Reviewer's rating: **** Alex Walters returns to his native county and is overwhelmed by its culinary delights.
Reviewer's rating: **** London is a wonderful, wonderful city. It is ancient yet modern, dirty yet sparkling, safe yet edgy, frenetic yet cultured.
Even the transport network is brilliant when it's actually working (I promise, it does happen).
London is my new home. Yet despite the allure of the capital's many charms, my spiritual home will always be Shropshire, and it's nights like the one I had at the Feathers recently that keep it that way.
The train journey home didn't do much to inspire confidence in my return to the land of my birth.
Once I hit Birmingham, I waved goodbye to regular buses, underground railways and Pendolino bullet trains to be greeted by the eternal delight of Arriva Trains Wales. It was like being welcomed home by Dr Crippen and being told that he's running you a bath.
When the train finally limped into the station I wasn't feeling much like cooking for mum (as I had promised in a fit of optimism back at Euston) and so it was that we descended on The Feathers, an old favourite on the B4378 from Much Wenlock.
They are currently offering a Great British Pub Food menu every Tuesday to Friday, 12-2pm and 6.30-8pm, £10 for two courses. I never could resist a bargain.
The restaurant hasn't changed much in the last few years, but then it hardly needed to. It has the same warm, oakey, reassuring décor and soft lighting, and the tables are still spacious and well apart.
The service was warmer than our last outing, when the waitress appeared to think she owned the place (come to think of it, I think she does) and had deigned to serve our food only on the strict understanding that we knew it. That experience only managed to keep us away for six months; the food is just too good not to come back.
To start, I went for fried egg with black pudding and duck livers, while the duchess went for chicken liver paté with toast and Cumberland sauce. The black pudding was faultless: soft, warm and not remotely chewy. It was well complemented by the supremely tender duck livers, and both were served in generous helpings. No 'set menu' portions here, I was pleased to note.
The egg was - well, it was an egg. Her chicken liver paté was so light that it was practically a foam, and was well received on both sides of the table.
Being a fisherman is bloody hard work. Early mornings, an unpredictable and sometimes dangerous workplace, the smell of fish, and the political whims of the Norwegians are all occupational hazards with which they have to deal. I sincerely believe that, apart from the bracing fresh air and all of that nonsense, the main attraction to the job must be the overwhelming preponderance of quality fish pie.
My main of baked fish pie with smoked haddock, salmon and cod was testament to this theory. Each piece of fish was chunky, substantial and delicious. The salmon didn't flake up, the haddock was nicely salted, and the dish was rounded off with some good old chunks of egg white. A sample of the aged one's fish and chips proved equally satisfying, with the battered cod being light and yet satisfyingly crunchy.
After these two generously proportioned courses, I was beginning to wonder if the £10 price-tag had actually been misread as a 10 lb weigh-in of the plates.
Pudding, however, is all part of the laborious, painful and unenviable job description of the food critic, and the full stomach must simply be pushed to its very limit.
Yet when I see the words 'sticky toffee pudding, butterscotch ice-cream and toffee sauce' on the page before me, I think my metabolism increases just to burn off some space.
It was magnificent. Hot, thick, sweet toffee sauce tempered with cold, rich butterscotch ice-cream made this one a genuine treat, and just about worth the £5 price tag.
I have little negative to say about The Feathers and its latest offer. Given the quality of the food, the price-tag is astonishing. I can honestly say that I have never eaten so well for just one solitary tenner.
The drinks are pretty reasonable too; a decent bottle of Chenin Blanc was £13.95 and a couple of double espressos £3.50.
London feels a little less glamorous now; a little less glitzy and shiny. The view down Brixton Hill to the Gherkin feels less enticing on my way in to town, the sight of Parliament on my bus ride home less inspiring. As I sit writing this at my pad in Brixton, I feel a twinge for home. So Shropshire, I salute thee, and all thy culinary delights.
The Feathers, Brockton, near Much Wenlock
Tel: 01746 785202
Homemade broccoli and Stilton soup; devilled whitebait with chunky tartar sauce, salad and lemon.
Local sausages with mash potato and onion gravy; steak and ale pie with butter puff pastry.
Apple and blackberry crumble with homemade custard; vanilla rice pudding with apricot compote.
Warm, welcoming and reassuring.
No disabled facilities.
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