Languorously sipping a pre-noon aperitif I remembered how pleasurable devoting a Saturday to friends and a fancy lunch is. The open fire of The Woodman in Stratford-upon-Avon provided a comforting smokey aroma as we drank our Chase Pomelo and Grapefruit G&Ts, washing away the sadness of England losing to South Africa in the rugby world cup that morning. Their dining room and menu looks elegant and welcoming so we’ll be sure to go back and eat there, but we had plans for this particular Saturday, just down the road at Michelin starred Salt.
I had expected from the name that Salt restaurant would be modern and crisp, but it instead delivers a homely feel. Chunky wooden furniture in the dining room is overlooked by the pass, outlined in bare brick, with pensive chefs checking that plated dishes are soigné. The front of house team were friendly and knowledgeable of the menu.
Their six course tasting menu, which we luxuriated over for about 3 hours, costs £50 per person, and we also had a cheese course (£8 supplement). The wine list is reasonably priced and we had a delicious Chatteau Garreau Bordeaux for £45; I note while we ordered it before we started it wasn’t opened until near an hour later when we needed it which was disappointing. A wine pairing is available at £40 which seems reasonable, but I’d almost always prefer to buy by the bottle now. Wine flights have seemed to become more cynical over recent years, and I’ve witnessed glasses with just a thimble full of wine. and flights with cheap substitues not even
available by the bottle on a restaurant’s main wine list. Don’t take that as commentary on Salt’s wine flight, we didn’t take it.
We started with champagne cocktails and a Contratto spritz (a well-chosen Aperol alternative), and then chose a bottle of Gocker Gewurztraminer for the first three courses.
Our first course was poached beetroot, pistachio, and beef fat. Pistachios provided texture against the softer golden and purple beets, and the promised beef fat featured as a tasty powder. Second course was cured halibut, pear, kohlrabi, salty fingers, buttermilk, and dill. The buttermilk didn’t do it for me, it wasn’t pungent enough, but I liked the succulent salty fingers with the halibut. And I like saying salty fingers. Salty fingers.
Next up came carrot cooked in chicken fat, with crispy chicken skin, and pickled carrot. I love pickle, luckily, because the pickled carrot was very sharp. I would’ve liked more of the chicken skin crumb it was lacking in quantity rather than flavour. The chicken broth was very tasty and its fatty salty flavours worked brilliantly with the carrot.
We loved the lamb saddle and belly on smoked roe. The lamb was very tasty, with soft rendered fat on the belly, and the salty smoky roe was an unusual but inspired accompaniment. The parsnips the dish came with were undercooked, but the rest of the dish was a triumph.
Having a day of going all out we decided that french-style we’d take a cheese course before dessert, which was great, and served with snapping lavoche crackers encrusted with seeds.
Our first dessert of apple sorbet, toffee apple, and orange custard was nice, though I could’ve done without the icy sorbet alongside the creamy custard. The second dessert and final course however was loved by the three of us. Close to Halloween a bright orange pumpkin mousse was timely and more importantly interesting and delicious, having a slightly earthy note. With a lightness of touch, this had been sweetened perfectly, and complimented the rich and complex Alunga chocolate. With dessert we had a glass of Maury dessert wine (£7 for 50ml) which always works perfectly with chocolate desserts.
While there were a couple of mis-steps when we dined here for lunch, it wouldn’t stop me going back. All round it seemed to come together to provide a welcoming and fun lunch for friends, for a really reasonable price point.