It just gets better and better for foodies here in West Berks. Marco Pierre White has invested in a local pub to prove that it is possible to turn out food that challenges some of the big chains on price and simply blows them away on quality and taste.
We wanted a Mothers' Day meal destination, and had read a few reviews of the Yew Tree Inn, which were not altogether favourable, but with such a star chef as proprietor, we simply had to try it. We weren't disappointed.
For twenty pounds a head for three courses, we were treated to good, unpretentious cooking which although not Michelin starred certainly rose head and shoulders above the mass of pub grub that England usually expects. The menu was a strange fusion of dishes of classic French and modern British extraction, but they were well executed and satisfied your taste buds as well as your wallet.
The dining room was dressed to impress, with white tablecloths and cream walls and the dark, low beams adding that country-pub like air. In fact the tables are arranged around a central bar, and so the pub heritage can be clearly seen. The brusque service mentioned by other reviewers was absent: it was pretty efficient although not over-friendly. And so with the scene set: on with the starters.
Double Eggs Benedict was the children's choice and they were rewarded with perfectly cooked eggs perched on a ham-topped white muffin and lovingly covered with piquant Hollandaise. The pea and bacon veloute served for my wife was suitably frothy and delicious, an epithet that could be equally be applied to her. Back to the meal - spurred on by a review of the many hours of chef workmanship that goes into the preparation of the calves tongue, I tried this pleasant peasant dish, which was strong flavoured if a little salty and accompanied by a tangy celeriac remoulade, which gave the right amount of lift to the proceedings. It was beautifully arranged on the plate, but I could have done with slightly less to make it nigh perfect.
Mains followed starters as surely as indigestion follows a burger and my wife and I both tried the belly pork, which was as suitably honeyed and tender as the many hours in the oven could provide. It was served very simply with a few peppercorns to cut through the sweetness and with a puree-like mash and the candiest red cabbage I have ever tasted. The sauce let the overall impression down a notch, being a little thin, but undeniably tasty.
The children opted for the medium rare roast beef, which came with a American muffin style yorkshire pudding filled with caramelised onion and roast potatoes, and the Salmon Kedgeree which was an uncomplicated melee of fish, rice and spice.
The puddings were last, as is traditional, and again my wife and I opted for the Rhubarb Crumble: we must stop choosing the same dishes. These consisted of a light stewed rhubarb, with a delicate crumble scattered over and grilled, with a vanilla ice cream scoop atop. My eldest was almost drunk on the sherry trifle "Wally Lad", and the youngest devoured the rice pudding.
Coffees rounded off the proceedings and we reflected on the state of British cooking. On this performance it is in the ascendant - if only more places followed suit. This type of food should be the norm, and not the exception. "Waiter, the bill please!"