As someone who studied history at university, I have always found historic buildings engaging.
As a result, the many times I’ve made the trip on the road from Lichfield to Rugeley and driven past The Hedgehog, a country pub steeped in history, I have been tempted to try out its menu.
And so, some recent time off during the festive period gave me the opportunity to embrace the pleasant surroundings and enjoy a three-course meal.
The Hedgehog, with a rural charm, certainly takes you back. Originally called Lyncroft House, the home was built in 1797, 13 years after the death of Lichfield’s most famous son, Dr Samuel Johnson. The building has retained much of its character and, having once been home to Italian composer Muzio Clementii, I was keen to see whether the menu hit the right note with my family.
The early signs were good, the inside decor gave the restaurant area a homely feel, traditional fireplace features were given a festive flourish and staff were warm and welcoming.
After confirming that the ‘duo of pâté’ was, in fact, for just one person, my dining partner happily opted for this treat of a starter.
The duo in question was British pork and apple pâté and a duck parfait. This pleasing pair was served with a smear of blackcurrant curd and one of Bramley apple butter.
Baby gherkins were served on the side and there were generous slices of sesame-seeded sourdough to mop up the pâté. It’s an old-school favourite, but the smooth, light pâté proved to be an indulgent and delicious way to start off the meal.
Not everyone would be happy with gherkins, but the vinegar flavour cut through the richness of the pâté and the sweetness of all that apple perfectly.
I was tempted by several of the starters, including Coquilles St Jacques, baked scallops in a creamy white wine sauce topped with mashed potato and a Cheddar cheese crumb with crispy pancetta.
But, in the end, I plumped for Chargrilled Lamb Koftas.
These were served with a ginger, soy sauce and pickled watermelon salad and tzatziki.
It was a dish which definitely demanded and then maintained my attention.
The koftas were perfectly cooked, full of flavour and their warmth, combined with the coolness of the tzatziki was a real delight. The pickled watermelon salad brought a refreshingly sweet crunchiness which complimented the rest of the dish but it was the beautifully cooked lamb which left me purring for more.
The starter certainly did its job of whetting my appetite and, quite honestly, if I could have ordered the same dish for my main, I would have.
Although it tastes delicious, Chicken Forestiére is not usually very photogenic.
However, my dining partner was pleasantly surprised by the version served up at The Hedgehog.
A breast of chicken stuffed with mozzarella and spinach was wrapped delicately in a blanket of pancetta, with the wild mushroom sauce served on top. Tenderstem broccoli and hearty, thick-cut chips accompanied the meal.
The arrangement meant the comforting and inviting flavours of the chicken weren’t lost, but the dish felt more special than a homecooked version.
The chicken was still moist and soft, and the mozzarella added an elegant touch that perked up the essences of the mushrooms.
There was a lot of flavour building in this dish, despite it seeming simple. Plus, it’s hard to resist a decent batch of chips!
As the festive season was still in full flow for my visit, I opted for a roast dinner, plumping for the hand-carved turkey breast.
There were plenty of options including a duo of lamb which involved cutlets and a pulled lamb Shepherd’s Pie with green beans and a red wine and rosemary jus.
The pan-fried sea bass fillets were also tempting and I liked the sound of the bumbu bali chicken thigh skewer, served with coriander and mint basmati rice, cucumber, red onion and dill salad.
But, in a way, I was lost in the season because, Christmas aside, turkey is nowhere near my top choice for a roast.
However, as the mainstay of the meal, the turkey here was well cooked, nice and moist and I certainly had no complaints.
Did it wow me? No. Did I expect it to? No.
It was a solid 7/10 and I enjoyed the trimmings which included lemon and thyme stuffing wrapped in bacon and a Cumberland pig in blanket.
The broccoli, sprouts and green beans were cooked the way I, personally, like them, soft – but it was the roast potatoes which got my most positive response, simply because they had been cooked in beef dripping.
For dessert, my dining partner wanted to try the Flowerpot – a whimsical sounding pud made up of a white chocolate flowerpot filled with chocolate mousse, complete with edible chocolate ‘soil’ and ‘flowers’.
Unfortunately, it seemed everyone else did too and it was sold out. A little put out, she opted for the next favourite on the menu, the indulgent double chocolate brownie.
Far from a consolation prize, the intense chocolate flavour was given a kick from the added bonus of Irish cream liqueur.
The lustrous Belgian chocolate sauce trickled temptingly down the sides to make for a sumptuous treat to round off the meal.
In fact, the temptation proved too great to wait for a photograph and she tucked in before I could get a snap for our readers.
I opted for a salted chocolate and gingerbread pot and this was served with a tasty home-baked biscuit.
This delicious pot oozed chocolatey goodness and the delightful biscuit was crunchy and buttery, a splendid addition.
For me, this was the ideal pudding, light, fluffy and sweet – just enough to leave you feeling content.
It was a very pleasant dining experience all told and, while the lovely surroundings were very much from the past, the food on offer suggests the future is positive at The Hedgehog.