I made the trip into (for this Londoner!) deepest, darkest Worcestershire yesterday to see my lovely daughter. If I thought I was deep in the country at Nicola & Rachael’s old farmhouse, with its glorious views over gently rolling hills, in a village outside Droitwich …
… then I didn’t really understand how remote the English countryside could get. The girls had booked a table for dinner at Green Cow Kitchens, Crumplebury Farm, in Whitbourne (about 12 miles from Worcester). They’d heard great reports of the food and when I looked at the website, it looked like a very exciting place to eat.
The restaurant is only open Wed-Sat and some Sunday lunchtimes. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, there is a ‘brasserie’ menu but on Fridays and Saturdays there is a Tasting Menu, which changes every month, reflecting the seasons. Guests turn up at 7.30 and then enjoy 7 courses, which are eaten in a leisurely and relaxed style over the next 3-4 hours. The restaurant sources seasonal products of the highest quality and, as far as possible, locally. Meat – organic Beef Shorthorn and Lleyn Lamb, along with traditional breeds of pigs – comes from the home farm on the Whitbourne Estate. This also provides game such as pheasant, duck and wild venison. They have their own herb garden and forage many ingredients. Anything they don’t grow or breed themselves comes from local suppliers.
It was about a half hour’s drive away and satnav coordinates had been given when making the booking. The reason for this became clear when near the end of our journey, we headed across fields on rough, unmade roads and clanked over cattle grids. But just at the point we were questioning whether we could really be on the right route, we saw our destination in the distance.
Even as we parked, someone came out and gave us the warmest of welcomes and then led us into a barn where the restaurant was housed.
More staff greeted us with big smiles. It really was one of the friendliest greetings I’ve ever enjoyed. The barn had been converted into an attractive airy space that combined a sense of cosiness with a nice touch of sophistication.
Drinks were offered, featuring their homemade elderflower cordial, made from foraged elderflowers. Rachael opted for an Elderfower G&T, while Nicola and I had a kind of elderflower Kir – the cordial with prosecco. I was slightly worried it might be too sweet but was assured the prosecco was dry. And really, with something more exciting on offer than straight prosecco, I decided to just go with it. And it was very delicious, with some of the fresh elderflowers floating on the top, so I was glad I’d had it. We also ordered some sparkling water (Pellegrino) and a bottle of Sancerre for later.
The menu was nicely printed out, with some ingredients explained and we could always see exactly what was coming, which is great when it’s a long tasting menu.
A tray of amuse-bouche came first: some delicious, warm pea & mint soup; some light and tasty tapenade on rounds of crispy toast; and a glorious fried parcel of duck with the crispiest of coatings and lightest of meat inside – it was sensational.
The bread arrived on a wooden board and tasted as good as it looked: warm fresh rolls and lightly whipped butter to go with them.
Then the 1st course: House Smoked Salmon, Dill and Mustard Dressing, Crème Fraîche & Salmon Caviar.
It looked so pretty and tasted so good. They smoke the salmon themselves and it was done with a lightness that made this a special and fresh-tasting start to our meal.
The 2nd course was Fresh Tomato Gazpacho, Scented with Basil.
Again, another delicious course.
The 3rd course was Estate Beef Bressaola, Truffle Mayonnaise, Salad. The bresaola was their home-cured Beef Shorthorn. It was good but perhaps my least favourite of the courses.
Although there was in theory ‘no choice’, when booking and asked about special dietary requirements we’d said that Nicola was pregnant and Rachael a pescatarian. Thus for this course they provided alternatives: some asparagus with hard-poached egg for Nicola, and crayfish ravioli on a bed of carrot for Rachael. The ‘alternatives’ were thoughtfully done so there was no chance that any diner could feel they were missing out.
The 4th course was Cord Fed Poussin, Crayfish Ravioli, Summer Vegetables, Jus of Crayfish.
This was gorgeous and such a delightful combination of flavours. Rachael, meanwhile, was given some brown trout with summer vegetables.
Next was course 5: Feta and Beetroot Tartlet, Apple and Watercress Salad.
This was an ingenious little creation of creamy feta in a crispy pastry case on a bed of beetroot carpaccio. The beetroot flavour was carried over into little balls of purée, with balls of creamy apple purée with a nice, slightly sour bite to it (Granny Smith apples? we wondered). It came with a little glass of Madeira.
We were told that course 6 was a palate cleanser: Gooseberry and Chase Vodka Sorbet, Gooseberry Jelly. It was fabulous and ‘palate cleansing’ in a sophisticated and creative way.
Finally the last – 7th – course of Elderflower Pannacotta, Textures of Strawberry, Elderflower Fritter.
Another beautifully presented and creative dish. The little elderflower fritter on top of the pannacotta was genius. There were very lightly cooked strawberries a syrup, melt-in-the-mouth tiny meringues and some strawberry cream and a little piece of honeycomb. The elderflower taste of the pannacotta was very good, though the texture a little too solid, I felt – I like my pannacottas lighter and creamier; just holding together.
We finished with coffee for two of us which came with some homemade, excellent chocolate truffles.
It really was a superb and special meal. There was some truly creative cooking of the highest quality. The menu was also thoughtfully put together so there was great harmony between the dishes. And, importantly, although we felt we’d eaten plenty by the end, we didn’t feel we’d eaten too much. Everything had been perfectly judged. Throughout the service had been brilliant and the staff showed a wonderful enthusiasm for the food they were serving, wanting to tell us about the ingredients, and this greatly added to the pleasure of eating it.
The Tasting Menu cost £44.50 per head, which is amazing value. The bottle of excellent Sancerre was £34.
It may have felt a bit of an expedition to get to Green Cow Kitchens but it was definitely an adventure worth making. Really, to eat at this special restaurant it’s worth a trip into deepest, darkest Worcestershire from even quite far away!