Hey Guys, so today marks a first for me. My first restaurant review, as much as I love sharing recipes, doing my first review is something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started this blog. I’ve always loved “eating out” as I often find myself so much more adventurous with my food choices. Though I thought I’d wait for something special to come up before getting my first review on the books. And so Middleton’s was chosen.
Myself and my fellow taster (My Girlfriend Annie, above) had heard a lot of good things about this place from friends and family alike, we often find ourselves driving straight past it on our regular trips to Norwich and always find ourselves saying “we really must try that place” so a couple of weeks ago we finally got around to it. We decided if we were going to try it we’d go for the original Middleton’s nestled in the beautiful village of (you guessed it) Middleton, just outside King’s Lynn. Middletons opened in July 2011 in a 17th century building that had previously hosted The Crown Inn and can say that the building’s aesthetic suits the restaurant down to a tee.
The preamble to our arrival was easy as can be as I was easily able to book a table online (a convenience that many restaurants sadly see as somehow vulgar) and was given all the relative information through Middleton’s website. We were a little late in our arrival, for the usual reasons, but this was compounded by the fact that we were distracted, while parking, by Middleton’s on-site bakery which, while not open, was something we couldn’t resist having a bit of a nosey at, albeit through the window. When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted warmly, if a little rushed, by a waitress and were seated at our table. Immediately we were brought a carafe of tap water (god I love when a restaurant knows to do that) and we ordered our drinks. As ever I was disappointed with the lack of selection when it came to rum’s but I have a feeling my insane craving for peculiar rums is one not every eatery can satisfy. So instead I settled for simply a coke.
The general ambience of the restaurant was comforting and typically English with low, atmospheric lighting coming from the bar and served to create a private atmosphere at our table of two, despite the fact that we were seated very close to another couple. Time passed and many minutes of perusing the starters had proved fruitless as neither of us could decide on simply one dish, it was then our eyes chanced upon the “Middleton’s board” a platter with a selection of almost every starter dish that had caught our eye, it was swiftly ordered with the thought that by the time it had arrived we might have made up our mind as to what to have for mains (this was not achieved).
It arrived, and was presented on a beautiful, rustic wood board but elevated on a stand (a stroke of genius that allowed us to accommodate such a large platter on a relatively small table) and we were presented with a selection of dishes including, smooth pate, garlic mushrooms in a creamy sauce, breaded brie wedges with chilli jam, a selection of breads and my personal favourite, chipolatas served in honey and mustard sauce plus a selection of chutneys and olives for good measure. It is difficult to know where to start with this board but I can say that the Pate was simply sublime and was large enough that we couldn’t quite finish it, the breaded brie wedges were delicious (a personal favourite of Annie’s) and the chipolatas were a rich contrast to the lighter flavours surrounding them. My one foible with this board was the mushrooms. While I used to be a hater of any kind of mushroom (I know, shock-horror) I have recently begun to appreciate their flavour, however the creamy sauce they were served was a little too much for my liking, and felt they could be better presented to allow the flavour of the mushrooms to shine.
With starters done and promptly removed from the table myself and Annie looked at each other in a way we often do at this point in the meal that says, “I don’t think we can eat anymore”. However thankfully this wasn’t to be the case as instead of the usual five minutes restaurants give you between your courses, so by the time your mains arrive you have barely wiped the last crumb of your starter from the corner of your mouth, Middleton’s thankfully gave us a leisurely wait, which gave us time to digest and chat about our starters and gave Annie the chance to nip to the loo (perhaps they should have been better signposted, as she found herself in the men’s at first only to quickly turn-tail red-faced the other way) however this turned to my advantage as she returned, from the correct facilities this time, to say that while the Gents were well lit the ladies bathroom was far to dark and struggled to imagine that anyone could touch up their makeup in there. it also gave me time to peruse the wine menu. As I was driving, I knew I could only get away with one and was delighted to find that many could be ordered in glasses as small as 125ml a rare treat for the designated driver, ensuring safety while allowing you to splash out on a more venerable vintage. Finding nothing that jumped out at me, I asked our waiter for a recommendation to go with my main course, and while at first he seemed stumped he was quickly able to recommend me a selection that would complement the dish. He left me with the promise that I would think on his advice and order when my food arrived.
