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Village Food & Drink

Abbey’s new flavour

Posted on June 16 2009 at 2:13:33 0 comments

Sally Oldaker finds a new look but the same excellent food at the Abbey Hotel in Bordesley.

In the two years since I last visited the Abbey, the bar and restaurant have taken on a very different vibe – the white table linen, patterned carpets and slightly formal ambience have been replaced with polished wood, leather armchairs and contemporary decor, giving the place a warmer and more welcoming feel.

As well as updating the general look of the place, the changes are likely to appeal to non-resident visitors, since it now has the air of an elegant modern brasserie rather than a hotel dining room. However, makeover aside, some things haven’t changed – the Abbey has wisely retained the essentials of professional service and excellent food.

We were invited to sit in the bar’s comfy chairs while we browsed the extensive menu and the wine list, where we discovered an unexpected treat: a very decent Wolf Blass Chardonnay in the “end of bin” sale!

Our orders were taken in the bar before we were shown through to our round table, which is always a more relaxed way of doing things, and there was time to enjoy a warm bread roll apiece before the starters arrived.

I had chosen the black olive and basil gravadlax with aubergine bread and salsa verde, and it certainly lived up to its delicious-sounding description – the succulent smoked salmon was made even tastier by the herby, oily dressing and accompanied by a soft hunk of Mediterranean-style bread plus a whole spiral-cut lemon.

Lisa’s feta cheese and watermelon salad with pomegranate and lime syrup was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, arranged as a triangular ‘sandwich’ of melon and cheese which went surprisingly well together. The feta was smoother, creamier and less salty than usual (described as “the best feta ever”) and was enhanced further by the sweet syrup.

Perhaps the most interesting choice was Georgina’s warm chicken Caesar terrine, a twist on a traditional Caesar salad. The ingredients, apart from the lettuce and Caesar dressing, were incorporated into the terrine, which resembled a quiche or Spanish omelette – this was light and extremely tasteful with a blend of herbs, and encased in a crisp crust of bacon. The additional two anchovies (not mentioned on the menu) were swiftly removed upon request.

There was a suitable gap before the main courses, which were just artistically presented as the starters – my saute of duck with black cherry and kirsch sauce arrived on a wavy plate and tasted as good as it looked.

The substantial piece of meat was soft in the middle with a golden brown skin, and the lovely dark sauce, full of whole cherries, was not too sweet. An unbilled potato rosti, crunchy and golden, also accompanied the dish.

All the mains came with a choice of market vegetables, fondant potato or chips, and we were delighted with my choice of chips; clearly homemade, the crisp shells and fluffy centres were shared and loved by us all.

Georgina had picked the unusual-sounding sauteed gnocchi with broad bean sauce, sugar snaps and brown mushrooms, and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel. The gnocchi were just the right consistency and the vegetables served al dente (“just as they should be!”), while the subtle flavour of the creamy sauce did not overpower the dish.

Meanwhile, Lisa was enjoying her roasted pepper and aubergine tower with butternut squash gratin, artichoke and basil oil – this was a wonderfully colourful dish with a real flavour of the Mediterranean, and the chargrilled, tangy veg were not too filling, leaving plenty of room for a dessert!

I was pleased to see a fresh fruit salad amongst the naughtier puds, and it proved a perfectly refreshing end to the meal, with a good mix of fruit and a scoop of luscious mango sorbet.

Lisa went for the somewhat more indulgent option of tiramisu with coffee syrup and Baileys ice cream, which involved an individual portion of moist, spongy tiramisu and a scoop of smooth ice cream in a crunchy chocolate cup. The dark choc offset the creamier flavours well, while the coffee syrup was rubbed over the plate so that it was soaked up by the other elements.

Finally, Georgina chose the cheese platter, which provided a generous helping of Cheddar, Stilton and Brie plus crackers, grapes, celery and a stylishly cut apple.

We really couldn’t fault any aspect of the Abbey experience, and judging by the number of other diners and drinkers that Thursday evening, we’re not the only ones who feel that way.

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