Express & Star

Food review: The Manor House of Whittington, Kinver

Saturday afternoons aren’t often utilised for a full family meal out. It’s a bit of a twilight zone when it comes to food.

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This light starter proved a hit – grilled mackerel fillet, escalivada salad, chilli, citrus dressing and charred sourdough

A lot of people have other things going on, or are perhaps preparing for a big Saturday night out on the tiles, maybe having a meal out a bit later on, or just staying in and gorging on a takeaway in front of The Voice.

This particular Saturday, England were just about to scrum down against the old enemy Wales in rugby’s Six Nations, and the Albion were about to kick off in their promotion-pushing Championship clash with Sheffield United on Sky Sports. So there was an extra sense of eerie quiet on the roads and in the restaurants on top of all the usual people-doing-other-things activities.

There were other families out. One large group seemed to be celebrating an older member’s birthday, while some young couples were dotted around this vast and open modern space on the left-hand side of this beautiful venue.

The original Manor House dates from the 14th century and looks welcoming and bright painted in its yellow colours. Inside this section, which we have visited previously, you can probably picture the cosy, darkly furnished spaces where taking a seat feels like stepping back in time, and thoughts turn to how many others have sat in a similar position over the years.

Attached to the side is a wonderfully modern extension where the main space is occupied by many tables and a bar in an open plan environment, and the far end of the room reverts more to private, fenced-off eating spaces with views over the kitchen to tantalise the tastebuds as food travels past to meet its maker. You know the one. You make your choice and then are suddenly drowning in food envy as everyone else’s dishes fly past and you wish you’d had this meat and that side and you feel like you’ve ruined your whole day out.

Out back, there is a welcoming and well-furnished decking area with booths partitioned off to the side to accommodate large families or business meetings in warmer weather. A large fire pit occupies the centre to keep people comfortable when the mercury does drop.

With so many options to choose between for your setting, the staff prove equally helpful and welcoming to match their place of work. Friendly, willing to enter into conversation and happy to rectify anything that doesn’t quite work, they more than earn their tips at the end of the evening.

On this occasion, the only blemish on the trip was the gas in their fizzy drinks dispenser going. But they were quick to change drinks and did so without the grumbles and annoyed looks you get at some establishments, as if you have just inconvenienced some staff or somehow insulted their family. No, The Manor House’s workers seemed more than happy to be there.

The food completed a magnificent Holy Trinity of experiences – sorry to drop this spoiler in so soon. It was absolutely divine – we were all in agreement this was comfortably the best meal out we had enjoyed for some time. And the staff are not resting on their laurels, as since our visit a new menu has been released, so some of the food options have changed.

To start with, I had the crispy chorizo Scotch egg, which came with pea shoots and a beautiful spicy mayo that was so good, all three of us were dipping in.

The Scotch egg carried a real tang to it with the chorizo stuffed in, and the crunch from the breadcrumbs was gorgeous. This dish was over far too quickly, I just wanted a larger one for the main course. Luckily, there was plenty of spicy mayo in its dish – I was informed this was a spicy Gotcha-style ketchup and mayo mixed in together – so like the filthy heathen I am, I kept some back to go with my main.

My partner had the ham hock ballotine, which came with celeriac remoulade and charred sourdough. It wasn’t quite what she had expected when ordering, but she was a big fan of the meat and found the texture delightful. It even had a bit of a seasoned kick to it the more you delved in. The sourdough was beautifully soft too, and the whole dish felt light and not too filling before the main course. She did, however, say it might have been improved if the ham hock ballotine had been warm.

Her mother had joined us for the meal and opted to have the grilled mackerel fillet with escalivada salad, chilli, citrus dressing and charred sourdough. It was a brave step into something she wouldn’t normally order, but she said it was “lovely” and, again, its light nature meant she still had plenty of room to tuck into further dishes.

My main meal was the Moroccan lamb rump, which came with a mint and yoghurt dressing, giant cous cous, hummus and a Moroccan pickled slaw on the side. The meat was absolutely beautiful. Lean and full of flavour, it almost melted in the mouth and there was no fat on it whatsoever. The giant cous cous popped like bubbles when you bit into it, it was an odd sensation at first. But the differing textures and flavours across the dish made for a real feast of the senses. Across the table was the chorizo Ibérico pizza, complete with salami, pepperoni, beef ragu, mozzarella and prosciutto ham. My partner found the thin base really crispy and the whole dish light.

There wasn’t even a drizzle of grease on it, meaning she could enjoy it without having that guilty feeling when it was over. That mixture of grease trying to enter your arteries and the self-loathing that you could put so much food in your mouth at once, meaning that extra-long run you did yesterday was a waste of time. It was a less-guilty pleasure to sample a pizza like The Manor House’s, which was cooked in its own mini side kitchen too.

Our third companion had the 8oz rib eye steak (resisting the 12oz option), which was cooked over 400 degree coals in the restaurant’s Josper charcoal oven for a smoky flavour. It came with a smoked flat mushroom, triple cooked chips and garlic and watercress butter.

Being a hard critic when it comes to steaks – she’s a die-hard Miller & Carter supporter – it speaks volumes that she found this one “spot on”. The only thing missing for her was a larger helping of side salad, but what was there was delicious and cooked just how she wanted it.

We also shared a side portion of onion rings between us which were large and deliciously crispy and had a real shot of vinegar in the aftertaste which hit you at the back of the throat. This wasn’t quite to my palate, but the others loved them and they were quickly dispatched too.

The light nature of the dishes meant we were far from finished. All three of us still had room for desserts and gleefully requested the menu from our waitress.

It didn’t take too long to decide. I had the toffee apple profiterole, which was stuffed with a Bramley apple crème pat and came with toffee sauce and honeycomb crumble.

This was actually the weakest of the three dishes I had this day but was still full of flavour and I did like the Bramley apple crème that came oozing out every time I dipped the spoon in. It just didn’t “wow” me like the others.

Both my accomplices plumped for the gooey chocolate brownie that was accompanied by a chocolate mousse, chocolate shard and vanilla pod ice cream. Both said the same thing – it was smooth and very rich, but “could have done with being warmer”.

Perhaps we were just food-fatigued at this point? Spoiled by what had been a sumptuous Saturday afternoon out to catch up and discuss the week that had just unfolded?

Nobody minds travelling further for food or paying that little bit extra than, say, your standard pub down the road when what you get in return is extra special. The Manor House of Whittington ticked all of those boxes, and more. It was a real treat, and we shall be venturing forth again when a celebration is to be had.