As soon as I walked through the white doors leading to the restaurant of The Bell at Trysull, I knew I was in for a good night, writes our undercover meal reviewer The Insider.
It is funny how it can be the little things that make for an enjoyable evening, writes our undercover meal reviewer The Insider.
Mouthwatering food, fine wines, and superb service are all very well, but are not in themselves enough. But as soon as I walked through the white doors leading to the restaurant of The Bell at Trysull, I knew I was in for a good night.
The reason? The small windows in the aforementioned doors, each cut in the shape of a bell.
Now I realise that many people will now be wondering whether I have taken leave of my senses, and I do accept that many people will be looking for more than a bit of novelty glasswork when shelling out their cash. But the thing is, when you write a column like this, you are always looking around for that little quirk that gives you something to hone in on as you get into the groove of writing about your experience.
Actually, there is no shortage of things to write about The Bell at Trysull, which was recommended by Mr and Mrs K Hammond, for its fine food and ales. The good beer goes without saying, given the large Holden’s legend emblazoned across the front, but the food was going to take further investigation.
If the makers of some time-travel television series ever wanted an example of a classic English postcard village, little touched by change, they could do worse than try Trysull, about six miles from Wolverhampton. All the ingredients are here: the pub, the church; the trees are green, the phone boxes red. A pub has been on the site of The Bell since time immemorial, but the present building dates back to around 200 years ago.
Along with the neighbouring All Saint’s Church, The Bell is probably the most prominent building in Trysull, and is thought to take its name because the bells from the church were cast on the pub’s land. In the days when a brewery could be found in every village, The Bell used to produce a strong, black beer, said to be as potent as anything in the UK.
While those days are sadly gone, The Bell does maintain a fine tradition of locally produced ales, with a good choice from Holden’s of Dudley and Bathams of Brierley Hill, as well Budvar lager from the Czech Republic, Carling and Guinness. Parking is reasonable and level, although if the spaces by the door are occupied, wheelchair users may find it a squeeze to get past.
There is a small seating area to the front of the pub, which was being used to full advantage on the glorious evening of our visit. The pub actually seems much larger on the inside than it does from the road. There was standing room only in the bar at the front of the pub, but there was plenty of space in the large restaurant, in a separate room at the side.
As I looked around the room, I could have been forgiven for wondering if I had turned up on ladies’ night. A group of four middle aged ladies were sat to my left, while directly in front of me another group was celebrating a birthday party.
The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed, and the pub has clearly had quite a significant makeover. The exposed brick and timber beams give it a traditional homely feel, without laying it on too thick. The highbacked black vinyl chairs look good too, although they were less comfortable to sit on, a number of customers complaining that they were sagging. Similarly, while the simple wood tables were attractive in concept, ours had quite a few marks on it. A couple of sofas offer a more informal place to have a drink before or after the meal, and there is a conservatory-type area with large patio doors opening to a small garden area at the rear.
As well as the choice of beers – I went for Holden’s Bitter – there is also a pretty reasonable wine list, ranging from a choice of five £3-a-glass house wines, to Domaine Hamelin Chablis at £19.50 a bottle.
The menu is pretty much traditional pub fare with the chef’s own personal touch. The slow-cooked lamb shank in red wine and rosemary gravy sounded tempting, but I decided to go for the grilled pork loin steaks on mustard mash, with apple and cider sauce. Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of home-made chips, so I asked for these in place of the parsnip crisps.
There was no faulting the service from a pleasant young girl who seemed to work very hard, taking the food orders, bringing the food from the kitchen and then going back to serve behind the bar. The menu informs customers that the food is cooked to order, and asks people to be patient at busy times, but there were certainly no delays on the night of our visit.
The portions were huge, and it soon became apparent that my side order of chips had been a mistake. The meat was soft and tender, but the best bit was the mustard mash which had an excellent spicy flavour, without being too hot. However, while the thick apple and cider sauce was certainly plentiful, I could not taste much apple or cider.
The chips were of the rustic, brown variety, and they had clearly been cooked with care using good quality potatoes. But, when it comes to chips, I’m afraid I’m a bit of a traditionalist; give me some crispy, golden chunks of potato any time.
My dining partner had opted for the baked salmon steak with lemon and tarragon sauce, also coming with new potatoes and salad. It got a firm thumbs up. The laws of logic and moderation said that there was no way I should consider a dessert after such a hearty main course, but you know how I would hate to let you down.
After a bit of thought, we decided we could manage a bowl of profiteroles between us, and for a reasonable £3.50, they were as good as I had experienced anywhere.
The total bill was £32.35, which I think represents very good value for home-cooked food in quite stylish surroundings. As we left, there were still the crowds outside, having a noggin and a natter around their tables, relaxing in the sunshine with their Holden’s and their Bathams, and generally having a good time. I love these summer nights.
The Bell Inn, Bell Road, Trysull WV5 7JB
Phone: 01902 892871
Chicken liver and pork pate with toast and apple chutney, £3.95; Garlic mushrooms, £3.50; Port soaked melon with mixed berry compote, £3.50
Breaded wholetail scampi with dressed salad and fries, £7.50; Steak and Holdens Ale pie with thyme roasted potatoes and honey glazed carrots, £8.95; Slow-cooked shank of lamb in red wine and rosemary gravy served on mashed potato with seasonal vegetables, £10.95; Mushroom stroganoff with rice and a dressed salad, £7.50; 8oz sirloin steak with grilled tomato, flat mushroom, peas and fries, at £11.95
DESSERTS (all £3.50)
Strawberries with ice cream or cream; Apple crumble; Sherry trifle; Treacle sponge