Meal at The Flitch of Bacon

Meal at The Flitch of Bacon

at Flitch of Bacon on 28 June 2019
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The Flitch of Bacon has seen numerous evolutions over the past two years and now with Tim Allen at the helm, it has gained a Michelin star within the first year of him taking over the kitchen.  I have always enjoyed Tim Allen’s food and his recent track record of gaining a Michelin star to the two previous venues he presided over (Launceston Place and The Wild Rabbit) speaks for itself.  I found the 7-course tasting menu at £70 on this visit to be good value, with some excellent moments and it was a pleasure to be back in a Michelin starred restaurant that completely deserved to be so.  It is a restaurant with 3 rooms rather than a pub, although there is a big enough and pleasant looking bar area as you enter and beer garden at the back, so it should cater for virtually any need.  I did enjoy this visit and the key point is that I would be very happy to come in at anytime, equally for their highly reasonable set lunch menu at £32 for 3 courses.  This venue ticks my boxes and is thoroughly recommended.

I estimated an hour and fifteen minutes to drive to Flitch of Bacon (FoB for this review) from Canary Wharf, but actually, it didn’t take much more than 45 minutes by car so was a lot quicker than I thought and I was reminded of what a tranquil little village it is.  Little Dunmow is, well, little, so if you do any other errands to run, probably best do those before or in a bigger, nearby town.  A nice touch on arriving to this hamlet is that FoB has its own car park and a beer garden for sunny days, so once you arrive here, although you might feel you are in unchartered territory, you basically have everything you need in this pleasant setting.

I estimated an hour and fifteen minutes to drive to Flitch of Bacon (FoB for this review) from Canary Wharf, but actually, it didn’t take much more than 45 minutes by car so was a lot quicker than I thought and I was reminded of what a tranquil little village it is.  Little Dunmow is, well, little, so if you do any other errands to run, probably best do those before or in a bigger, nearby town.  A nice touch on arriving to this hamlet is that FoB has its own car park and a beer garden for sunny days, so once you arrive here, although you might feel you are in unchartered territory, you basically have everything you need in this pleasant setting.

Lunch is now split into two menus, the tasting menu of 7 courses for £70 or set menu at £25 for 2 / £32 for 3 courses.  Wishing to maximise our visit, we opted for the tasting menu which commenced in the garden with a welcome drink and canapes of black olive puffs with goats cheese foam and black olive tapenade (a Mediterranean olive paste) and smoked eel tartlets.  The olive puffs were pleasing in themselves with a light crunch to the parcel and subtle goats cheese mousse filling, but the tartlets were superb.  Brown buttered chicken was combined with smoked eel, cubes of Jersey royal potato, avruga caviar and emulsion of beetroot – the delicate pastry held a beautiful combination together with the smoked eel being delightful and I loved the texture of these with the Jerseys.  A gorgeous canape.

The bread I feel is also worthy of a mention.  Both the seeded foccacia and oatmeal brioche were hand made on site but it was the superb decision to put delicate lardo on the top of the fluffy brioche that made this just wonderful.  The salty fat was the perfect seasoning for the brioche, the heat from the bread gently welding the lardo into the top of the brioche.  If there was more of the lardo available, I would have swathed the whole piece with this.

Datterini tomatoes were next with iced basil pesto, green olive granite, smoked Marcona almonds (Spanish and reportedly sweeter than Californian almonds) and served with pan tomaca (bread with olive, tomato, garlic and Iberia ham).  The tomatoes were a fresh way to start with their cooling parts around them and the pan tomaca was a simple an effective add on of another tomato variant.

Heritage carrots were cooked and served in various ways.  In terms of being cooked, this was a mix of being prepared in chicken fat and juices, en paupiette and mi-quit (half cooked) infused with hay.  They were served as a mouse, wrapped in long shavings and served whole with goats cheese, beurre noisette reduction and delectably thin and crispy chicken skin shards.  This was a skilled dish with creativity and flavours that were a lovely match of sweet and salt and hugely enjoyable.  I said it to the exec chef and I meant it, this version would actually give the carrot dish served at 2 Michelin starred Moor Hall a definite run for its money, it was that good.  

The only variation I asked for on the tasting menu was for me to opt for the crispy hen’s egg with asparagus instead of the scallops, purely on preference and I tried the scallop as well.  The hen’s egg indeed had a good crispy coating and runny yolk, although nip-picking, the table agreed that we are probably just passed the prime of asparagus for this year, compared with asparagus had had at The Fordwich Arms in early May.  The flavour of the scallops on their own was fine, livened up by the peas, spiced foam of vadouvan (mixed spices but mainly saffron) as a variation on a common pairing of curry spices and scallop.

Cutlet of Herdwick lamb was the main, served with provençal pepper, crispy polenta, smoked anchovy, courgette flowers grown at Flitch of Bacon with braised shoulder included.  My dining partner incurred the wrath of the molten lava, fried polenta on trying first and I had a lucky escape with this warning.  When cooled, this was a pleasant texture to the dish, which, for the most part I enjoyed altogether, but owing to the lamb being tougher than hoped and with generally lesser flavour, this was a notch down from the previous dishes.  The coupling of all flavours though did work well with the smoked anchovy proving to be an important ally again.  

The pre-dessert consisted of iced cucumber lime and mint, candied cucumber, compressed apple and lime sour emulsion with gin was a pleasant crossover.  Opinions were divided on the usefulness on a savoury element within a pre-dessert, with the ‘candied’ cucumber tasting very much of cucumber on their own, but all in all, I enjoyed the cleansing parts of these little scoopfuls. 

