The Clock House – British – Upton (Nottinghamshire)
Where is Upton I hear you cry? Don’t worry I didn’t know either. And until recently I was oblivious to what goes on at The Clock House too. Ed Halls is the chef / owner of this spot North of Nottingham, and his CV is an impressive one. He trained at some of the top restaurants around the country, mainly in the South, before moving to a more casual existence up near Southwell. The Clock House is primarily a cafe and tea house and is open all week serving breakfasts, light lunches and cakes. They also offer monthly cookery demonstrations that cover lots and skills and ingredients. What I was here for though was the fine dining. Ed uses his full culinary talents on the first Friday and Saturday of every month.
When you arrive at the Clock House you do wonder if you are in the right place, we had a little wander around before finally finding the door to the cafe. The charming old building houses no more than 6/7 tables, which makes things seem particularly special. Because of the limited opening for fine dining there is just one menu priced at £40. A glass of prosecco (included in the price) and a little smoked salmon canapé kicked things off. A fresh summery mouthful with the added peppery flowers showed a deft touch. An amuse bouche required some skill with an egg yolk suspended in a little consommé with shredded ham. It was a pleasant few mouthfuls though it was particularly salty, even with the creamy yolk.
The first course proper arrived, crab with pickled fennel and avocado. You’ll note immediately that it was a pretty generous portion of the shellfish, the sweet white meat bound with the richer brown and a little mayo. The vegetables worked really well, the acidic fennel had enough bite to cut through alongside the perfectly ripe avocado. Texture was provided by some crunchy croutons.
The main course was a little more rustic, a couple of sizable duck breasts dominating the plate, no intricacies in presentation here. You couldn’t have argued with the cooking of the meat, nicely pink and tender. Its partners on the plate were simple but tasty. Lyonnaise potatoes had soaked up plenty of butter and flavour in cooking, the handful of local veg was fresh and sweet. Traditionally you get a fruity sauce with duck but on this occasion a thin jus packed enough punch to hold things together.
On paper a dessert of shortbread with summer fruits was another uncomplicated dish. It was however, excellently executed. The fruits were plump and fragrant, the biscuit thin and crisp, much better than the wedges you get when someone has been to Scotland for the weekend. A scoop of homemade ice-cream bought things together nicely.
Coffee and petit fours were good, a boozy truffle the most memorable. £40 initially seems a little steep for dinner in a tea room, but having had the full package value for money can’t be questioned. If I lived nearer to The Clock House I could certainly see myself as a regular at their fine dining evenings. It provides a charming out-of-town alternative to the Hart’s and World Service’s of the city.
Restaurant website: http://clockhousecafe.co.uk/