There has been much talk locally about the fate of the former shabby pub that occupies arguably one of the most coveted positions on the village green in the North Surrey village of Englefield Green.
In the fifteen or so years that I’ve lived here it’s always been a fairly average pub and never ever managed anything more than a notch above that which can be microwaved or put in a deep fat fryer.
We locals have been waiting in anticipation when local gastro pub chain The White Brasserie Company (sister company of the well established Raymond Blanc franchise Brasserie Blanc) took over the Barley Mow .
Over the last few months they have heavily invested in refurbishing and extending the premises breathing new life into the tired old building.
Last night the second soft opening took place and I was lucky enough to secure a table to sample the fruits of their labours!
Located just 1/2 mile from my house and a brisk 10 mins walk we were looking forward to having a place to eat on our doorstep that didn’t involve a taxi or train ride.
On arrival we met the charismatic Johnny O’Connor, the GM steering the ship, a great host but obviously a man who takes his craft seriously as he skilfully manages his brigade of staff to deliver a fairly impressive service.
Once inside, the decor is bright yet cosy. There is a small bar with a full range of pre dinner drinks and cocktails available including an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc on tap and a Fleurie!
If you are a lover of all things that is the drink of the moment; GIN, then this is the place for you! An impressive range of Gin’s to suit all tastes from the classic Hendrik’s to the stellar aromatic Gin Mare.
The dining area is split on two levels; the new larger lower level looks into the open kitchen, a signature feature of Brasserie Blanc’s, revealing an openness and transparency of what goes on in the kitchen!
As its a chilly night outside we opt for the slightly more intimate and cosy upper floor and choose a table adjacent to a roaring log fire, it’s warmth a welcome addition to the ambiance.
After taking some time to cogitate and deliberate over the extensive menu, I’m seduced by the Hake for mains which I had a year ago on a visit to Brasserie Blanc in Winchester and which wowed me then. My other guests make their choices and I order a delicious Pouilly Fumé at a very modest mark up on retail price.
It’s crisp and fresh and the perfect partner to my choice of starter…
Rainbow smoked beetroot & goat’s curd salad, balsamic dressing & beetroot crisps.
One of the best iteration’s of this classic that I’ve tasted. The secret… The beets are steamed separately unpeeled to preserve colour, then peeled and cold smoked in their own in-house smokery. Finally, to finish the dark beets are marinated in a red wine marinade and the the lighter colours in a white wine marinade. The result a visual stunner that balances sweet and sour flavours with the lightness of the goat’s curd.
One course in and I’m already loving this place!
Roast hake fillet with saffron sauce, mussels, clams, kale, new potatoes.
I had already bigged up this dish to my guests and and wasn’t disappointed when it arrived, the wonderful aroma from the saffron sauce tantalising my taste buds. The Hake cooked to perfection, crispy skinned and yet moist so that it’s delicate flavour and texture could express themselves in the luxurious combination with sweet mussels and clams. Al dente kale and new potatoes provided an unfussy but necessary balance to the flavours on the plate.
Wine number two was a budget favourite from Rare Vineyards; one whose modest £23 price tag totally under estimates the sublime combination of Marsanne/Viognier that was the perfect partner to our quartet of fish that were our main courses.
Asking our waiter, Vince for a soup spoon to ensure that not a drop of the saffron liquor was wasted the only debris left on the plate were the discarded mussel shells!
Selection of traditional seasonal artisan cheese; Double Gloucester, Keen’s Cheddar, Yorkshire blue
Having already decided unanimously as a table that we were all going for the French classic Tarte Citron we decided to share one cheese course between four.
Beautifully presented with a tangy red onion marmalade and garnished with dried apricots and candied fruit the cheeses went down a storm. In my book Keen’s Cheddar is up there as one of the greatest English cheddars that exists. Made the same way it was a hundred year’s ago from raw unpasteurised milk it’s flavours, strong deep and full of umami!
The Yorkshire Blue creamy and yet with a delicious savoury saltiness! I could see myself popping in for a cheese course after dinner at home without the guilt of having a pound of cheeses tempting me in the fridge at home!
Classic deep-baked lemon tart, crème fraîche
And so to dessert. A deep slice of sunshine with a lovely caramelised surface courtesy of chef’s blow torch! The tart zing of lemon balanced perfectly with the custard creme filling and offset both decoratively and flavour wise with the off sour tang of a thick crème fraîche.
Bringing this triumphant finale to a close, to accompany the dessert we had a classic Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, one of my favourite sweet wines…
But we were not done and in a defiant act to prolong our enjoyment of the evening further we ordered post dinner cocktails!
Legér whose job it is to keep the wine and cocktails flowing took to making several new off piste cocktails to keep us happy in addition to her signature Espresso Martini!
Espresso Martini using Stoli! A Barley Mow twist on the Brandy Alexander and of course the quintessential Bondesque classic Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred!
Johnny, Tim and Vince by the log fire in the upper restaurant.
All in all a fantastic night! If they can maintain this quality of service and food this is going to be a real local asset and transform the restaurant scene in the village.
If you need any more of a recommendation I’ve just booked for Christmas Eve, but don’t delay as they are already filling up..
The Barley Mow, Englefield Green, Surrey, TW20 0NX, 01784 480210
Official Opening 28th November 2016