Shropshire Star

Food review: I visited a restaurant in a stunning rural location well worth the long drive

If location is the key for a really good dinner, then The Astbury aces it.

A hearty seafood chowder

Set in rolling countryside, it is located in Bridgnorth’s hinterland. The views are immaculate. It’s away from the crowds and is the perfect place to switch off and relax. It’s part of a 300-acre estate and provides the perfect backdrop for lunch or dinner.

The wider estate features a beautiful lake, stunning countryside views, as well as a top flight golf course, luxury lodges, and tennis courts.

The buildings have a remarkable history. The building was destroyed by fire in 1889 and rebuilt by the Mayor of Bridgnorth, Edmund Southwell, in 1891.

One of Shropshire’s stand-out properties

The master of the Wheatland Hunt, John Arthur Buston, lived there during the early part of the 20th century, while rock star KK Downing – formerly the guitarist with Judas Priest – lived there from 1985 until 2019. He had a championship-standard golf course built in the grounds, as you do.

Since then, it’s been developed further. The Queens Room is set within Astley Hall’s fabulous Manor House and offers spectacular views and room for 60 people.

The Beams Room is an intimate annex to the restaurant and offers access to a terrace boasting stunning views of the golf course and Walled Gardens. Its charming decor, comfortable seating, and unique ambiance make it the perfect setting for memorable occasions.

The interior is spectacular

The Ironbridge Room is smaller and equally stunning while a Tipi is situated within the beautiful walled garden, filled with fairy lights and a beautiful back-lit rustic bar. It is available for hire all year round, with sides that roll up in the summer.

There’s a programme of events all year round, from Father’s Day dinners to an Ibiza Party in late June or a Flamenco workshop next month.

There are summer barbecues and concerts, tapas nights and Halloween parties. Vast, elegant spaces are put to good use as the venue makes best use of the spectacular Chelmarsh countryside.

The Astbury isn’t simply a space for diners and attendees of events, however.

It also offers luxury lodges and holiday rentals.

Guests can choose from a superb selection of accommodation options from high-class holiday homes to impressive luxury lodges, each with their own private outdoor space. It has everything visitors might need to unwind and relax, making it the ideal holiday destination for couples, friends, and families alike.

The view from the dining room

At the heart of it all is Montgomery’s, The Astbury’s luxurious and contemporary restaurant and bar.

It caters to a variety of guests, from holiday-makers and attendees of events to golfers and others enjoying the leisure offering.

Casual diners are also welcome to sample a gorgeously-appointed restaurant, which focuses on local supplies, with meat from a butcher just three miles down the road.

The menu is seasonal, changing as produce comes into peak condition. It is, however, all about familiarity and crowd-pleasing classics, rather than high-end gourmet thrills.

The goat’s cheese salad proved a bit disappointing

So there’s an Astbury fish chowder, with spring onion, tarragon new potatoes, and sourdough toast, as well as a seasonal asparagus and spring onion risotto, with goat’s cheese and parmesan.

There’s a beef stroganoff with basmati rice and a garlic and herb flat bread as well as a Ceasar salad with a poached egg, chicken and bacon.

And then there’s the ubiquitous 10oz rib-eye steak, with mushroom and tomato; a very grand fish and chips with peas, mint, lemon, and tartare sauce; a burger with bacon, cheese, tomato, gem lettuce, and fries; and an Astbury pie of the day, with mash and seasonal vegetables.

There’s an ample menu of lighter dishes, geared particularly for those who want to switch off at the 19th hole. An Astbury club sandwich rubs shoulders with a bacon and brie panini, an open smoked salmon sandwich, and a steak sandwich with confit onion and peppercorn sauce.

There are plenty of sides – mostly fried, from triple cooked parmesan and truffle chips to onion rings and courgette crisps.

And to finish, there’s a beauty parade of classic desserts, from a white chocolate panna cotta to a rhubarb and cardamom crumble, and from a banana iced parfait to a lemon baked Alaska.

The Astbury’s restaurant – Montgomery’s – is all about crowd-pleasing classics, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

I started with a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, with apple, balsamic, and pea shoots. The balsamic dressing was conspicuous by its absence, leaving the dish to be less than the sum of its parts. Slices of beetroot were layered between four tiny pillars of goat’s cheese, with pea shoots scattered on top. It was a bit underwhelming; a collection of ingredients that hadn’t been brought together by a dressing.

The ticket machine, which pumped orders from the restaurant to the kitchen, was down, and so the starter took 40 minutes to arrive – which, when you’re just scattering a few slices of beetroot and goat’s cheese on a plate, is about 38 minutes too long.

The chowder was far better. Rich, well-seasoned, and comforting, it was a hug in a bowl. The fish was generous and tender, the creamy sauce was luxurious and pleasing.

The potatoes had been gently cooked while the crusty bread was a good vehicle to transport the dish from plate to mouth.

It showed what the kitchen might be capable of, when not distracted by a technological malfunction that prompted the omission of a key ingredient on the starter.

Service was good. The staff were apologetic about the errors arising and keen to please. And then, of course, there were the views, which were stunning.

The room, too, was grand and had been neatly furnished – a mixture of trend and tradition.

Here’s the thing. The Astbury itself is remarkable.

It’s also a bit of a drive. And so it has to get it right, offer consistency, and provide a reason for people to travel. There’s every reason to believe it can and will, though, for now, it also needs to get the basics right to gain top marks from this diner.