Michelin starred French restaurant with rooms serving classic dishes via one tasting menu choice at dinner only
The Checkers certainly has its charm. As a former 1600s coaching inn, the décor inside has a rustic homliness about it, enhanced by being family run. The simple, French dishes were pleasant enough, but I was surprised on the overall struggle it seemed to be for the team to deliver the one, tasting menu for the restaurant that still had some tables free on the evening I visited. The white chocolate & passion fruit cigar dessert was genuinely the food highlight, and I believe this dish is displayed proudly on The Checkers website, but does make me wonder how long it has been on the menu and therefore how often other dishes on the menu changes. Perhaps this is a long-standing signature dish….and with due reason. Overall, the meal I had was good produce but at the same time, the summary is that I have had a fair few others without a Michelin star that would definitely rival and in some cases overtake this one for flair and flavours (Tredwell’s, Chiltern Firehouse and The Typing Room to site immediate examples that have never had a star). But, run by pleasant staff nonetheless, who appeared a lot happier when service was complete.
The proceedings opened with spoonful canapés in the bar including octopus with a pleasant soy dressing which was very good. This was followd by an impressive selection of breads at the table: parmesan, raisin & caraway (Persian cumin, like fennel), rosemary, walnut, brown bread and white bread. I tried a small piece of all and atually they all had very good bounce and freshness.
Next up was the parsley velouté, duck confit and garlic cappuccino which was a nice, light opener but just somehow fell a little flat for me. The sea trout with pea purèe and a bacon and mint dressing was similarly a good combination and well done but just no explosions for me….rather like having high hopes and waiting for a crescendo that sadly didn’t happen. These were washed away by a pink grapefruit with champagne foam which I’m afraid to say had no impact at all.
Next up was the chicken tourte with a wonderfully viscous, shiny and sticky madeira jus. This brought an immediate lift to my mood, with a lovely rich, depth to the the sauce complimenting the chicken very well, albeit with a little bit too much of a peppery kick for me. The spinach purée was nicely done but the one aspect that fell down for me was the pastry which came across too well done – never brilliant to have bits of hard pastry fly everywhere when you have to put muscle power in to hacking each piece away, resulting in the knife clanging on the plate.
Then came the white chocolate and passion fruit mousse inside a crisp ‘cigar’ shell which was extremely good. The delicate lightness of the shell gave way to a beautfully soft and smooth passion fruit mousse, surrounded by very supportive bits of fruit of mango, kiwi and mint. This was light, refreshing and rich at the same time and was a beautiful dessert. Cheese was included in the no-choice tasting menu for dinner and these included brie, roquefort, gruyere and blue with apple and pear. A simple and traditional way to provide some well chosen cheeses.
The petit fours were also worth mentioning as these were actually great – the highlights being salted caramel and dark chocolate and mint (which seemed to have spice within). Therefore, desserts definitely appeared to be the forte of this restaurant.
So, all in all, a no-frills, classic French menu, served by a pleasant team, but one which appeared to have their comfort levels stretched. I say this as it was pretty evident that the staff for the most part appeared to want to drop food off and give the bare minumum explanation of the dish as quickly as possible as if it was getting in the way of their next task. Fair enough when in a hurry, but I don’t believe diners will willingly want to delay staff longer than necessary (if they do, they are morons) and sometimes it is very easy to miss what someone says in a hurry and confirmation may definitely be needed – being made to feel comfortable to do this as a diner is simply what sets apart the ok from the great services and restaurants. Fair value for money here definitely, but I’ll be interested to see what the lunch menu would like and in a warmer season.
Food Grade: 72%
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