Saturday 7th June, 2020 – The Folly/The Brothers, Towcester
We have had a somewhat up and down relationship with The Folly Inn, our most local gastropub, over the years with some very good food and some that really hasn’t hit the mark, along with service that can be very hit and miss but can also be brilliantly warm and friendly.
Anyway, last year we went back for another try, and ate well enough to decide it was back on our list of places to eat. On that occassion we went with a pair of friends so we all had different starters. That meant we enjoyed plates such as a amoked cheddar cheese twice-baked souffle, with a Waldorf salad, cauliflower cheese puree and a Parmesan crisp…
Home cure salmon with lightly pickled cucumber, salmon roe, fennel, fresh radish and chive oil…
A hash of pulled pork and black pudding with a panko breaded egg, pork crackling and apple puree…
A beetroot dish of mixed beetroots, poached pear, goat’s cheese, walnuts and a shallot puree…
We also managed to make a womanful attempt on the mains, getting through a pan roasted rump of lamb, goat’s cheese croquettes, minted beans, confit potato, parsnip puree and lamb jus…
Gloucester Old Spot pork belly, white pudding bon bon, sauteed celeriac and buttered mash…
Breast of guinea flow, stuffed with chestnut mushroom duxelles, Cornish potatoes, tenderstem brocolli, babyy onions, cured bacon, beetroot puree, Port wine jus…
Finishing off with a chocolate fondant that did just what it was supposed to, oozing chocolate once you broke into the crisp outer layer.
We liked it so much we went back in February this year for Lynne’s birthday, so they’d redeemed themselves pretty much. This time we demolished a starter of goat’s cheese and figs and another of the black pudding and pork hash again.
For mains there was guinea fowl (also again) and duck.
They knew it was a birthday meal and so they whisked out a complimentary festive dish of ice cream even though none of us could manage dessert, which we thought was very sweet.
We would undoubtedly have gone again, but the universe had other ideas, and before we knew it we were in lockdown, all pubs and restaurants shut for the duration. It was back to the freezer, the kitchen and my own massive collection of cookbooks if we wanted anything special. And for 10 weeks that’s precisely what we did.
But then, an email from the folly informed my that they were doing lockdown menus, from a pair of chefs who refer to themselves as The Brothers, rather than from their usual chef, but that these could be picked up during the day on Saturday to finish and plate at home.
The first few menus didn’t appeal enough but finally, for their Lockdown Tasting Menu #5, they hit gold as far as we were concerned. I phoned up and booked for 2, at a cost of £35 each for five courses. At 12:30 I duly turned up at the side door of the pub and was handed a large carrier bag scientifically packed with plastic tubs and cardboard-lidded foil cartons.
When evening rolled around it was a case of heating the oven to 180°C and following the comprehensive instructions to create what turned inti a seriously splendid dinner. While the canapés warmed up, I cracked open a bottle of Chapel Down Classic Non-Vintage Brut which was a very good way to start an evening.
We sat in the conservatory to eat the canapés, a smoked pork belly bon bon, served with gherkin ketchup, a chicken katsu gyoza, with a pickled ginger mayonnaise, a buffalo cauliflower “wing”, with a hot sauce dip and last but not least a chickpea and red pepper fritter, with a Romesco sauce. I hadn’t got them quite hot enough; having failed to read the instructions quite as closely as I should have done, but they were tasty. They would have been even better at the correct temperature.
Anyway, nothing daunted we moved on to the amuse bouche, which they called “Edible Garden”. A portion of humus with some crisp, crunchy vegetables to dip in and some olive soil was enjoyable too and we soon demolished it, dipping the tiny cornichons and the radishes in and getting somewhat messy as a result.
We moved on to share half of each of the two starers, with pulled Korean BBQ brisket heated up and served in a steamed bao bun, with a very punchy kimchi mayonnaise, and some pickled radishese. We ended up with a spare bun somehow, but left it to another day when I ate it with some cheese! The second starter was a poached duck egg, with English aparagus, glazed walnuts, and a dollop of broad bean and wild mint pesto. Both of these were very different but equally good. By now we were drinking an interesting wine from Egypt, a Domaine de Gianaclis, Ayam Viognier, bought in the shop at the Cite du Vin in Bordeaux.
