Saturday, 1st September 2018 – The Plough, Shutlanger
For a while we’d been having to avoid the Plough, simply because it was proving too hard to get there, the main route being closed for bridge repairs. As a result we would have had to drive the long way round, doubling the distance and the journey time, and so, despite our best intentions, we just kept on not getting back there. The Plough has had a chequered history, certainly over the last couple of decades, having been a fish only place for a while, and then being taken over by one set of owners after another, until it has finally apparently achieved stability with its new owners.
Anyway, as soon as the roadworks were over I cracked and booked a table. On arrive we were slightly too early and it was still hot and sticky so sitting out on the front terrace to drink an aperitif seemed like an excellent idea. The kir royale that was produced was certainly an excellent idea, even if I did get fixated by the reflection in the table top for rather more time than a non-photographer would think was reasonable.
Anyway, once I could drag my attention away from the “ooh! shiny!” table, and study the menu, we sorted our options, deciding that we would be sharing the dishes again because it was too hard to opt for just one starter and one main. I am forever grateful that I live and travel with someone who is happy to go half and half on most dishes, because after all, there are so many restaurants, and so little time. The first dish to arrive was a lovely, soft-yolked Scotch egg, made with wild boar sausage meat. I do love a good Scotch egg, and this was definitely a good one.
Alongside it we shared a portion of tiger prawns, with a frothy “meringue”-like accompanying pea foam and a pea risotto. Lovely, summery flavours and perfectly cooked prawns. It was clear to us that there’s a level of competence and ambition in the kitchen that goes some way beyond that of your average gastro-pub.
The wine list also suggests this, with some interesting choices that meant we were able to drink something rather more imaginative than would usually be the case. We ordered a bottle of vinho verde to have with our starters, a fresh, crisp instance of a wine that is ideal for hot summer days.
The jug of tap water was thoughtfully complemented by ribbons of cucumber, a touch that you wouldn’t expect in a pub, though you might see it in restaurants now and again. There are just these little touches that the Plough adds to service that you don’t see in many other establishments, and it makes me like them all the more.
As if the cooking didn’t recommend them highly. The duck with truffle shavings was very rich, beautifully cooked, and accompanied by a tangle of mushrooms, some tiny pate-capped croutons, and a potato rosti cake, all of which soaked up the well-made sauce in a way that had me wanting to lick the plate. I do love duck, and this was definitely a duck to win my heart all over again.
The other meat dish was a rack of lamb, again prettily served and perfectly cooked, the skin crisp and the meat soft, tender and pink. There were baby sweetcorn, beetroot, courgettes, fondant potatoes and asparagus, and another well-executed sauce, sticky and meaty and redolent of red wine. What it was, in addition to delicious (and this was true of the duck as well) was far too big for either of us to be able to eat all of it, which was a bit of a shame, but the lovely waiting staff were more than happy to pack the leftovers up for us to take home – lunch the following day was assured.
We mustn’t leave it quite so long till we visit again. I can see a Saturday night in January or February being just the right time to eat here one more time.