Review: The Horse & Jockey
A touch of style, unexpected treats and a chilli-warm hug
Beautiful, rolling countryside surrounds the village of Ravensden, providing a perfect backdrop forThe Horse & Jockey, a traditional pub with a contemporary restaurant run by Darron and Sarah Smith.
Their stylish bar is a very nice place to be. Comfy sofas, gentle music, a hum of conversation and Sarah’s warm welcome give a calm feel and we were happy to sit for a while and relax from the stresses of the day. To help us unwind, we chose a bottle of Garzon Albarino from Uruguay. We were intrigued by the blurb and fancied trying something new. ‘Good choice,’ announced Sarah. ‘One my favourites.’
In addition to the evening menu we were shown a chalkboard of specials with tempting fresh fish and shellfish. As a lover of powerful flavours, I was delighted to see that garlic and chilli featured heavily on the menu but the timeless classics such as battered fish and rib eye steak with chips were there too.
It’s always nice to receive an unexpected treat and we loved the complementary crab risotto balls on sticks and the oh so garlicky, soft focaccia that arrived at our table soon after we sat down. And, as Sarah approached with more dishes in hand, a powerful waft of king prawns, chorizo, garlic and chilli hit me and I knew I made the right choice for my starter. I was very happy to see the crusty bread too, for mopping up every last scrap of the precious juices.
I set about removing the first prawn shell. ‘Don’t worry about your napkin,’ Sarah reassured me. ‘I’ll bring you another for your main course.’ I liked this. Dining at The Horse and Jockey doesn’t feel in any way pretentious and the focus is definitely on the customer relaxing and enjoying the food. ‘Our customers tell us that eating here is like getting a cuddle,’ verified Sarah. ‘And that’s what we want’.
Our other starter was an amusingly named Hangover Hash. ‘This is lush,’ my dinner guest announced as he cut into the perfectly poached duck egg, letting the yolk drizzle over meaty duck, spicy chorizo and potato with sweet caramelised onions.
For our mains, we chose the Catalan fish stew and the guinea fowl with rosti potato, fresh asparagus and a squash puree that wasn’t just smooth, it was velvet. The wild mushrooms in the sauce were surely too dinky and cute to pack such a strong meaty flavour. The fish stew was deep and rich and glorious with fish and shellfish sitting in a chilli-warm broth among tender broad beans, peas, peppers and potatoes. It was a large portion but my guest was a worthy match. ‘It just beat me,’ he apologised as Sarah collected the plates. She laughed when she spotted the one solitary piece of potato remaining in the bowl.
We hovered over the dessert menu, spoilt for choice, and decided that we might not fit in the rich-sounding sticky ginger cake or black treacle tart on this occasion. Instead we opted for a lighter citrus cheesecake which came with a delicious, zingy sorbet and affogato al caffe with a figgy, chocolatey ‘salami’ which was the perfect end to a meal.
The Horse & Jockey
This review was written by Jacqui Hagen and first appeared in the AugSep15 edition of OVL Magazine. Photography by Ant Hagen.