Food review: Top rate food at Norton's Hundred House Hotel
It’s one of our region’s most venerable restaurants. The Hundred House, at Norton, has remained reassuringly consistent over three decades, showcasing the best of local produce and putting big flavours and good value on the table for thousands and thousands of guests.
For 20 years, executive chef Stuart Philips held two AA rosettes, enjoying a prolonged run of success from 1997-2017.
It dipped down to one rosette – they might not thank me for saying it, but it was a fair adjudication by the AA – but the restaurant is now once more firing on all cylinders, and it’s surely just a matter of time before it rejoins the ranks of the Two Rosette crew.
The Hundred House has been run by the Phillips family since the mid-1980s – and lucky us that they made a home in our region and have successfully run a business that encompasses a brilliant pub, a restaurant offering supremely tasty food, a high end hotel and a superlative wedding venue.
The Hundred House is brimful of character and personality. The handsome Georgian coaching inn has stylish bedrooms, a bar serving pretty nifty pub grub, and a brasserie and restaurant producing classy dishes based on tip-top regional ingredients, many from the house’s own bountiful gardens.
The gardens were created by the late and fondly-remembered Sylvia Phillips, and since her passing they’ve been lovingly maintained by her husband, Henry. So Stuart’s kitchen brigade get the pic of 50 fresh herbs when they’re cooking – no kitchen in our region is more generously supplied.
Stuart trained in Michelin star restaurants in France before returning to home soil and in recent years he has invested considerably in a sparkly new kitchen, that gives his chefs the opportunity to cook to a high standard. Front of house is good too. Friendly and engaging, staff are efficient, warm and welcoming – pretty much all you need in a pub bistro.
When we reviewed The Hundred House in 2016, we said this: “Stuart continues to create menus that are traditional and rooted in the classics. There’s no showiness or fuss, no pretence. Stuart’s food is straightforward and well-seasoned, big on flavour and prettily presented. Precision and inaccurate descriptions were nagging issues on my most recent visit, more of which later, but he remains one of the county’s most accomplished and redoubtable cooks.”
The same is true today.
A midweek supper with a close friend was a thoroughly enjoyable experience where delightful venue, friendly staff, an accomplished kitchen and great ingredients made for a great evening.
The Phillips family have done remarkably well to preserve the unique character of The Hundred House, an olde world pub that’s full of nooks and crannies, sober lighting and comfortable furnishings.
My friend and I ate warm bread with butter while perusing the menus. She started with a citrusy salmon dish; it was delicious, every mouthful. Presented prettily and featuring small cuts of cured salmon, it packed a flavoursome punch and was beautifully seasoned.
My duck confit was fabulous, the sort of dish you’d expect to find in an idyllic French bistro. A piece of perfectly cooked bacon lay atop a meltingly tender confit duck leg while a rich, sticky sauce and small bubble and squeak cake completed an exceptional dish.
Our mains were terrific. She ate a beautiful pink fillet of duck with garnish while I ate a fillet of Shropshire beef with shallots, carrot, potato fondant and a rich, deep, intense jus.
There are times when it feels good to be alive – and tucking into a fillet of medium rare Shropshire beef is one. The meat had been beautifully caramelised on the outside and was pinker than a Victoria’s Secret window display.
The waiter brought a steak knife, though he needn’t have bothered; the tender flesh broke apart with absolute ease. The sauce was ridiculously good while the vegetables were spot on. The fondant might have packed more flavour, but I’m picking faults in a supremely well conceived and brilliantly executed dish.
And what I ought to be doing is celebrating a team that cooked its heart out and left it all out on the plate. Well done The Hundred House.
I was eating with a friend who doesn’t consider she’s eaten out unless she orders at least two puddings – regular readers will recognise the return of The Queen Of Puds – and so we confused the waiter by ordering our own, bespoke assiette. Creamy, sweet and moreish, they all ticked the box. Look away now, diabetics.
A poached pear with brandy snap and thick, dreamy ice cream was fabulously sweet. A cranberry and pear tart was the pick of the bunch. Wonderfully short pastry provided a vessel for tart, acidic cranberries that were tempered by mellow, fruity pear. Ice cream melted slowly over the top – it looked like a Marks & Spencer advert and tasted twice as good.
As, indeed, did a luxuriant sticky toffee pudding with two more scoops of ice cream – my friend and I were getting in first before the forthcoming Great Ice Cream Famine of Summer 2020; remember where you read it first. The sauce was buttery and rich, a perfect liquid that soaked into a deep, stodgy, stick-hairs-on-your-chest piece of toffee sponge.
Our bill, with drinks and an extra dessert, was £80 – good value and spot on considering the quality of the food we’d eaten.
The Hundred House is back on form. While it’s easy to marvel at the way it’s diversified to become one of Britain’s best wedding venues in order to operate sustainably, the Hundred House remains one of the region’s most enjoyable eating houses
Yes it has a great bar for drinkers – and there are plans afoot for a new on-site brewery – and yes it’s staff are a cut above the competition. But it’s the food that’s been drawing in diners from across the region for decades and right now they’re on the top of their game. Stuart Phillips continues to lead his team with style and flair; more power to them.