Food review: Quality food at affordable prices at The Royle in Bridgnorth
It’s one of the region’s prettiest market towns. Bridgnorth is as popular among Salopians as it is with those from the Black Country, who enjoy an away-day, or, more accurately, evening, amid the bars and restaurants of the picturesque settlement.
And yet unlike other towns in the region Bridgnorth has never developed the reputation that it might have as a centre for gastronomic excellence.
It has a small number of good quality independent eateries, though special occasion destinations are in further flung parts of the county.
Rather than offer top end culinary thrills, the town offers mid-range, mid-priced dining, appealing to a demograph that prizes value for money.
There are plenty of customers in that category, both living locally, living in villages around the riverside town, and living further afield, as they enjoy day trips and awaydays in Bridgnorth.
The Royle is a traditional public house that occupies a prominent and delightful black and white property on Bridgnorth’s High Street.
The present incumbents have worked hard to breathe new life into the venue, which is now run as The Royle.
The pub suits the tastes of locals and tourists alike.
Offering local cask ales, as well as an extensive range of wines, most of which are supplied from the established merchants Tanners, it has an impressive range of drinks.
The building is a 16th/17th century Grade II Listed building, keeping its original features with an open fireplace.
Its owners have created a cosy drinking and dining atmosphere for those cold winter months, with a modern twist around the building.
The team in the kitchen has put together an interesting modern English menu, using quality fresh local produce from local bakers, delicatessens and family butchers in the hope that customers will find something to take their fancy.
The venue is delightfully accessible, running a bar from 4-9pm on Mondays and for extended periods between Tuesday and Sunday. Its restaurant opens for lunch from Tuesday through to Sunday, with evening service also running from Tuesday until early evening on Sunday.
The menu isn’t aiming for accolades, as such. It’s simply looking to offer dishes that people like to eat, at affordable prices.
Most main meals, therefore, are served with hand-cut chips and buttered vegetables.
Prices are fair. A starter of crisp fried breaded prawns, with lime, garlic, and chilli mayonnaise, is a snip at £8, while a black pudding Scotch egg with homemade brown sauce and Shropshire blue cheese is £7.50.
Mains provided similarly good value with a homemade baked beef lasagne with cheddar gratin and garlic bread coming in at £16 and freshly battered fish and chips with pea puree and tartare sauce also costing £16.
There are a small selection of sides, with fries, salad and slaw, buttered seasonal vegetables, and buttered new potatoes costing just £3.
And in addition to larger plates each evening, there is also a lunch menu with a ploughman’s, Whitby scampi, homemade seasonal soup, or sandwiches all available throughout the day.
I started with the black pudding Scotch egg, served with homemade brown sauce and Shropshire blue.
The sauce was magnificent. A sweet, acidic, umami-rich medley of well-balanced flavours,it was the stand-out ingredient on an intriguing plate of food. The egg had been well-cooked, so the yolk was golden, runny, and rich in protein. The black pudding was delicious, an earthy mix of savoury flavour, while its crisp outer crumb added texture.
A real flavour-bomb of a dish, it was the gastronomic equivalent of a knock-out blow from a heavyweight boxer.
The main was a little more subtle.
Amid the range of burgers, gammons, fish and chips, lasagnes, and pasta, there were showcase dishes making the most of the season.
The most intriguing was a loin of local venison with braised red cabbage, a pepper sauce, mushroom ketchup, and celeriac.
The venison had been cooked expertly.
The outer was deliciously caramelised and had bags of autumnal flavour.
The centre was majestically pink and exceptionally tender.
The celeriac was soft and yielding, a good choice of vegetable for a dish that tasted of the season, while the mushroom ketchup added earthy notes to a pleasing plate of food.
A pepper sauce was gently warm, a sort of embrace, rather than a burn of heat, and helped to enrich and uplift the venison.
Hand cut chips, like giant’s fingers, were served alongside – though they seemed to be served alongside pretty much every plate of food in the restaurant.
The chip gods seem to have made Bridgnorth their home and the ones on offer were golden and fluffy within.
A little more crisp on the outside and they’d have been pretty much perfect. A bed of braised red cabbage completed the dish, providing much needed acidity to cut through the richness of the dish.
Desserts looked appealing, though a large Scotch egg followed by a generous portion of venison meant there was little appetite to continue.
Service had been good throughout with an attentive team providing a warm welcome and being friendly and welcoming throughout, without ever being intrusive or overbearing.
And that was pretty much it. The Royle lived up to its promise as a pretty-good independent restaurant offering decent quality food at affordable prices.
It’s what Bridgnorth is best known for and it does that with aplomb.
In a town where people are cost conscious and want something a little more special than the ordinary, though without paying too high a price, The Royle delivers in spades.