Dominiques, Shatterford

Rating **** Let me start with a confession. I love French food. The freshness of ingredients, the careful balance of flavours and the artistic flair in presentation are heavenly. But don’t for one moment think that will cloud my judgement about Dominiques, a French restaurant on the Shropshire border.

Now, time for confession number two. My wife and I visited Dominiques earlier this spring. We were thoroughly impressed. On that occasion, we didn’t have the opportunity to recommend it to readers of The Shropshire Star. So we determined to return and see whether it could exceed our high expectations.It did. And I’ve no hesitation in recommending it for those in search of gastronomic excellence at sensible prices.

Dominques is situated in the peaceful hamlet of Shatterford, on the road that links Bridgnorth with Kidderminster. It’s biker country, and every evening scores of motorcyclists whizz past on powerful bikes.

We visited on a Monday evening and were not surprised to find the restaurant half full. It has a good reputation among discerning diners, who prize the skill of its chefs, the affordability of its menu and the quality of its ingredients.

We were led to our table and brought an appetiser of melon with raspberry coulis. It was fine, though we were slightly disappointed to see other diners being presented with far more alluring treats, like deep fried camonbert or king prawns.

Oh well. Perhaps we were too early to our table for the chefs to have got going.

I started with a smoked chicken salad, served with a sweet chili relish. It was delicious. The smokey flavours of the thinly-sliced chicken were a winning complement to the sugary, fiery chili. My wife, wise to the size of portions served, decided to enjoy the home made poppy seed rolls and wait for her main course.

She was glad to have shown such restraint. The rack of lamb that was placed before her was a treat made all the more palatable by her patience. It was prime meat, cooked slowly for three hours so that it retained its moist, sweet flavour.

The French-style gravy that accompanied it was one of the savouriest, fullest flavours that she had eaten. A good selection of new potatoes and vegetables were served with it and she purred her approval.

I opted for the wild mushroom risotto. Again, the skills of the chefs were evident. Risotto is a dish easily spoiled by inadequate preparation. But this was a treat, not far from the standards Michelin-starred chef Shaun Hill used to achieve at his lamented Merchant House, in Ludlow. It was a silky treat packed full of flavour that will linger long in the menu.

We enjoyed a lengthy pause after our main course, purusing the impressive sweet menu. Our waiter recommended a selection of small portions, served for two as a selection. The taster platter varies from night to night, depending on what is available in the kitchen, so it is a dish that can be ordered on repeat visits without disappointment.

The selection featured a chantilly cream, sorbet, assorted tarts, creme brulee and a winning chocolate brownie. As the selection dwindled, my wife and I experienced our ‘Vienetta moment’. We polished off the lesser deserts first before finding ourselves, spoons poised, targeting the last piece of chocolate brownie. It was that good.

Dominiques is not Shropshire’s best restaurant. There are two Michelin-starred eateries in Ludlow vying for that crown. But it is in the next group of high class restaurants. It is on a par with another good French restaurant, The Frog, at Leintwardine, and offers diners a taste of Gallic flair

The menu is varied and features such treats as kangaroo. I would have been happy to try it but will save that experience for another time..

There are areas for improvement. It uses too many dried herbs, instead of fresh ones, for instance. It’s dining room is pleasant, though it lacks the absolute class of other establishments.

However, there are few restaurants offering better quality food or fairer prices. Our dinner for two came in at £50, considerably less than we’d have expected to pay at other venues in the county.

Service is a strength and waiters are attentive, patient and polite. In fact, they are many of the things not usually associated with French waiters. Our second visit to Dominiques matched our high expectations. It’s on our list of favourites.

ADDRESSS

Dominique’s, The Bellman’s Cross, Shatterford

Tel: (01299) 861322

MENU SAMPLE

Starters

Pan-fired scallops (7.95), Chicken and foie gras terrine (7.95)

Main courses

Rack of lamb (14.95), Pan fried seabass with sweet potatoes and a curry and coconut sauce £14.95)

Desserts

Chocolate rice pudding with cointreau and creme anglaise (4.50), Far Breton tart 4.50

SERVICE

Excellent. Certainly in the top five per cent of all Shropshire restaurants.

DISABLED FACILITIES

There is a disabled toilet. Dominiques provides good access without steps.

SMOKING POLICY

Diners are not allowed to smoke in the restaurant area

Restaurant review by Andy Richardson