaps that just goes back to us Brits being stuck in a bit of a rut at the minute.
Basically, if, like me, you’re looking to turn off the telly and leave Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway to go cold and stale, you can’t go too wrong with the Granary Grill. The food is special yet accessible, the surroundings chic yet comfortable. It really is the sort of place to shake up your Saturdays and remind you of the simple pleasures of good food, good service and good company.
Read more food reviews first in your Weekend Shropshire Star, every Saturday.