Food review: The Cow Shed, Pattingham
The post-Christmas gloom is a quiet time for any of us. The festive furore has calmed down. The wrapping paper is safely deposited in the tip. The children’s toys are piled up in one corner already a distant Instagram memory that accrued nowhere near as many ‘likes’ as they’d hoped. And the bank balance is billowing out dust clouds like a 30-year-old car’s exhaust.
But family time is still so important. There might be members you didn’t get to catch up with over the Christmas and new year. Or maybe there’s some loved ones you had to share with extended families who now you’d just like some more intimate time with.
And, let’s be honest, saving on the washing up for one night this month is worth the expense.
It was absolutely chuffing freezing on this Friday evening as three of us headed out to Pattingham’s The Cowshed to indulge in one last splurge of gluttony before the health fads kicked in.
You can’t really get more tucked away than this. It’s like a country retreat, nestled in its rural setting free from noise, light pollution and traffic. It’s just off the Bridgnorth Road, the turning comes off next to The Fox at Shipley.
Surrounding it looks like office space tucked away in these converted farm buildings. It would be a nice set-up if they opened up some accommodation above it.
The outside of the building was inviting which was fantastic given how face-numbingly bitter the elements were.
We were welcomed by the staff with smiles and were seated in the middle of the long, thin dining area.
As you come in, the toilets are to your left, and the bar, with its impressively stocked spirit shelves, stretches out in front of you. There are no beers on tap, but they have ample options by the bottle to enjoy alongside your food.
The décor suits the name well. They have old milk buckets utilised as lampshades above the bar, and herded across the walls are prints of the bovine-inspired handiwork of artist Caroline Shotton.
There was a further dining area along a corridor past the kitchen, but we definitely weren’t in need of that this evening. Here was another bonus to coming out at this time of year – we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We only saw two other couples for the whole evening, meaning the food was quick and the service top drawer. It might be penny-pinching January, but people were missing out.
We quickly picked our alcoholic tipples and started to salivate at the prospect of some hot, tasty grub filling our grumbling bellies – chewing the cud as it were.
After ordering our starters came a pleasant surprise. The venue offers a little ‘shot’ of soup in an espresso cup as an appetiser while you await your first course. Tonight it was broccoli and Stilton, a rich and thick soup full of flavour that opened the taste buds up ready for the big hitters to come.
To start with, I had the breaded brie with cranberry compote that arrived crisp and more delicate than brie often can be. The temperature and flavourings were a nice juxtaposition.
The heat of the brie contrasted nicely with the cold compote. And the tangy, savoury stock of the brie worked well with the sharp, sweet fix of the cranberry.
My partner had the creamy garlic mushrooms with toasted brioche and parmesan shaving, which was displayed pleasantly on the plate. She really liked the brioche as it gave an added texture to the meal and the parmesan added flavour too on top of the dish.
My partner’s mother also came with us for this clearing the January blues party, and she opted for the chicken liver parfait with toasted croutes and red onion chutney, which was mammoth in size.
She enjoyed it – even the plentiful helping – and the parfait was full of flavour and not too thick and heavy. As with my compote, her red onion chutney added a real zing to the flavour mix to make things a little stronger.
We could now await the mains confidently after a fine start to the evening. The staff were always quick to clear away empties as they would hope to be when things are a little quieter like this. And bonus points were earned again through their willingness to stop and have a quick chat about either the food or our weekend plans in general. It was a friendly atmosphere throughout and one that created a warm and fuzzy clime as winter raged outside the windows.
Our mains were with us soon afterwards.
I plumped for the braised shoulder of beef with creamy mash, buttered leeks and a rich red wine gravy. I must admit to dipping into some of my companions’ starters too, so I was fairly pleased to discover this wasn’t the largest meal in the world. Again presented well with the beef sat upon its bed of mash, there was plenty of red wine gravy to dip into.
The beef was soft and fell away with ease. There wasn’t too much chewing required, and the silence spoke volumes as to how much I was enjoying it. I am a big lover of leeks – I am Welsh after all – and these were particularly good slathered in the red wine gravy. And despite what I said earlier, come the end of it I could have easily had more.
The ladies had steaks – my partner the 9oz sirloin with the same red wine sauce and our dining companion the 10pz rib-eye with pepper sauce. They came with Cowshed hand-cut chips, roasted vine tomatoes, pan fried mushrooms, crispy onion rings and a choice of sauce.
My other half liked the texture and flavour of her steak in its sauce but felt it was done a little well for what she had asked for. She also had praise for the chips and what they added to the plate with their crisp outer coating.
Her mum also had a steak too well done for what she asked for, and the temperature could have been hotter. But she, too, was full of praise for the chips and thought the sauce added so much to the steak which was still soft and tender despite her reservations.
Despite shovelling all this away we were still determined to have one last sweet treat before pulling out the headphones and running shoes again for 2019.
So, once prompted, we snapped up the dessert menu and our eyes shot across it seemingly forgetting the feast we had already piled away.
I asked for the lemon posset with lemon curd, berries and lavender shortbread displayed sweetly like a mini sundae in its glass. The posset and the berries were all of the sugar rush I could have hoped for. The citrus explosion was delightful. This flavour I would match with those bombs that shower you in dust at those colour runs. Which, by the way, you probably couldn’t attempt for a couple of days after this meal.
My girlfriend had the Cowshed vanilla and amaretto cheesecake with cherry crumble ice cream. Firstly, the ice cream, which I was lucky enough to be allowed to taste. This was gorgeous and could be devoured by the gallon on its own.
The cheesecake was nice too, the texture and flavours fulsome. But the showstopper was the dollop of ice cream next to it.
Our company had the Cowshed rich chocolate tart which normally came with salted caramel ice cream but she controversially swapped for vanilla instead, much to our consternation and protests. It wasn’t quite what she had expected. It was like a thick, frozen mousse, which was a ‘nice surprise’ to end the evening.
All three were tucked away somehow, as were the drinks. Sorry, this isn’t much of a ‘new year, new you’ place to eat review for anybody looking for that January detox.
What was also pleasing here was the payment speed. In a lot of places the getting the bill part of the evening can take an eternity, which doesn’t make much sense when getting your money is ultimately their main aim. It can become tiresome actually. Sometimes you just want to get home, or need to – in this instance we had to go and pick up the baby from his great-grandmother’s.
So this added delight to the evening was an even bigger bonus point for the attentive staff.
It was a lovely evening enjoyed in the warmth of both the in-restaurant heaters and smiley staff. So we left with a bright glow back into the painfully prying fingers of Jack Frost.