6 February 2008
The other weekend, I took Suzy to The Old Vicarage in Ridgeway Village as a treat to celebrate that we’d managed to put up with each other for seven years. The restaurant had come highly recommended by a few people, although each one had warned me about it being expensive but absolutely worth it for a special occasion. So with my credit card firmly in my hand, I booked a table...
We arrived at 18:20, about twenty-five minutes earlier than expected as our taxi was ten minutes early and I’d completely forgotten that we only live about five minutes away from the place anyway. This didn’t seem to bother TV-chef and Michelin-starred owner of the restaurant, Tessa Bramley, who met us at the door with a warm welcome and took our coats before taking us through to one of the lounges where we could read the menu while enjoying a glass of champagne.
Just as we were choosing what to eat, some canapés arrived. We had onion chutney samosas, mini burgers, mini cottage pies made with deer, olives and cheese straws, all of which were fabulous and prepared our appetites for what was to come. After choosing our starters and main courses, Tessa came and sat with us to help us decide which wine we would like to go with our meal. Even with our terribly inexperienced wine-talk, she managed to narrow down their hundreds of wines to just a few by asking what sort of wines we did and didn’t like. Little did she know I’ll drink anything and everything and have probably never had a bottle of red wine over ten quid! A few minutes later, a waiter came with the bottle for us to check before decanting it. It looked fine to me – the bottle had some guy’s signature on it and it wasn’t even in a plastic bottle...
Shortly after being seated at our table, our napkins were placed across our laps and our wine was poured. (By the way, we didn’t even have to carry our champagne to the table. Instead, one of the waitresses carried them on a silver tray for us and remembered whose was whose, if you can imagine that!)
The next choice we had to make was which bread we wanted. It wasn’t just a case of “white or brown” either; we could choose from white, wholemeal, walnut, onion (I think) or black pudding. Suzy was boring and went for wholemeal but I obviously had to try black pudding bread, which was amazing and would be absolutely perfect for breakfast sandwiches.
For our surprise appetiser course, we got a small fillet of sea bream in a Thai broth (or “Thai bride” as I heard one of the waitresses accidentally call it). As with everything so far, this was lovely, as were the starters. I’d chosen the scallops, which were the biggest, fattest, juiciest ones I’ve ever had, cooked perfectly and served with a cauliflower cream, and Suzy had goose liver and smoked goose liver in a kind of long slice of terrine.
For main course, I’d ordered beef and calves liver, which came served with a small, light, crispy-yet-melt-in-the-mouth Yorkshire pudding, mashed potato, vegetables and a horseradish foam. Suzy had fillet of deer with parsnip chips and mashed potato. These were both perfect examples of fairly simple food cooked excellently and presented in an exquisite manner.
After a short break to let our food go down, we then ordered a lemon tart and a selection of cheese and biscuits to share, followed by coffee and a selection of chocolates and petits fours to finish off the meal perfectly.
The Old Vicarage is perfect for special occasions or whenever you just want to splash out a couple of hundred hard-earned British pounds sterling of the realm on truly excellent food, with really good wine and special surroundings. Even though the place is very posh, you feel right at home, with friendly chatty staff that are really approachable so you don’t feel at all uncomfortable. They also usually offer a seven course tasting menu but had unfortunately taken it off the menu on the night we went as they were short staffed, so we’ll definitely be going back to try that one day.
Now get saving and get your table booked!