My post today is a review of the new River Cottage Spring menu at The Hop Store restaurant at The Old Ale House in Truro, therefore if you are on a diet please look away now!
I was lucky enough to be invited to a taster menu preview of the new menu at the Old Ale House on Thursday night, in their gorgeous restaurant The Hop Store.
I was also cheeky enough to ask Harry from River Cottage whether I could bring Si along with me, and luckily she agreed, so the evening turned into a mini child free ‘date night’ as well! Although, on this date night we shared a table with Francis from Trewithen Dairy, and some lovely ladies from Westcountry Fruit Sales, so slightly less romantic than our usual date nights, but really a lot of fun!
With this being my first proper restaurant review, I’ll admit to being a little nervous on arrival at The Hop Store, but I really didn’t need to be. Within seconds of entering we had been greeted, offered drinks (Simon was driving, so mine was a vodka and lemonade, which was a little bit too nice, as it disappeared quickly!), shown to a table, and really made to feel at home.
Watching the way the actual paying diners were treated, I could tell our treatment wasn’t just because they had invited me to write a review, they just genuinely are that lovely, helpful and welcoming!
The Hop Store’s new menu is a collaboration between Skinner’s Brewery and River Cottage, and as I said previously in my Things I have Liked / Loved this month this collaboration “is quite possibly my favourite since PJ and Duncan first became friends on Byker Grove”.
I can imagine many of you are reading this and thinking “River Cottage? well obviously expensive then”, but the menu especially considering the quality of the ingredients is extremely reasonable. Their meat is organic and sourced from welfare farms, their ingredients are sourced locally where ever possible, and in fact several of the guests at the taster evening were from local food supply companies.
I would love to be able to list every dish that we tried and in the order in which we tried it, however they were so generous that we tried so many different dishes, so I will stick to simply letting you know about the ones that I most enjoyed, and a tiny mention to the only one out of a ridiculous number of delicious dishes that I didn’t really enjoy.
I can clearly remember the first dish that we tried though, which was a smoked pollock Scotch egg. This is really not something I would ever have considered ordering off of a menu, as I’m not really a Scotch egg fan, or so I thought! Apparently I am a River Cottage Scotch egg fan. It really was delicious, very light and smelt fantastic.
My top favourite dish out of everything we tried, had to be the Cornish brie and bacon tartiflette, which arrived as a sharing dish with the most amazing bread I have ever tasted to dip into it. Everyone on the table loved this, it disappeared very quickly, and is definitely the dish that I will have to order when we go back there! It was so creamy and moreish, the bread was melt in the mouth, and having never tasted brie before I now have a slight addiction!
One of Simon’s favourite dishes was also one I loved, it was steak and wedges, but with a difference. The steak was rib eye from grass fed animals, it had been perfectly marinated so that it was soft and succulent and had a chimichurra dressing. Chimichurra we were told meant ‘give me curry’, and I really like the sound of it, almost as much as we liked the taste.
I have never had such perfectly cooked steak, and the wedges were beautiful. Some of our table did say that they didn’t feel the wedges were crispy enough, but I think that is down to personal taste, as we loved them.
The only dish that neither I nor Si enjoyed was the roasted heritage roots, puy lentil and watercress salad, but again I am sure this is a question of personal taste, as neither of us have ever chosen to eat lentils before, so really couldn’t tell you whether it was these particular lentils, or as I suspect just that they may be a bit like marmite.
We both loved the pork crackling with apple mayo, which was crunchy but not too crunchy. crackling can be very hard to get right, but they certainly managed it, and it managed to be succulent and a bit juicy, and the apple mayo was delicious.
There was one dish that I really did not want to like in all honesty, and that was the Bunny Burger, and yes it is what it sounds like! I am far from a vegetarian, but do struggle a little to not feel a little guilt at enjoying the cuter animals in life through my stomach.
However in this case I had no choice but to enjoy it, and to be honest it was so tasty that it far outweighed any guilt I may have felt, and I would actually order it again. In fairness as well, as a child my rabbit ate my guinea pig, therefore I may just consider it to be a little bit of bunny karma!
The Bunny Burger was made from rabbit and pork mince (to prevent it being too dry and tough), and came with a homemade pumpkin ketchup. The pumpkin ketchup has a real tang to it and just the right amount of spicyness.
Now on to my favourite part of any meal, the desserts! We were given a lemon posset, cider company jelly with fennel seed biscotti, a safron doughnut with clotted cream and apple puree, and a Cornish burnt cream with seasonal fruits and shortbread to try. I was pretty much in heaven as each of them arrived, since I have a massive sweet tooth.
The lemon posset was very refreshing and palate cleansing for the end of a meal, and as you can see from the photo below looked amazing.
The Safron doughnut was of course handmade since that’s the River Cottage way, and was messy to eat, but delicious and was Simon’s favourite. Simon doesn’t really have my sweet tooth, so for him to enjoy the desserts so much really does say a lot about how good they were!
My personal favourite was the ‘burnt cream’, which I have never tasted before, but which exceeded all expectations from everyone on the table. The fruit used in it was rhubarb, which was even enjoyed by those on the table who usually don’t like rhubarb, and especially by me who loves rhubarb.
All of the chefs at The Hop Store are trained at River Cottage HQ, and many of the staff are apprentices. After our taster menu delights, we met Jack the chef, who is only 20, and we couldn’t resist giving him a round of applause for such an amazing job!
To have his skills at such a ‘tender’ age, I think perhaps Mr Gordon Ramsey should be watching his back over the coming years! Apparently Jack entered a competition on the Isle of Wight and didn’t win, but River Cottage were so impressed by him that they had him move over here to train and work for them. I definitely think this was a good move on their parts!
The menus at The Hop Store change with the seasons to help keep ingredients fresher and more sustainable, and their specials change daily, so it really doesn’t matter how many times you dine there, they will always be ready with something new to set your mouth-watering.
I have a confession to make, I was so busy trying all the food that was put before us on the evening, that I took hardly any photos, but luckily as you can see from the photos above, the lovely Sean Gee from Sean Gee Photography came to my rescue, and should from now on wear his pants outside of his trousers, and possibly make himself a cape?
Thank you to Skinner’s, the Hop Store and River Cottage for a lovely evening, and for food that I usually wouldn’t think to order, but which now I will always be looking out for!