Two desserts were offered, a strawberry dessert and rum baba.  The strawberries came with strawberry gel, lemon verbena sorbet, soft vanilla cheesecake drums with a white chocolate shell and this was a triumph.  Lemon verbena is wonderful and although quite strong, the sorbet was a refreshing add on to the strawberries and simply marvellous cheesecake parts that had white chocolate spraypainted on them to form a very light crust – perfect decision as white chocolate is simply too much in larger doses, but this was beautifully handled and skillfully done all round.  

The rum baba’s recipe was akin to the 3 Michelin starred Alain Ducasse recipe and this version had at The Dorchester is very difficult to beat.  However, this was the closest competitor rum baba to this dish I have had in quite a while, the exotic fruits adding a pleasing amount of succulent sweetness and I actually enjoyed the coconut touch in the Chantilly cream.  Petit fours were a very nicely balanced mint chocolate ganache and I opted for the Kenyan of the three, principle coffee brands available (the Nespresso Kilimanjaro coffee trumping my version).

The FoB has been through the mill recently as electrical issues from the local energy station to the building have caused the restaurant to close for 3 months causing major staffing and financial challenges.  Tim Allen has had to rebuild things from scratch again in some regards and for only reopening 3 weeks ago, it all appears to be back on track.  I’m pleased for this establishment as a result, not only as there is considerable graft involved in recovering in this way but also because I genuinely enjoyed the experience here.  Tim Allen has a very pleasing handle on presentation and whilst there were some brief, lukewarm moments during the menu, there were also moments that would easily fit on a 2 Michelin starred menu.  Notwithstanding the very nice get away from London that it was and in an alluring setting with easy logistics, this was a very enjoyable meal and the key feeling was at the end where the overarching thought was of being very happy to pop in the car and come back again.

After being sat at the counter table, snacks came in the form of turbot croquette with taramasalata and dill that had a nice balance of herb, lemon and fish and a garlic cracker with olive gel.  The latter was very light and had gentle handling of the garlic which was nicely done.  Plain olives were fresh with good flavour.  The amuse bouche was a butternut foam with bitter lemon, parsley oil, salt and vinegar pumpkin seeds and this was a lovely, autumnal and warming amuse bouche to have – good choice.  Good sourdough came with very good butter.

My starter of local trout, cured with lapsing souchong gel came with creme fraiche sorbet (beautifully sweet), salt from Japanese bread crumb powder and gorgeous green cucumber ketchup with crunch from thinly sliced sourdough.  This was utterly refreshing that had absolutely everything going in its favour – textures, freshness, originality, flavour and good quality ingredients and the cucumber ketchup was insanely good.  This dish would have not have looked out of place in virtually any Michelin starred restaurant and more importantly, it was bang for buck on flavour.

The main of Partridge came with truffle, barbecued sweet corn, confit leg and onion.  The sweet corn barbequed was one of the nicest parts and the Partridge itself was juicy and avoided being too dry.  The sommelier paired this with a good Grenache Blanc that was fulsome,  fruity & dry at the same time.  One gripe for this dish was the size of the main which was quite small, but thankfully on the side was a rather good truffled macaroni cheese to help fill the tank up.  Whilst it was not firework territory, the main was pleasing.

Pre-dessert came in the form of plum compote, almond foam and tonka meringue.  The meringue was beautifully done but I felt the almond could have had its volume increased as it slightly struggled against the strength of the plum.  However, a pleasant little pre-dessert to have.  The actual dessert came in the form of black mission fig, grape, buttermilk and sparkling wine emulsion.  I have to say the buttermilk pannacotta was absolutely outstanding (so smooth and creamy) and this was complimented well with the olive crisp and fig sorbet.  The only element that I didn’t need too much of was the sparkling wine foam as this slightly took over the pannacotta being at the acidity it was.  Less of the latter would have been just the job for me here, but ultimately it was a superb pannacotta.  The elderflower petit four was a nice touch with coffee as well.

The bill all in for 3 courses, glass of wine and coffee came to £73 which, by all accounts with all extras is good value for money, especially when considering it was a 6-course meal including coffee and petit fours.  Service ranged from homely to needing a touch more finesse on occasion, but the main thing here was that it was a beautifully done interior of a pub with a perfectly decent enough menu, done by an energetic chef at the helm and a good atmosphere within the team that was obvious to see and hear.  Flitch of bacon is an upmarket pub and I think it would be very hard not to be comfortable here and is the perfect venue for bringing a partner, especially if you wanted something of an uplift and personable but not over the top at the same time.  I can imagine the rooms are equally well designed and overall the meal here was actually a good enough advert to want to come and stay over one night.  It was the sort of visit where I asked myself on the way out, “Why haven’t I been here before?”.

https://major-foodie.com/the-flitch-of-bacon-dunmow/
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8 / 10

The Flitch of Bacon

Bar entrance (1)

Bar entrance (2)

Entrance to main dining area

Main dining area

Garden area

Black olive parcels

Smoked eel tartlets

Breads

Brioche with lard

Tomato starter

Pan tomaca side

Carrot various ways

Crispy hen’s egg

Crispy hen’s egg interior

Orkney scallops

Lamb main

Apple, cucumber and gin pre-dessert

Strawberry and lemon verbena

Rum baba as displayed

Rum baba as served

Mint chocolate ganache petit fours

The lunch bill for 2 with wine

Executive chef Tim Allen

The Flitch of Bacon

Entrance bar area

Approach to restaurant

Snacks

Breads and butter

Amuse bouche

Trout

Partridge

Pre-dessert

Milk panna cotta

Petit fours

The dinner bill for 1 (one drink)