Henry & Joe’s, Newbury
Thank fine-dining it's Friday! It maybe small but this funky restaurant is big on ambition.
We love a pop-up at Muddy. It usually signals something a bit different (not experimental) but the opportunity to try something new and exciting. Pop-up restaurants have been around for some years in London and other major cities, but they struggle to gain much traction in the rural towns. It’s a shame because they shake things up, and get you out of your culinary comfort zone.
Before we all start drowning our sorrows (although, a cheeky prosecco would be nice), Henry & Joe’s is a Friday night pop up in Newbury. You’ll find them @16BartholomewSt, in a restaurant owned by the Mansfield Boys (aka Restaurant Nomadic) in a rather uninspiring part of Newbury (opposite the Kennet Centre), it’s not the buzziest part of town but the dining room is simple and contemporary.
It’s a simple set up Henry Ireson is the chef, tucked away in the kitchen creating beautiful plates of food. More abut that in a minute. Joe Byrne is the man keeping diners happy and basically running around taking orders, serving drinks and delivering food. He is an absolute star. Utterly charming, knows what is being served and cannot do enough to make your experience a good one. But that’s it. There’s no army of staff, and it works really well. Both Henry and Joe have worked at the Royal Oak Yattendon and The Woodspeen, so they know about good service, good food and how to run a busy kitchen and restaurant well. We’re in safe hands.
The food? Well, when you book you know what the menu will be and it’s limited to two starters, two main and two puds. A vegetarian menu is available on request. A basket of freshly baked Thyme and Salt Focaccia was delivered to the table while we finalised our order. I went for the lemon-cured salmon to start, Mr Muddy chose the crispy ham hock.
The plates that came out were delicate, beautifully presented and bursting with flavour. The salmon was outstandingly good but it was the smoked beetroot and pineapple that really brought the dish to life. I had to threaten Mr Muddy with my fork as he kept trying to sneak more of my starter onto his plate. This is largely because he had had hoovered up the ham hock bon bons, quails egg with a delicious mustard hollandaise.
The mains were equally good with an emphasis on good quality, seasonal ingredients. My duck with rosemary dauphinoise, rhubarb and heritage carrots was rich and utterly delicious. The seabass with wild garlic gnocchi with samphire was also a great tasting plate of food. The only criticism is the main courses could have been bigger. The dishes are delicate and taste as good as they look, but there just wasn’t enough of it. Did someone say greedy? Hmm probably, judging by the elasticated wardrobe I now own.
Puds were amazing. I hit the ginger and cardamon cake with rhubarb sorbet and the most amazing smoked vanilla dressing, that on paper shouldn’t work, but was to die for. The banana parfait, caramelised white chocolate, almond crumble with malt chantilly was delicate and light – and it didn’t go unnoticed that it looked like two boobs on a sandy beach (boys, you can’t take them anywhere).
Good for: lovers of relaxed refined dining – this really is top notch. Perfect for foodies, a romantic dinner date, small tables of friends and family, or rowdier groups can use the private dining room (max about 10-12 people).
Not for: for kids unless they have very sophisticated tastes. If you like lots of choice on a menu, probably not for you either.
£££: Three courses, £35. Wines from £22 a bottle.
Henry & Joe’s, 16 Bartholomew Street, Newbury RG14 5LL. henryandjoes.co.uk. Open Friday nights only.