We were moving very slowly in the direction of the main course, and this was a slow roasted lamb rump cooked beautifully pink, served with a Moroccan vegetable cous cous, aubergine pickle, a sweet potato samosa each (and the only bone of contention really because one of the samosas was much biggert than the other – I solved it by cutting both in half) and a some garlic yoghurt. With it we drank an excellent 2008 Pomerol, from Chateau du Tailhas, that I had opened earlier in the day and decanted. We finished the wine. We couldn’t finish the meat, and ended up eating it with the vegetable cous cous the following day for dinner, along with the dessert, because we really couldn’t manage that either.
The dessert, which we finally consumed on Sunday, was a Peach Melba but it had suffered a bit for being kept for 24 hours in the fridge. The peaches had dried out a bit and the raspberries were starting to slump. It still tasted good, but it didn’t look quite as good as I’m sure its creator had hoped.
We thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that two weekends later we decided to do it again!
And so, last Saturday, I again drove up to the pub at 12:30 to collect the Lockdown Tasting Menu #7.
This time I got the oven temperature right from the off, and so the canapés came out as they were intended. The things that were supposed to be hot were, and the things that were supposed to be cold or room temperature also were. Go me! This time we had a chicken parfait cone, with an accompanying onion jam, a smoked ham hock bon bon with its piccalilli gel, a sag aloo bahji, with a mango chutney ketchup with a scattering of nigella seeds running through it and a Thai green arancini, which came with a BBQ pineapple relish. The only thing that was slightly off was the cone, because the biscuit had gone siggy in storage. Oh, and the fact that none of these items were labelled so we had to figure out which was which – with the sauces we did it by colour, eliminating the obvious items first, the picalilli because it was bright yellow and the onion jam bu virtue of it being brown.
This time we opened a bottle of Champagne that we bought from the Champagne house itself back in 2018, a A Bergere Brut Nature. It lasted us through to the amuse bouche, a stunningly good roasted tomato gazpacho, with a round ball of burrata, and some strawberries. Needless to say it was served cold, and it was superb.
We had changed wines and were now enjoying a 2014 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett, from Joh. Jos. Christoffel in Erben, again a wine we had bought ourselves direct from the makers on a previous holiday to the Mosel. It went well with the starters where we again ordered one of each and shared half and half. The BBQ smoked mackerel fillet was stunning too, though the mackerel hung about digestively for a lot of the evening, and the crab Scotch egg that came with it was lovely, as was the cucumber, wasabi and dill buttermilk which cut through the oiliness of the fish and gave the dish a punch. The chargrilled cauliflower, with smoked almonds, salted lemon and pepper salad, and it’s emulsion of harissa yoghurt was positively restrained by comparison.
The main was again too big for us to finish, but that was no surprise because it was a 14 oz. Cote de Boeuf, with dauphinoise potatoes, buttered asparagus and tender-stem broccoli, vine tomatoes, and a 5 peppercorn sauce. The instructions included the information needed to finish the beef at any stage from blue to well done. We opted for blue so that meant 5 minutes in the oven and 2 minutes resting time. If I have any complaints it would be that there was nowhere near enough sauce for the half portion of meat we were able to eat, never ming a whole 14 ozs. That’s my only complaint though. I have no complaints with having had enough meat and potatoes left to make another dinner, with the addition of some carrots!
There’ll also be no complaints about the wine. After all, it came from my own cellar! This time we drank a 2015 Chateau Martet Reserve du Famille. It was amazing! And once it’s gone we’re going to need more of it.
Again, we ate the dessert the following night, in the shape of a sticky, dense and rich raspberry, white chocolate and pistachio trifle.
Hopefully we are now back to something close to normal now, and we can go out to eat again soon. If not, then I hope these guys keep on doing their lockdown supper clubs because it will help keep us sane.