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Restaurant review – The Flitch of Bacon, Little Dunmow: ‘Great food, exceptionally presented’

PUBLISHED: 17:07 07 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:07 07 June 2018

The Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow, Essex. Picture: MARK HEATH

The Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow, Essex. Picture: MARK HEATH

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Mark Heath and his wife Liz tried out renowned gastropub The Flitch of Bacon, in Little Dunmow, Essex.

The dining room in the Flitch of Bacon. Picture: MARK HEATHThe dining room in the Flitch of Bacon. Picture: MARK HEATH

Food

It’s fair to say my wife and I were pretty excited about this trip - the Flitch was, until recently at least, owned and run by two-Michelin star chef Daniel Clifford, of the spectacular Midsummer House in Cambridge.

Having enjoyed one of the most incredible dining experiences of our lives there, expectations were high – high enough that the hour long drive from West Suffolk to Essex didn’t seem like much of a chore.

The Flitch is in fact now run by Tim Allen, with Clifford serving as a silent partner – but Allen himself is a Michelin-starred chef, so standards are as high as ever.

As you’d expect, the menu is superb - five mouth-watering choices for starter and main, plus a further four for dessert. Drinks-wise, I opted for an Estrella (on tap) and my better half went for a glass of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, large of course.

We were treated to some fantastic home-made bread while considering our choices – still warm, extra points – which is always a nice touch and fine start to a meal.

Mark's starter - The Flitch of Bacon. Picture: MARK HEATHMark's starter - The Flitch of Bacon. Picture: MARK HEATH

So, to the starters. I went for their signature dish, the eponymous Flitch of Bacon, while my wife chose the quail.

When a dish carries the name of the establishment, it better be good – and indeed it was! The bacon is glazed in maple and served with a sauteed Orkney scallop, cauliflower three ways and compressed apple.

Honestly, I couldn’t fault it - the bacon was delicious, the scallop was perfectly cooked and HUGE, while the cauliflower was a beautiful accompaniment, served creamed, charred and thinly sliced. One of the most underrated of all vegetables, I’d argue.

The little coils of apple added just the right amount of tang, while there was also some wonderful texture courtesy of what appeared to be pork-scratching-style puffs. Classic flavour combinations, blended with aplomb. It was wonderful.

My wife’s dish boasted roasted breast and leg of quail with a breadcrumbed quail’s egg, smoked sausage, savoy cabbage served two ways and a verjus reduction.

The quail was perfectly cooked with soft tender flesh and crispy skin, which was complimented superbly by the smokiness of the sausage. The only slight negative was that the egg yolk wasn’t quite as runny as desired. Still, a fine plate of food, exceptionally presented – there may have even have been some secretive gnawing of the tiny quail bones when no-one was watching! You can’t take us anywhere.

Liz's starter - the quail. Picture: MARK HEATHLiz's starter - the quail. Picture: MARK HEATH

Onto mains and, if we were impressed by the starters, that certainly continued into our next dishes.

I plumped for the Cornish monkish, served with buttered potatoes, brown shrimps, baby capers and lemon brown butter. My goodness, what a dish - the monkfish was wonderfully meaty and substantial, while the shrimps added saltiness to the richness of the potato. Again, a crisp added welcome texture, while there were also some wonderful little baby vegetables to bring freshness to the palate. Magnificent.

My dining partner opted for the Great Garnetts pork tenderloin, served with barbecued hispi, hay carrot puree, crispy black pudding and pickled mustard seeds.

There were delicious chunks of tender pork, complimented adroitly by crisp apple, the barbecued cabbage and the puree. The black pudding was larger than expected, not 100% crispy and little rich – but then, she’s not a fan of black pudding anyway. Overall, another winner.

All that was left was dessert, and here my wife was the definite winner. She went for the sticky toffee pudding, glazed in butterscotch sauce and served with a salad of Medjool dates and apple.

It was fantastic - the only possible criticism was that there simply wasn’t enough!

Mark's main - Cornish monkfish. Picture: MARK HEATHMark's main - Cornish monkfish. Picture: MARK HEATH

In contrast, my dessert was the low point of my meal - caramelised sourdough ice cream served with poached garden rhubarb, candied ginger and crispy pastry.

It was pleasant enough, just a little subtle for my palate - a trifle underwhelming. That said, I’m a sucker for big flavours, so maybe it’s just me.

Drinks

As you’d expect at such a venue, the wine list was varied and interesting - I noted Chateau Musar as an option, a favourite of famed author and foodie Iain Banks, who judged an establishment to be above par if he spied it on their offerings.

I also sampled one of their non-alcoholic cocktails, fresh lemonade, and it was cracking - really refreshing.

Liz's main - Great Garnetts pork tenderloin. Picture: MARK HEATHLiz's main - Great Garnetts pork tenderloin. Picture: MARK HEATH

Service

The thing that separates the men from the boys, so to speak, at the highest level of culinary experience. Our hosts were friendly and welcoming, and – as one would expect – took the time to explain each dish as we were presented with it.

The only slight niggle was that, as the first guests at an early 6pm sitting, we were surprised to see the next couple in seated right next to us – a bit of an odd choice in an otherwise empty dining room.

I understand it from the point of view of the convenience of the waiting staff, but it was slightly awkward for us, at least until other diners turned up.

Mark's dessert - Caramelised sourdough ice cream. Picture: MARK HEATHMark's dessert - Caramelised sourdough ice cream. Picture: MARK HEATH

Parking

There’s a decent-sized, though unpaved, car park across the road from the venue.

Price

One expects to pay for quality - our meals were £49 per head for three courses, with a discretionary 10% service charge added. Perhaps a little on the pricey-side, but worth it for a special occasion.

Liz's dessert - sticky toffee pudding. Picture: MARK HEATHLiz's dessert - sticky toffee pudding. Picture: MARK HEATH

Highlight

Hard to choose, but we were both wowed by our starters - great food, exceptionally presented.

Summary

A very enjoyable dining experience with superb food, great flavour combinations and wonderful presentation. Highly recommended if you fancy pushing the boat out – and for an extra special touch, I noted a chef’s table too. The Flitch also has rooms, so one could stay over and enjoy the full delights of the wine list!

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