Reviewer's rating **** Lisa Bailey sounds out a long-established pub which has undergone a recent refurbishment.
Reviewer's rating **** The Bell at Tong was one of those places we had never got around to visiting, writes Lisa Bailey. We had driven past many a time and thought we must pop in one day.
Well, we finally visited just days after the Marston's pub had opened after refurbishment. It was difficult to gauge whether it had been "transformed" but a waitress said that regulars claimed it was very different from before.
We had no sooner got through the door when we were asked whether we were eating and where would we like to sit. I had no complaints about the prompt service, but I hadn't really had time to take in my surroundings.
We decided on a cosy table by the front entrance and delved into the menus. The waitress brought our drinks as we pored over the culinary delights. She pointed out there was a specials menu, which could be perfectly viewed from our table. The main courses were two for one.
We went for chilli wedges - a starter for two. A big bowl of chilli came with about a dozen wedges. The chilli was just right - not too spicy and with the wedges it was extremely moreish. We gave no thought to the fact that there was a main course to follow.
While we were waiting for our main course, Neil and I both went for a nose around because there seemed lots of little alcoves. The Bell is a large pub with a conservatory on the back. There is also a great garden (mind you, it has been attacked by moles) with a play area for the youngsters.
We returned to our seats and then it was on to the main course. I had chosen The Bell fish mixed grill (£15.25). Neil had gone for beef enchiladas (£9.25).
I decided on chips with my fish mixed grill rather than a jacket potato and there was a wide variety of fish on there. It was described as a medley of fish - there was steamed sea bass, poached salmon and steamed king prawn skewer. It came with a side salad, lemon wedge and Thai sweet chilli sauce. All of it was delicious.
I love fish, but dread it when some restaurants have a tendency to overcook it. But, the chef at The Bell had got it just right with the sea bass and salmon just flaking away. The king prawn skewer was also excellent and the prawns were tender and the sauce added something a little bit extra.
It wasn't until Neil was tucking into his main course that he realised his choice was more or less the same as his starter, which was entirely his mistake. But, he didn't seem too bothered as he left an empty plate.
His dish was described as spicy chilli beef wrapped in soft flour tortillas and topped with cheese. It came with garlic bread and a side salad. Neil said the enchiladas had plenty of flavour. His only minor complaint was that the enchiladas did seem a little stuck to the plate, which I would probably say indicates they had been left to warm. But, it did not affect his overall opinion of the dish.
Throughout the meal our waitress was tremendous. She was chatty and helpful. When I asked why my second glass of Rose was a completely different colour and tasted different to my first it was immediately taken away and changed with no questions asked.
We asked for a little breather before we went on to dessert. I chose orange caramel tart (£3.35), which was described as a crisp sweet pastry case topped with a light orange mousse and finished with mandarin segments and a caramel glaze and Neil went for the toffee waffle (£3.55), which was a warm Belgian waffle served with vanilla and caramel ice-cream, topped with toffee sauce.
The orange caramel tart was tangy and not too heavy. Neil's waffle was also spot on - I was allowed one mouthful. I have to say there was not a lot of conversation between the two of us during desserts!
The whole meal had been wonderful and we enjoyed it that much we have since returned twice - both times we sat in the garden for our meals and the service outside was excellent again.
Manager Sarah Baker said they will also be doing two-for-one offers on other courses and customers can sign up for offers on www.bellpubshifnal.co.uk
The Bell Inn, Tong, near Shifnal TF11 8PS
Tel: 01952 850210
Bowl of chilli wedges (for two)
Cheesed off chicken £14.75; 10oz Gammon steak £9.55
Chocolate Indulgence Sundae £3.55; Mixed fruit summer pudding £3.55
Excellent. The waitress was very helpful.
Yes. Access for wheelchairs and toilets for the disabled.