Restaurant review: The Bear of Rodborough
I'm not a wet weather person. But then I don't know many who are. So venturing out into wild, windy, cold and wet weather to the top of Rodborough Common felt like a mission for a mid-week meal.
But the date was in the diary, the table booked and my sister's children catered for and sorted for the evening.
Despite being a large 17th century coaching inn, the imposing Bear of Rodborough was warm and welcoming, with friendly, polite staff and we instantly relaxed and shed our coats.
No shivering in our seats in this atmospheric hotel – everything was made cosy in The Library restaurant with large church candles at every window. I had eaten previously in the bar, a welcoming, bright and friendly part of the hotel with real log fires, and found it perfectly reasonable pub fare with burgers, steaks, sausage and mash and pies. So the restaurant menu sounded like a step up as it serves dishes like pigeon and partridge, turbot on the bone and truffle cauliflower soup at £31.50 for three courses, £27.50 for two.
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The service was excellent: attentive but not overbearing, friendly but not too familiar, and we were quickly served a basket of bread that was warm, fresh and utterly delicious.
The wine list was reasonable, with a decent selection by the glass, half bottle and bottle. We shared a decent half of Chilean merlot (£11).
My sister chose the fillet of mackerel on fennel with bergamot sauce. She declared it "delicious, beautifully soft fish" but added that "it was quite sweet with the sauce and it could have done with something to spice it up".
I chose the scallops and three huge, deliciously sweet morsels appeared with a crisp of pancetta balanced on each (£3 supplement). Unfortunately it was accompanied by a bland, pasty and unappetising white sauce smeared on the plate. It was a bizarre addition to what was otherwise a quality dish.
Things looked up for the main course, for which I ordered the lamb (£3 supplement). It was beautifully cooked, perfectly pink and moist, accompanied by tiny cubes of potato and vegetables, a jus, and a cone of shredded and minted lamb topped with a battered anchovy.
My sister chose partridge, which was beautifully tender, accompanied by bubble and squeak croquettes which were light, creamy inside and crisp on the exterior. It was declared "completely delicious", although very rich as a combination and green vegetables would have been welcomed to balance the flavours.
For dessert, we shared pear and almond tart. Sadly, we both thought this was a disaster. Served with chocolate ice cream, a very odd accompaniment, it was dry, dull and lacking in flavour.
The service was good, the food was, in places, excellent and in others disappointing. At £31.50 for three courses, I would not expect there to be supplementary costs. There is no disputing the quality of the ingredients, it just could have done with a little extra thought to take it to "amazing".