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Sweet taste of foodie success for Shropshire restaurants

The stars are fewer and further between. Ludlow is no longer nicknamed Gourmetville. Hundreds of people no longer travel from around the globe to eat at restaurants that once ranked among the best in the world.

Sweet taste of foodie success for Shropshire restaurants

But don't be fooled into thinking that Shropshire is yesterday's man. The county has one of the most exciting food scenes in the UK. Top flight restaurants, high quality producers and regular food events make it a gastronome's paradise.

The region still has a shining star. Stephane Borie, at The Checkers in Montgomery on the Shropshire/Mid-Wales border, is the county's biggest draw. The Michelin-ranked chef is also the leading light in the new 2017 Good Food Guide, from Waitrose.

Good Food Guide editor Elizabeth Carter describes it as having cottagey charm and has awarded it a score of 6/10, making it the best rated in the area.

She said: "Chef Stephane Borie arrived here via The Waterside Inn and Le Manoir, and classic French cooking is his raison d'etre, yet his dishes don't feel backward-looking."

The food is described in the guide as "French elegance" with a cauliflower velouté showcasing "an ability to tease the most out of even the simplest dishes".

Being number one in the region is a cause for celebration for Borie, who opened the restaurant with his partner Sarah Francis and Sarah's sister, Kathryn Francis.

Kathryn said: "We went into business as a partnership by opening The Herbert Arms, in Chirbury, some years ago. Actually, the thing that really got our business going was a five star review from the Shropshire Star. Sophie Bignall wrote a really nice article and since then things have really moved on."

The trio moved to The Checkers soon after, calling themselves The Frenchman and The Farmer's Daughters. And they won a Michelin star within seven months.

Mr Borie added: "We're thrilled with the recognition and it's great to be the rated the best in the region by the Good Food Guide 2017. It's a widely-respected book and we'll continue to push to make sure all of our guests have a great stay. We moved to a tasting menu, rather than an a la carte, earlier this year and our restaurant is full pretty much every night. We are very happy and we'll continue to push."

Six other local restaurants have earned recognition in the Good Food Guide, with The Waterdine, at Llanfair Waterdine, being the highest rated. It was opened by chef-patron Ken Adams, who was part of the Year 2000 wave of Michelin-starred success in Ludlow.

Back then, Mr Adams was one of four cooks in the town to earn recognition from the world-renowned guide book, alongside Claude Bosi, Shaun Hill and Chris Bradley. And while the three others no longer cook in the area, Mr Adams continues to serve.

Ms Carter said customers were in for good food at his restaurant.

She said: "Local resident Colonel John Hunt apparently planned the triumphant ascent of Everest from the lounge of this 16th-century thatched long house. It's one of the more colourful footnotes to a bucolic destination that has kept its vintage looks, with thick stone walls, leaded windows and an ancient inglenook verifying the building's antiquity.

"Chef/proprietor Ken Adams is steeped in the world of classical haute cuisine, and it shows in everything from the ramekins of Cornish crab and smoked salmon served as a starter to the mousseline potatoes that accompany a dish of duck breast with bilberry sauce. Welsh Black beef and mountain lamb put down a local marker, although seasonal game is the kitchen's great strength: from butter-roasted partridge to Mortimer Forest roe deer with wild mushroom and celeriac hotpot."

Though Ludlow no longer has any Michelin stars, it is still well represented in the guide. The Green Café, which has a Michelin Bib Gourmand, representing good food at low prices, features prominently.

Owner Clive Davis has created a first class venue that Ms Carter rates: "For its many fans, this idyllic cafe means 'lunch with friends by the weir on a sunny day'. It's distinguished by warm service as well as its lovely setting in a community-owned converted mill.

"Outdoor seating almost doubles capacity in good weather, but its well-made soups (red onion and red wine, perhaps) keep things going year-round. Main courses might be roast squash with goats' cheese and curd, lentils, pine nuts and seeds, and afterwards there's panna cotta with blood orange and honey."

The Charlton Arms, further down the River Teme, is also included. It's run by husband and wife team Cedric and Amy Bosi. Mr Bosi formerly worked at Hibiscus, where his elder brother Claude was the chef-patron. Claude now works in London and his two-Michelin-starred restaurant is The Good Food Guide's fifth best venue in the UK.

Cedric says things are a little different at The Charlton, with pub classics on the menu. "We're thrilled to be included because it's a mark of quality. We work very hard and are grateful to be featured."

It's not just south Shropshire that features. Oswestry and north Shropshire are represented with 3/10 venues Sebastians and Goldstone Hall.

Sebastians is an ever-present and Ms Carter says it will please visitors.

"Mark Fisher's monthly changing five-course menus take a French tack that's delicately poised between traditional and modern ways, starting with a soup such as Jerusalem artichoke, and then proceeding to scallop, fennel, tangerine and tarragon, or mushrooms in Roquefort cream."

Goldstone Hall receives similar praise: "A herbal walkway is one of the standout features of the magnificent kitchen garden that dominates the scene at Goldstone Hall, a family-owned country pile.

"Horticulture isn't simply about ornamentation here, it fuels the kitchen itself and provides Chris Weatherstone with seasonal pickings for his bright, vivid cooking."

The final entry for Shropshire is a popular Thai restaurant that earns inclusion as a Local Gem.

Suree Coates' King and Thai earns an honourable mention with Ms Carter saying: "Suree Coates' Thai restaurant in a 200-yearold roadside pub serves up that nation's cuisine cooked with passion and precision.

"The décor is smart, the mood cheerful and the excellent ingredients help it to stand out from the crowd.

"The sharing platter is a good starting point – pork balls with sweet dipping sauce, chicken satay and so forth – and main courses run to sweet-and-sour tiger prawns and classic red and green curries."

Though restaurants come and restaurants go, Shropshire still has the right ingredients for success.

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