By Ben Honisett
Foodie fads are often taken to the extreme. Whether it’s mountain-high caramelised lemongrass-and-peanut cupcakes, or Wagyu Beef and truffle oil burgers (oh, it’s happened…), it seems a food trend hasn’t fully run its course until dishes that were once quite humble have been made into something so extraordinary that they’ve lost all connection with their roots.
I can’t really call myself a fan of this tendency towards extremism- but there is one notable exception to this rule - and that’s locally sourced ingredients. Simply put, the less the food has to travel the better - so it is news to be welcomed that a restaurant – in this case The Bladebone Inn, near Thatcham – has taken local food sourcing to the extreme.
They’ve venison, pheasant and rabbit all shot within a few miles radius of the pub; pork and poultry from nearby Compton and, best of all, the ‘RG7 Salad’ –named after their postcode, naturally – which comprises entirely of ingredients picked within walking distance of the pub.
So in all honesty we had high hopes of this place – and by the time we arrived to the pretty red-brick country pub, which features prints and photography from local artists, I was desperate to downplay my expectations. Thankfully, the meal was of excellent quality from start to finish. The starters were as inventive as they were delicious – seared scallops with honey glazed pork belly, rock samphire and pear was the juicy, sweet, umami-laden star of our table - and even came with a ‘mini entrée’ of gnocchi and an inspired rabbit and carrot sauce.
The rich, full-flavoured English duck with roast sweet potatoes and tender stem broccoli that followed was a sumptuous combination of flavours, the salty, the sweet, the crisp, buttered greens – wonderfully balanced, and wonderfully conceived. Likewise the classic Rump Steak Béarnaise was juicy, tender and rare – and, needless to say, locally sourced and cooked with the same seasoned, careful attention you’d get in a very good French restaurant.
Delicious baked plum Clafoutis and divine chocolate and blackberry fondants were our just rewards for dessert; theirs was their recent and fully deserved entry into the 2013 Good Food Guide.