When a restaurant review incites the words ‘Eee bah gum’, you know something special has happened. Our Chris Blackburn went along to sample the delights of a place that is only almost in Yorkshire, but even that didn’t bother him!
Isn’t life cruel sometimes? Take Will and Leah Frankland for instance. They have to wake up each morning knowing that their beloved pub is almost in Yorkshire.
Imagine that: you work endless days earning (from none other than Richard Branson) and saving for your dream to come true and then finally when you own your establishment you find out it’s just one mile away from Yorkshire in Nottinghamshire, and to make matters worse they (whoever ‘they’ are) tease you with a Yorkshire DN postcode.
It’s not all bad though, because when Will and Leah stumbled upon The Blacksmiths in Clayworth what they found was a blank canvas that could be transformed just the way they wanted. You see, what the Blacksmith may lack in Yorkshire-ness, it more than makes up for in splendour.
You only have to see the outside to know this place is going to be good. Externally it’s perfectly finished without a paint chip in sight, the wooden doors have been fantastically crafted and complement the building beautifully. On entrance you’re met with an array of trendy yet traditional seating, which has been brought to life with vibrant colours that somehow feels traditional, and then your attention is taken by the most amazing central staircase and brick feature that leads to a stunning private dining room that immediately wets your appetite for something like a long-awaited family Sunday lunch get-together.
Back downstairs the pub is split cleverly into two areas; one which is more traditional pub style, the sort of place to enjoy, fish and chips and a pint of bitter, and another that says dining experience with à la carte and a glass of vino. However, Will is quick to explain that you can eat what you want where you like and he simply wants an environment for everybody. It works. The two areas have been put together seamlessly.
So is this a case of (as my mum would say) all fur coat no knickers? Absolutely not! Will and Leah have a sensible philosophy about the food at The Blacksmiths. Will tells me that he aims to source as much of his ingredients as possible from the local area, and while he’s mindful of his carbon footprint he accepts at the same time that there’s no harbour in Clayworth (it’s some way from the sea) and nor have they managed to grow bananas there either.
We opt for the à la carte option. I’m feeling in the mood for a glass of red. The menu reads very well and fits perfectly with the venue, not providing, choice after choice, but instead simply being a song sheet of beautifully crafted dishes that sit together faultlessly.
To start with I opt for the pan roasted quail breast, quail scotch egg, sautéed mushrooms with hazelnut dressing, and my dining partner opts for the potted Lincolnshire pork belly, apple and crackling salad and toasted Welbeck sourdough.
My dish is packed full of flavour and displays real skill. The quail’s egg, for instance, is wrapped in quail meat and coated in panko breadcrumbs, the dressings are finely balanced and complement the dish perfectly – we’re off to a great start, which is faultless (an accolade I don’t give very often).
Likewise, my dining partner has nothing but praise for the pork belly, saying the flavours are simply stunning.
Time for main. I opt for pan-fried wild sea bass with seared hand-dived scallop, linguini, white asparagus, samphire, and clam emulsion. Sounds good doesn’t it? But don’t be fooled. This great sounding dish isn’t great – it’s amazing!
Why? It’s the simple ingredients, samphire, the asparagus of the sea, fish, shell fish and a sauce – the plate is beautifully presented and once again the flavours complement each other flawlessly.
I sometimes get frustrated when reviewing restaurants because despite not being a trained chef there are some dishes I could simply prepare and present far better myself. That cannot be said at the Blacksmiths. This is food creation that I could only dream of!
My dining partner goes for pan roasted Grassingham duck breast, pommes dauphine, mango puree pistachio and pancetta crumb, carrot and peas. In stark contrast to my dish, this one is a little more creative, almost experimental, which is delivered impeccably and once again display real skill.
For dessert we both opt for the same. I didn’t ask but I’m sure if I did Will would tell me that 80% of diners choose this dish because it simply sells itself. The dish in question is million AIR shortbread, which consists of aerated chocolate brick, salted caramel mousse, praline shortbread, coffee sorbet, balsamic dust, popping candy and chocolate soil.
#OMG – or should I say #EBG (ee bah gum) – do I need to say any more? The chef that created this marvel spent weeks developing it and it shows. Every detail has really been thought about and despite a list of ingredients as long as your arm it’s actually very light. Every mouthful is a pleasure.
So would I go again to the Blacksmith? Yes, absolutely. Would I recommend it? I’ll drive you there myself!
Taste, Value, Ambiance, Décor all outstanding! Without doubt our favourite restaurant of 2014