Review – The Bewicke Arms, Hallaton

November 16, 2015

I wrote enthusiastically about the Bewicke Arms a few weeks back after attending a launch party. Having given them a few weeks to settle in, I’ve now got round to doing a full review which appeared this weekend in the Leicester Mercury and which I reproduce below. As you’ll see, I wasn’t disappointed.  Great ingredients, great cooking – the place is a treat, especially for meat lovers.

[Edit: I see that from this week the Bewicke is now offering Great Food Club members 10 per cent off. For full details of the offer (and of the free-to-join Great Food Club – click here http://www.greatfoodclub.co.uk/offer/the-bewicke-arms/#.VktXADYnwaJ%5D

Bewicke3

Bewicke Arms
1 East Gate
Hallaton
Leicestershire
LE16 8UB

01858 555734

Cost: Around £28 for three courses.

When I first moved to Leicester in 1983 I asked around for country pub recommendations – and the Bewicke Arms in Hallaton came up most often. So I checked it out, and it was indeed a lovely pub in a lovely village. In those pre-gastropub days though I seem to remember its most celebrated dish being a chicken breast covered in Boursin garlicky herb cheese.

The bar, of course, has risen considerably since then. The Bewicke has continued to be a welcome country pub for locals, walkers, touring cyclists and so on but has never been a destination food pub. Indeed over the last couple of years it has shut and reopened a few times. Now though, all that has changed and it’s taken a dramatic leap towards the top echelon of dining pubs.

Local couple Claire and Simon Tait bought it this year and re-opened in September having hired a heavyweight team in the kitchen. Consultant chef setting the tone and getting the kitchen established is Tom Cockerill, who made his name locally with Entropy. Head chef is Glenn Cowl, who helped the Red Lion in Stathern win numerous accolades in recent years including Leicestershire Dining Pub of the Year.

The two have a similarity of approach which includes a genuine commitment to the local and seasonal ethos which is so often a matter of lip-service. The signature style is one of honest good food from the best ingredients. At a launch event they offered small versions of their bar menu including stunning fried fish in Grainstore bitter batter, pizza with locally-foraged mushrooms and a beautiful deserts such as an apple crumble made with Kentish cob-nuts, apples gown in the village and curds from a local herd of Red Poll cattle.

The restaurant menu stretches things more but still displays a trademark approach. A starter of grilled Dexter ox heart with salami from Rutland Charcuterie and parmentier potatoes, was a bit of a stunner, the cooking brilliantly showcasing the distinctive, nostalgic flavour of the meat. Lamb sweetbreads in a lightly deep-fried crumb was another success, paired with crispy little curls of duck breast prosciutto and a nicely sharp dressing with capers olive and sage. Proper gown up food with serious great flavours. A simple starter of whitebait was also very good indeed with a big hunk of chargrilled lime and point of feisty roasted garlic mayonnaise lifting the everyday into something a bit special.

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Picking a main course was tricky. Whole baked plaice with crab apples and a veloute with Hallaton-made Bottle Kicking cider was hard to resist, but I settled for breast of Mallard. Again this was perfectly cooked meat, with crisp skin with a honey and soy glaze, resting on leeks, caramelised onions and orange. Really sweetly-flavoured duck with a refreshingly light and clean presentation.

Many pubs do a belly of pork dish, but the Bewicke’s version put most to shame by featuring fantastic produce and cooking it simply. The pork from Suffolk-based, high-welfare Dingley Dell had superb flavour, while the gorgeous sprout-top greens with it were a revelation to someone who generally abhors this usual Christmas dinner abomination. A final main course of arrancini – risotto fried in a light crumb – with wild mushroom and Jersualem artichokes had great Mediterranen flavours though the dressing was maybe a bit heavy on the olive oil.

The vegetarian in our group was happy with her food but you do feel that it’s finding and cooking great meat – including often-looked cuts – that really floats this kitchen’s boat.

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(food pictures are dishes we had but are shamelessly borrowed from the chef’s site – ours weren’t good enough)

Deserts had all the virtues of the rest of the meal. A simple sundae of Hallaton-grown apples with, cream, ice-cream and toffee sauce with honeycomb and gingerbread(left) was light, sweet and offered a pleasing range of textures. Pumpkin and pecan pie with cinnamon ice-cream in a sweet little puff pastry cornet was both witty, sophisticated and gorgeous..

The high-achieving kitchen isn’t really matched yet out front. Apparently a restaurant manager left early on and there is a need for a more rigour – we were asked for our drinks order without being given a wine list, our waitress knew nothing about the beer offering and somehow managed to just ignore a question about the tremendous, malty bread that we were served up. Nothing disastrous there but the food deserves better.

The lovely setting of this pub, over-looking Hare Pie Hill, has always drawn visitors. Now there’s a definitely another good reason to go.

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