Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Richmond Arms - West Ashling

I've been spoilt with some fantastic food of late (The Electrolux Cube and the 'Menu' at Taste of London to name a few), so to find a little country pub serving food with confidence was an extremely happy event for me!

I love country pubs/restaurants, especially when they are cosy and serve good food!  I found both of these to be the case during two recent visits to the Richmond Arms.  Yes two visits!  I enjoyed the food here immensely that I had to return to share the experience with others.

The place was smaller than I had imagined, and also booking is essential, but both would not put me off returning again!

Our first visit was for Sunday lunch.  The only negative comments I will make start and stop here; and is with regards to the somewhat greasy starters.  Both the chorizo scotch egg and the delicate stuffed courgette flower tasted as if they had been cooked in oil that had been hanging around - used for several purposes, which overpowered the courgette flower as you can imagine.  Even the robust chorizo tasted of an amalgamation I couldn't quite put my finger on.  Maybe this needs looking at?!

However, not put off, we ordered the crispy skinned soy sauce duck and a sunday roast belly of pork.  It is quite apparent that the kitchen is very free thinking, as it made what would seem like two ordinary dishes on paper, into refined comfort food with the aid of wonderfully pickled plums to accompany the duck, and an apple and gooseberry sauce for the pork!  These accompaniments were the perfect balance of flavours, with intelligent use of acidity to cut through these usually rich meats! I can't praise these dishes enough.

Desserts were sublime.  A peanut butter brulee with a scoop of salted caramel and cherry ice cream.  Here lies a thing of wonder!  (I was also quite impressed with the inventiveness in presentation - thanks to a little help from Ikea!)  The homemade ice-creams were phenomenally good too: salted caramel, banana, chocolate amaretto, honeycomb, praline, rose pistachio - I struggled to choose only 3 scoops.

If your a gastro-nut wanting to find pleasure for your senses, then The Richmond Arms is the place for you!  The service is informed, charming and efficient.  Expect great things!

Runny chorizo scotch egg, saffron aioli
Local goats cheese, raisins, and pine nut stuffed courgette flower

Crispy skin soy braised roast duck, pickled plumbs and aromatic herbs

Sous vide pork belly & trimmings, with a delicious gooseberry & apple sauce

Chocolate amaretto, rose & pistachio, praline ice creams
Peanut butter brulee, salted caramel & sour cherry ice cream

Pickled plumbs recipe: 
Inspired by the duck dish, I decided to pickle my own plumbs.  It's an experimental recipe, but these are some of my most favourite ingredients of all time to cook with, so I'm sure you won't go far wrong.  Personally, I'm planning on also using it with duck, but other ideas would be with a stirfry, great with pate, or ice cream and yogurt for example.  It will be so versatile, so why not give it a go?  I'm sure if you served this alongside duck breasts for a dinner party (instead of the usual dull and obvious sauces), your guests would be more than impressed!

You will need:

800g of plumbs
My home-made pickled plumbs!
200ml cider vinegar
200g caster sugar
2 cardamom pods
2 star anise
1tbsp grated fresh ginger
1tsp allspice
pinch of chili flakes
 *sterilised jar*

Wash the plumbs well.  Put all the ingredients (except the sugar) in a large pan and gently bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the sugar.  Allow the sugar to dissolve.  Add the plumbs to the pan for about 4 minutes.  Remove the plumbs and place into the sterile jar.  Bring the liquid to the boil for a further minute, then carefully pour the liquid into the jar.  Close the lid and store in a cool, dark place for two months, (shaking the jar up from time to time).  
These will keep for 6 months to a year stored this way.

The Richmond Arms