Food review: Windsor Castle, Lye
We have a wonderful afternoon and evening. We had to – because it was by order of the Peaky Blinders!
Having booked an evening meal at the Windsor Castle Inn in Lye, after my sister-in-law had agreed to have our daughter, we thought we’d try somewhere that was already renowned for its good food.
And, perhaps equally as importantly, we wanted a place that brewed its own award-winning beer on site and had a gin emporium boasting some of the finest spirits going.
The Saturday just happened to clash with one of Sadler’s now famous Peaky Blinders-themed days and we were very lucky to have stumbled across it.
The only Peakys-style clothing I own is a Christmas T-shirt, which my wife, Kelly, banned my from wearing (it was approaching spring after all) so went in our own gear.
However, many had made the effort and it really was a set back in time when we enjoyed a few meal drinks in Sadler’s Brewhouse & Bae, which sits just behind Lye Railway Station. It has been done out superbly and even boasts its own speakeasy alongside live music and draft real ales, either served draft or out of the keg.
We then made our way to the Windsor Castle Inn, which handily is about a five minute walk, for our meal.
The Windsor is also a very nice, quaint pub that always serves at least 10 of its own real ales (Mud City is my personal favourite, although the stout may be a little dark and strong for some tastebuds).
The brewery first began in 1900, founded by Nathaniel Sadler, the great, great grandfather to Emily and Chris Sadler. It supplied its 12-tied public houses, the most famous being The Windsor Castle, the original brewery tap house, which was first based in Oldbury.
Now situated in Lye, near Stourbridge, the brewery has once again become a thriving family-run microbrewery, owned by Chris Sadler, supplying public houses and supermarkets with Sadler’s cask and bottled ales throughout the Midlands and indeed the country.
And there were plenty of groups enjoying brewery tours too – so if anyone fancies soaking up some of the pub’s rich history something like that would be worth a punt.
The 1920-inspired Dr Hardwicke’s Gin Emporium, which opened in the summer, also boasts more than 35 spirits.
There was little drama when we arrived as there had been a mix-up with our booking – and we didn’t exist according it their records.
But after producing the email, which I’d luckily saved on my mobile phone, apologies were made and the still found us a a table for two.
We were even offered a free round of drinks, and when a double gin can cost more than £12, the gesture was very much appreciated.
As it was Peakys-themed night the pub was very busy, so if you’re thinking of a romantic or quiet evening for two, it’s perhaps best to avoid such an evening.
However, we loved the atmosphere and were treated superbly by the staff – who have also won awards for their service – throughout.
So it was finally time to order some starters and I have to say we guessed right when we decided to share one, at least ours anyway, because it was more than ample.
Perhaps the asparagus and watercress, served with roasted peppers, beetroot and pomegranate dressing, or the homemade soup of the day would have been enough for one.
But after debating the gin-marinated sea trout, cooked Gravadlax-style and served with a toasted bagel, we couldn’t turn down the crab and scallop thermidor, which came with mixed leaves and homemade bread.
The dish was served with a lovely, crispy, cheesy breadcrumb topping, which cracked and gave way to the creamy sauce, filled with all that delicious fish underneath.
The mixture was sublime as each mouthful had a bit of crunch, a bit of the fish-infused liquor and then the tenderly-cooked crab and scallops.
The topping was cooked really nicely, not overly done so it was hard to bite, but crispy enough to give it that hit of cheese.
The crab and particularly the scallops also kept their texture and the sauce was not too overpowering, complimenting the fish.
Sharing a starter was a lovely way to start the meal and after another quick drink the mains arrived.
One very handy little extra is each homemade meal comes with a recommendation of the perfect pint of craft beer that would accompany the food.
And, as well as British pub classics, there are plenty of fresh fish specials and char grill favourites to enjoy.
For me, fish is always the number one option when perusing a menu and luckily the Windsor Castle Inn has its fish delivered fresh from the markets every morning.
Options included a fresh fillet of fish in a crispy beer battered using Sadler’s own JPA, served with hand cut chips, mushy peas, homemade tartar sauce and a wedge of lemon, or seabass with tarragon and wholegrain mustard sauce, served with asparagus, peas, seasonal vegetables and a choice of dauphinoise or hand cut chips.
However, the loin of cod, served with a seafood ragout, seasonal vegetables and a choice of dauphinoise or hand-cut chips stole the show.
I went for the dauphinoise, as I’d had chip earlier that day – well, you have to, to get through a morning of soft play – and it came served in a little bowl like a side order.
That meant the entire plate was covered in flavoursome fish when it arrived, and the taste was such a treat.
The cod was covered in a rich tomato-based sauce and just flaked away when it was broken into, revealing the moist and plump fish.
There was plenty of it too but for those who really love a bit of fish for a treat, the seafood ragout was simply fantastic. Mussels, scallops – you can never have too many scallops – and prawns were hidden within the ragout. And, again, there was plenty of them too.
It’s rare to have one fork-full of food with four varieties fish piled up on it, which have all been cooked beautifully.
The potatoes were also a lovely side dish as they were cooked with a hint of garlic and cream, and went really well with the fish and tomato ragout.
Kelly went for the pork medley, a trio of braised pork belly, pork and leek sausage, and grilled pork chop on a bed of creamy mashed potato served with black pudding, cider jus and seasonal vegetables.
‘Amazing’ was how she described, with the black pudding gravy rich and flavoursome – especially for someone who does not normally like black pudding.
There was also a lot of meat and she couldn’t finish it but the sausage, pork chop with crackling were cooked to perfection. Each mouthful was succulent and tender, and when mixed with the mash and vegetables it was the perfect combination. She was also very impressed with the service, especially with the pressure staff were under during such a busy evening.
For those who like to plan ahead, head chef Andre’s signature dish – his 1lb chateaubriand platter for two – may be worth checking out, but it takes 24 hours to prepare.
So if you enjoy real ales, a selection of gins and some lovely homemade food, it’s worth giving The Windsor Castle Inn a try. Plus the Peaky Blinders have told you too – so you have to.