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Review: The Great Shefford, nr Hungerford

A riverside pub that's full of surprises. The Great Shefford is a gastro gem with a former Hand & Flowers chef at the helm. Intrigued? You should be.

THE LOWDOWN

THE GREAT SHEFFORD BERKSHIRE (3)

Few pubs surprise me, but The Great Shefford in the West Berkshire village of the same name, is a hidden gastronomic gem. This grand country pub was taken over by Joshua Khan three years ago – he also owns The King Charles Tavern in Newbury and The Broad Face in Abingdon. He lavished The Great Shefford with interior love, and put together a talented team, including head chef Sam Cary. His CV is impressive, and the Michelin starred posts at The Hand & Flowers and Whatley Manor give you an idea of what to expect at The Great Shefford.

The ambition is to be awarded a Michelin twinkler, and it’s absolutely within their grasp. But like all visionary pub owners (even before the pandemic), they are casting their hospitality net wide.

THE GREAT SHEFFORD BERKSHIRE River Lambourn

The Little Shefford coffee shop opens next week serving coffee, tea and pastries – the perfect pitstop if you on a walk or cycling. An outdoor kitchen will be installed in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and a Farm Shop and even rooms are all coming further down the line. The Great Shefford team are not short of ideas or ambition.

THE VIBE

The Great Shefford dining room with views of the River Lambourn

It’s a sprawling space, comprising pub, racing lounge, riverside dining room, private room – Sam’s Table – and large outdoor terrace. The Sanderson Tally Ho fabric and wallpaper is a whitty nod to its location – surrounded by open countryside and some of the finest horse racing yards in the country. This is a place that lures you in and make your so comfortable you’ll want to

SCOFF & QUAFF

THE GREAT SHEFFORD BERKSHIRE

Head Chef Sam Cary is a culinary talent who sources his ingredients from the best local producers – the meat is from Vicars Game in Ashampstead, a sparkling wine from All Angels vineyard in Enbourne (the Classic Cuvee is a treat and gives French Champagnes a run for their money) and more. The menu? Well it’s a chefy playground of Modern British cuisine. Do not turn down the bread. It’s freshly made, hot from the oven – you’ll need it all to mop up as much of the beef butter as you can. So good.

THE GREAT SHEFFORD BERKSHIRE (7)

Six starters on the à la carte menu, two meat, two fish and two veggie/ vegan options. Napkin draped on my lap, the scallops with leek and parmesan sauce was a plate of perfection. Sweet and buttery, well balanced and I loved the parmesan crispy twirls on top. Indulgent without being heavy. It was date night with mum, and she chose the chicken liver and foie gras parfait, focaccia, apple and saffron chutney. It was a very pretty plate of food. The parfait was smooth and the chutney was singing. It’s a rich starter but, she’s old school and that’s how she rolls.

Chicken Liver and Fois Gras Parfait The Great Shefford Berkshire

Next up, the lamb saddle with confit turnip and purple sprouting broccoli – plus a mini shepherd’s pie on the side. Pow, the lamb absolutely delivered on flavour thanks to the wafer thin crispy fat. The humble shepherd’s pie was not an add on either. It had been lavished with love until it was melt in the mouth and rich. The supporting cast of vegetables were delicious but the lamb is the star – and rightly so.

Lamb Saddle THE GREAT SHEFFORD BERKSHIRE

Across the table, a beautiful piece of halibut arrived with a hasselback potato, white asparagus, served with a velvety Beurre Blanc sauce. If you’re minimalist at mealtimes, this is the dish for you. It was 50 shades of white, but anything but bland.

Apple Tart yoghurt ice cream and lemon thyme

There was absolutely no need to have a pudding, but we thought we could squeeze one in between us. The apple tart was sweet and sticky, with a delicate pastry and served with a delicate yoghurt ice cream. What elevated this dish to special was the sprinkling of lemon thyme. The flavours were having a party in my mouth – and I liked it.

Will I be back? Abso-freaking-lutely. This is an under the radar gastropub where food and hospitality is their passion. That said, it’s a pretty lovely pitstop for a simple pint and sarnie. You don’t have to indulge in the three course thriller but, if you do, wow, you’re in for as treat.

OUT & ABOUT

Hungerford Bridge Bridge Street Berkshire

You’re spoilt for choice. There are plenty of nearby countryside stomps to work up an appetite or pop into Hungerford for a mooch. It’s only few miles down the road and you’ll find plenty of chi-chi boutiques, antique shops, cafés and canal boats. Alternatively, enjoy a nose around the historic Welford Park or gallop off to Newbury Races for the day.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Pretty much anyone with taste buds. The food and atmosphere is top notch. There’s plenty to tickle die hard foodies, but nothing too trendy to scare the horses. They also offer simple kids menu, bar snacks and sarnies – great for families and casual drop ins.

Not for: If you come out in hives at the mere mention of gastropub, then this is not the place for you. This is pub that wear its foodie credential like a badge honour.

The damage: Plenty of excellent gastropubs in Berkshire and this is up there with them in terms of quality, justifying the higher price. Starters from £7.95, most of the main are £20+ and puddings start at £8.95. There is a also a five course tasting menu, £75pp, add an extra £45pp for the wine pairings.

The Great Shefford, Newbury Rd, Great Shefford, Hungerford RG17 7DS. Tel 01488 648462

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