REVIEW: Best of British at The Workshop brasserie in Broadway
SOMETIMES a fuss simply isn’t required. Sometimes, you don’t want food to be delivered with a great fanfare. Sometimes, you just want great ingredients to speak for themselves.
Friday night was one such night, so we headed to The Workshop, Broadway’s newest brasserie.
The new incarnation of the old and much-loved Broadway Brasserie, it’s been taken over by those clever chaps at Russell’s.
They have Worcestershire’s fine dining scene wrapped up at their award-winning restaurant with rooms next door.
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There, head chef Matt Laughton’s cooking is elegant and refined, the interior is deliciously stylish and you’ll leave with a smile on your face, albeit a dent in your wallet.
Why they don’t have a Michelin star escapes me.
So The Workshop – celebrated furniture designer Gordon Russell’s former powerhouse – is a deliberate departure for owners Barry Hancox and Andrew Riley, though it shares Russell’s kitchen.
It’s a pared-down, simple, no fuss, put-your-feet-up kind of place – a bring the kids for an early supper, pop in for a late breakfast or perch at the bar with a glass of wine, joint.
But it still has that style, that calm, quiet confidence in what it does, that defines its big brother next door.
String-coloured walls and warm, stripped floorboards set off iconic Gordon Russell tables and chairs – the result of many evenings glued to eBay for Barry.
(“I’ve become an eBay widow,” laughs Barry’s wife, Simone. “But I don’t mind.”)
There’s a stunning 1930s Murphy wireless in this labour-of-love bistro too, its cabinet made by Gordon Russell’s brother Dick. Though getting it to play is still a work in progress.
It’s quirky, is The Workshop, where attention to detail, seasonality and provenance are king.
There’s Champagne by the glass, a well-researched, well-priced wine list and a wheat beer, on draught no less, from the Cotswold Brewing Company, just up the road in Bourton-on-the-Water.
Matthew’s eclectic menu is a ramble through breakfast, lunch, high tea, supper and back again.
No rigid starter or main course labels to corral you: just a price to indicate whether your dish of choice is nibble-sized or substantial enough to feed a growing boy, and there are well-thought-out daily specials too – on the day we were there, kippers with black pudding and mustard sauce.
It’s all very fluid and go-with-the-flow, so the smiley staff don’t care if you order pork crackling and apple sauce at 10am, or an all-day breakfast at sundown.
On the menu, you’ll find free range boiled egg and soldiers, homemade beans on toast and beef dripping with parsley and watercress on toast.
There’s jelly and ice cream, too, and fruit cake, and Earl Grey blancmange.
It’s jolly hockey sticks stuff. A bit Famous Five Go Out To Eat, exeat weekends from Mallory Towers, that sort of thing.
My point is, it’s interesting. Plus you don’t have to sign over your house to pay the bill.
And in a sea of depressingly mediocre, smothered chicken, breaded mushrooms, sharing platter, 2-4-1 eating places that half the population flock to like lemmings, that’s a very good thing indeed.
Anyway, we kicked off with Montgomery Cheddar rarebit with a zingy, jewel-coloured, at once sweet and sharp red onion jam, and potted duck.
The rarebit began with a doorstep of crusty white toast, giving way to its bubbling, ale-spiked, cheesy loveliness with that deeply satisfying, back-of-the-throat bite you only get from properly strong Cheddar.
(The plan is soon, by the way, to be making the onion jam to sell on-site, along with a bunch of other preserves and pickles.)
Our duck – part-smooth, rich, gamey paté and part-rillette – came in a neat little Kilner jar with a dollop of punchy, crunchy homemade picallilli and three rounds of thick-cut toast. All good.
Next up was poached, smoked haddock with mash, spinach and hollandaise sauce.
The fish was dreamy; the mash silky-smooth and buttery; the just-wilted, metallic greens the perfect foil to the dainty sauce boat of unctuous hollandaise. It was perfection on a plate.
My bavette of Scotch rump steak wasn’t quite so: the savoury butter, though peppered with red onion and herbs, lacked flavour, and it was medium-well rather than the medium-rare I’d ordered.
But no matter: it was still tender, the grilled tomatoes were deliciously salty, yet caramelised on top, and the twice-fried, thick-cut chips crisp on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside.
Greedily, I’d ordered a side of homemade coleslaw, too. But as creamy and as crunchy and as delicious as it was, the sheer size of it defeated me. It would have been enough for four.
Pudding for us was a simple, old-fashioned, comforting dish of prunes and lashings of vanilla-spiked custard: precisely what was needed on a cold, wet, rainy February night.
With breakfast from £4, main courses from £8 and puddings at £4, The Workshop delivers Russell’s-standard food at pub prices.
It’s precisely the kind of originality and quality that Gordon Russell would surely have approved of.
Location: 20a High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire
Food: Best-of-British classics; unapologetically simple, hearty dishes served all day
Drink: Top-end wine list, local beer
Atmosphere: Unstuffy yet refined
Service: Smiley and knowledgeable
Price: Nibbles from £3, breakfast from £4, mains from £8, puds from £4