The Lyttelton Arms has achieved an undoubtedly impressive feat by offering innovative and delicious fare while ensuring diners do not spend their evening shifting awkwardly in their chairs, writes Richard Williams.
Top quality restaurant food tends to be a bit of a double edged sword - haute cuisine is often accompanied by a rather stilted atmosphere, not to mention exorbitant prices, writes Richard Williams.
The Lyttelton Arms, however, has achieved an undoubtedly impressive feat, by offering innovative and delicious fare while ensuring diners do not spend their evening shifting awkwardly in their chairs.
As soon as my partner and I entered the gastro-pub in Bromsgrove Road, Hagley, the assortment of comfortable sofas, combined with low lighting and quiet but contemporary music instantly put us at ease.
The venue has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment and as the eaterie's efficient website accurately describes, it has been "restored to its former glory incorporating the values of traditional pub hospitality, together with modern designs featuring stone fired ovens, log burning hearths, deep leather seating and spacious teak furniture".
My girlfriend, someone who eats fish but not meat, can occasionally be limited in her options when eating out, but we were delighted to learn this would not be an issue at the Lyttelton Arms, which offers a range of vegetarian and fish dishes.
For starters I plumped for crab cakes with mango, chilli and coriander, while my partner settled for the toasted foccacia with roast peppers, rocket and black pepper dressing.
The crab cakes were complemented perfectly by the accompanying salsa and a small sample of my partner's selection revealed the most flavoursome peppers I can remember tasting.
I am a sucker for fillet steak and was hugely tempted to try out the Lyttelton Arms' offering, but in the interests of this review I decided I should go for something a bit more adventurous.
The fish of the day menu featured something called 'seared wahoo', but I refused to be deterred by the fact it sounded more like some kind of new internet search engine than a meal.
To my relief, head chef Zoe Hayward explained it was, in fact, a large fish found in the Pacific ocean.
It had a wonderful meaty texture and the noodles, teriyaki, sugar snap peas and sweet chilli it came with were nothing short of delectable.
My partner chose swordfish with saute potatoes and an olive, cucumber and pepper salsa, which was equally exquisite.
Chefs often seem to over-elaborate with such dishes by using exotic, yet unsuited ingredients and it was refreshing to discover this was not a problem here.
The wine list offered an impressive variety of reds, whites, roses and sparkling, and a fruity yet light New Zealand sauvignon blanc proved the ideal choice to wash down our main courses.
We then faced a not uncommon conundrum at this stage - can we find room to squeeze in one of the mouth-watering desserts listed on the menu.
The previous courses had left us satisfied yet stuffed, so after much deliberation we concluded their was only one decision we could arrive at - we were going to have to share.
It is my belief that it is impossible to go wrong with a sticky toffee pudding and so it proved. But what made this dessert so memorable was the heavenly walnut ice cream it came with. By this point, neither of us could remember enjoying a meal quite so much and it was always unlikely that the post-dinner coffee would spoil the experience.
So nice was the Lyttelton Arms that over the course of the evening I had become increasingly concerned my review would appear a little too much like a poorly disguised advert, and had begun desperately seeking for something negative to say.
Then the bill arrived, and at an eminently reasonable £60 I realised that was simply not going to happen.
Bromsgrove Road, Hagley, Stourbridge
Telephone: 01562 882213