Our regular restaurant reviewer the Insider finds a village restaurant which serves up pure poetry on a plate.
Poetry and consumption are the most flattering of diseases, said the Worcestershire wordsmith William Shenstone.
Being totally honest, I’m not quite sure what the point that Halesowen’s most famous son is trying to make, but it seems appropriate.
After all I like to think that I bring you a bit of poetry and consumption every week, through my sparkling prose and voracious appetite. And it seems particularly relevant given that this week we are in Shenstone, a small village just outside Kidderminster.
I had been hearing good reports about The Granary for some time, and decided it was about to put it to the test.
At least, as far as I’m concerned it is called The Granary. Outside is one of those trendy, stylised signs, which does away with capital letters and splits “granary” into two words over two lines - “the gran ary”. What is wrong with plain English? I couldn’t imagine Shenstone being impressed.
To passing motorists, it looks like a small country cottage, set back from the main Worcester Road and screened by shrubbery.
However further investigation reveals quite a substantial place, which has been extended considerably at the back.
There is quite a big car park, and considerable landscaped grounds, including a market garden – well actually, it’s more of a farm – where produce is grown for the restaurant.
The large modern annexe at the back features a distinctive gable with a huge plate glass window, giving it the look of an Alpine chalet.
They have really pushed the boat out inside, this place is so hip it hurts. There is an uber-cool lounge bar, featuring the sort of furnishing you would more normally expect to see in a Scandinavian loft apartment, and the restaurant is equally slick.
The red-and-gold squared carpet was a little corporate for my taste, but the snazzy coffee-and-brown fabric chairs are as stylish as they are comfortable, and the tasteful ornamental lighting, attractive floral displays and thick white napkins gave a real ambience of quality.
It is quite a large place, split into two rooms, and seems to be particularly popular with the young to middle-aged crowd.
There is an excellent wine list, it is just a shame that the New Zealand whites are not available by the glass. I did enjoy a glass of Cave de Masse, a crisp, dry French wine with a good balance, though, while my companion chose the Solstice Zinfadel.
The restaurant, run by head chef Tom Court, holds two AA rosettes, and shows both imagination and the careful selection of local, and indeed home-grown, ingredients.
There is a choice of a set menu or an a la carte selection, and both look very good.
The pork fillet, with apricot and pine-nut stuffing, was an interesting choice, and the sauteed pheasant breast will doubtless appeal to many people.
My favourite was the rump of lamb, cooked in red wine and rosemary jus and served with dauphinoise potatoes, but unfortunately that was not available during the night of our visit, although a rack of lamb was offered as an alternative, so we both settled for the fillet steak, mine with peppercorn sauce, with my dining partner going for the sauce diane.
We were told that the main courses would take a while to arrive, and in the meantime were supplied with some complimentary bread rolls, served on an attractive slate with a choice of olive oil and vinegar.
It took around 35 minutes for the main courses to come, which I don’t think is too excessive, and I was impressed with the way that staff updated us on the meal’s progress prior to its arrival.
The food was superb. The steak was a deep, pot-shaped cut, which tasted as delightful as it looked. I love these thick cuts, which are so soft and have so much variety of texture that the thinner steaks just can’t manage.
Unusually, the sauce was served with no unground peppercorns, and was of a thin, potent variety, quite rich in port I think. The big, fat hand-cut chips were stacked in a stylish jenga formation, and served with unblemished fresh vegetables, it almost looked too good to eat.
Yet while the portions looked quite dainty, with just five chips, it all proved surprisingly filling. The big chips had a lovely crunchy coating, and there was really very little to fault.
There was still enough room for dessert, though. The sticky toffee pudding was superb, made from a wonderful date puree and with a small pot of caramel sauce which you can add to your own taste.
My companion’s chocolate fondant was truly a work of art, elegantly laid out like a sculpture on a frosted glass dish.
The total bill was £69.50, so it is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but the food and service was excellent, and it is somewhere I would have no hesitation in recommending for that special occasion. And going for the set menu on a week night would have reduced the price considerably.
My only gripe is that it would have been nice to have had some locally produced ales on tap.
But all in all, a great night out.