I’ve noticed that it’s the restauranteurs who are determined to be successful during these tough times that are working really hard to get diners through the door.
They’re adopting the simple philosophy of offering well thought out, tempting, flavour-packed and slightly complicated dishes on set menus that work out at around £20 a head for three courses, as well as the A La Carte option.
Of course it’s always nice to push the boat out and order ALC, but not everyone’s budget can stretch to lobster thermidor washed down with lashings of Champagne every week.
“It’s what you simply expect these days,” said my sister-in-law Kath as she sat opposite me tucking in to what I must say was a faultless three course meal at The Cottage Restaurant at Tern Hill Farm House.
A reader recommends it as: “a five star restaurant with rooms”. And being a holder of two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence, the place has definitely got a reputation to uphold.
A former working farm, just a 20 minute drive from Telford, Tern Hill Farm House is a Grade II listed Georgian building dating back to the 1750s. A beautiful property, gorgeously decorated out in Farrow & Ball shades, having oak beams and floors, it was bought by chef/proprietors Mike and Jo Abraham in 2002. They now offer food using ingredients from local suppliers, served in a small restaurant that caters for up to 20.
We were given a warm welcome on arrival and asked if we wanted to go straight to our table or relax with a drink in the lounge first. Choosing the latter offer our smiling waitress led the way, but soon returned to take us to another lounge as the main one was full.
Settling down in another lounge with a stunning inglenook fireplace, both myself and Kath were full of anticipation of a great meal.
After bringing us some drinks the waitress handed us the menus and left us to it.
Having similar tastes, it then became a polite battle of wills over who was having what. Choosing from the table d’hote menu at £14.95 for two courses we both wanted the homemade Cajun parsnip soup followed by pork. After being threatened with being hit over the head with a log from the fire basket (only joking!), Kath changed her starter, but neither of us were to relent over the pork.
So I ordered Cajun parsnip soup with fresh bread and butter while Kath chose smoked mackerel, beetroot and Wrekin Blue bruschetta.
Being shortly shown to our table for two in the attractive restaurant, Kath was surprised that we were the only customers in. There were just two other tables laid out, one for five and one for six, and they were soon occupied. This is definitely a place you need to book well in advance.
Our first course soon arrived. Both dishes looked and smelled divine. Kath’s starter went down well. She said it was warm and moreish, with the mackerel and cheese having a good, strong flavour. She said she had never had anything like it before.
My soup was obviously homemade – not too thick and not too thin. It was very tasty and packed with flavour from the Cajun spices. On first tasting it the heat hit the back of my throat. It was just enough, any more heat and I would have been coughing for Britain. The bread was really light and delicious, served with butter swirls.
Our main courses proved to be another stunning dish. We each had four small medallions of pork, carefully displayed with a cored slice of marinated apple and a sprig of Thyme on top, surrounded by the sauce, which had mustard seeds in. Alongside were hot sliced new potatoes. Our dish of vegetables comprised broccoli, baby sweet corn, carrot batons and string beans.
The pork was perfectly cooked, very tender and delicious. The sauce was sweet and again full of flavour. Delicious! The apple was light and tasty and the potatoes properly cooked. The vegetables were nice and hot and al dente. This main was not a towering mass of food, but enough to satisfy and all the flavours worked well together.
Had we room for a pudding? Of course.
Kath decided on Rhubarb Bakewell tart, having sweet pastry, rhubarb compote topped with almond sponge, served warm with stem ginger ice cream (£5.95 extra). I plumped for the Creme Brulee trio, all with crisp caramelised sugar topping, served with or without shortbread (£6.25 extra). The trio comprised of Madagascan vanilla, citrus lemon and pistachio nuts.
Kath’s pudding was a generous portion. The pastry was crumbly and light with the main body of it being more stodgy. She really enjoyed it, saying it was her type of pudding.
Choosing to have my pudding without shortbread, I was served three pretty little pots of cream brulee, the one having a delicate little trail of pistachio nuts alongside it and three tiny circles of coulis.
They were all very light and creamy, each lightly flavoured. The lemon one was particularly enjoyable, and they all had a delicate crispy topping.
Not stinting on the drinks, the bill came to £60 which, for the quality of the food and surroundings, I felt was a decent price to pay.
Ternhill Farm House & The Cottage Restaurant,Tern Hill, Market Drayton, Shropshire, TF9 3PX
Tel: 01630 638752/638984
Summer Sizzler Table d’hote Dinner Menu
Roasted red pepper and tomato mousse with Mediterranean salad leaves, balsamic dressing and red pepper coulis
Melon, mango and ded berry salsa with a drizzle of red Vermouth fruit puree
Tandoori chicken salad – breast of chicken marinated with garlic and spices with a mint dressing and naan croutons
Salmon and watercress roulade – fillet of salmon with watercress, poached in white wine with tomato, fennel and prawn broth
Summer pudding made with an abundance of seasonal berries and served with fresh cream and Shropshire honey
Chocolate decadence – white chocolate and fresh mint torte, dark chocolate mini mousse and warm chocolate syrup sponge pudding with warm chocolate sauce and parsnip ice cream