However, when the plate was presented in front of me all thought of liquid satisfaction was put from my mind as I was transfixed by the dish in front of me. It was a Beef Wellington. Beef Wellington has always had a special place in my heart ever since my brother (who I can largely blame for my culinary obsession) upon reaching his 21st birthday was asked by my mother “what would you like?” expecting a materialistic gift or outlandish request. He simply replied with “A Beef Wellington” taken aback my mother acquiesced and two weeks later we sat around the dining room table with our close family to sample her work, it was amazing and ever since I’ve longed for a beef wellington that tastes as good. Well I think I’ve found it. The dish was served well upon a wooden board with a side of Dauphinoise potatoes (or dolphin-nose as my father has always referred to them) that simply served to elevate the showstopper. When I first ordered the dish, I was annoyed to see “served pink or well done” as the subtext. Perturbed but not put off I ordered pink thinking all the while that anyone ordering well-done should be led out the back and shot at once. However, what arrived was not pink, rather it was a fillet of juiciest ruby and the taste was much improved for it. The pastry stuck well to the wellington and the mushroom coating was the perfect ratio to complement the meat, every single bite was delectable and thinking about it now is making me long for another taste. I looked over to Annie to see her sniggering to herself, apparently, I looked like I was at the point of crying and I well believed it.
For Annie’s meal, she had ordered the surf and turf much to the distaste of my wallet but when it arrived looked worth every penny and I was deemed worthy of a prawn and a slice of sirloin almost as juicy as my own meal however I felt the prawns could have been more flavourful to really elevate the dish. But Annie would especially like me to mention her joy at seeing that, included in the choice of almost all the mains, was a choice of sides that included healthy options (I was simply glad to see they didn’t charge extra for dauphinoise potatoes)
With plates cleaned and bellies full we turned our attention to the dessert menu because as we all know, there’s always room for dessert. We plumped for the lemon posset with a berry compote and beautiful it was too, a creamy filling contrasted with the sharp compote and elevated by being topped with lemon zest shavings. the perfect ending to such a full-flavoured meal to send us off with a crisp creamy dessert to settle the tummies and refresh the palettes.
The check arrived and while I thought I might shudder I was pleasantly surprised. We had both splashed out on our mains and while we had shared both our starter and dessert we had a sharing platter to start and had not restricted ourselves drinks-wise. The total of the bill came to just over seventy five pounds however I felt this was appropriate given the standard of the meal. However for anyone reading this who wants to sample Middletons food for a little cheaper they offer great deals at lunchtime including 3 courses for under £10.
All in all, reading this review back I realise I have been rather gushing and perhaps I should have picked a more ‘middle-of-the-road’ restaurant for my first review as this leaves me in a difficult position when it comes to scoring my experience. I have decided to be a bit more precise than most restaurant reviews as I feel a 5-Star rating system often simplifies the experience therefore I will score every restaurant out of 5 stars in the three categories of Food, Atmosphere and Service which will add up to a score out of fifteen which I think will allow me to give a more accurate appraisal of a restaurant’s quality.
Therefore, Middletons for me Scores:
So, there we have it, a 13 out of 15 score for my first restaurant review. If you fancy trying it out for yourself Middleton’s head over to their site http://middletons-shg.co.uk/ yourself to find your nearest restaurant. I’m hoping to make these reviews more regular so please if you like what you’ve read subscribe for more, or hop over to my recipes section for some tasty tips.
Been to Middletons? let me know what you thought in the comments. (or simply give me a piece of your mind if you think my writing is rubbish)