14 restaurants in Warminster
Restaurants in Warminster:
Center Parcs, Longleat Forest, Warminster, BA12 7PU [Map]
Café Rouge has over one hundred branches throughout Britain all offering a wide range of dishes drawn from the French cuisine. Slightly less than half their branches are in or close to London. Almost inevitably the décor and design of each restaurant differs from the others, but there is a general curtsy towards La France.
Many restaurants do an excellent breakfast, or shall we say petit dejeuner, at which such delights as scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toasted brioche, croque Madame, croissants and pain au chocolate make welcome appearances, and to their credit the English traditional gets top billing.
An array of hors d'oeuvres takes in classic French onion and beef soup with a melted gruyere crouton, classic snails in melted garlic butter, and pan-fried crab cakes with a chilli, lemon and coriander jam. Salads, pasta and quiches feature largely, as do baguettes and croques. Quick dishes, ideal for lunch, include smoked Toulouse sausages with sautéed with new potatoes, caramelised onions and balsamic vinegar on a salad of mixed leaves.
Moving on to more serious stuff we find steaks, an 8oz bavette and thin cut rib eye, with a choice of sauces that include the signature sauce de Café Rouge, prepared specially from over twenty secret ingredients. No French menu would be complete without the demi poulet, or a steak frites before moving on to the crème brûlée, or the tart tatin. Almost invariably the coffee tastes like coffee should, something that sadly can all too often still not be said of our English restaurants, who depend too much upon technology and too little on the acquisition of a certain flair for this important conclusion to a meal.
By now we all know that the French, despite their distinctive habits when it comes to matters of satisfying the inner man, maintain a miraculous longevity of life. This is generally attributed to a number of causes, of which a measured consumption of decent wine is foremost. Café Rouge, you may be pleased to hear, encourages this with a well-chosen selection of French wines. Their prix fixe lunch and meals for children, both at a very reasonable figure, also offer excellent value.
Boreham Road, Warminster, BA12 9HH [Map]
Bishopstrow House has been described as a temple to relaxation, a proposition that it would be churlish to deny. Its ivy-clad exterior encourages the notion of a building that has become part of the landscape in which it is possible to put the cares of the world behind you, and take time to catch up with yourself.
When the time comes to re-connect there is a wealth of pleasant distractions within and around the hotel, ranging from a James Bond black tie event with Aston Martins, to a day amongst the peerless beauty of Longleat, one of the great houses of England, or some of the finest private gardens in the country.
Central to Bishopstrow is the Mulberry Restaurant, a symphony of golden yellow named after a venerable tree in the grounds, beneath which it is said that on a warm summer's day it is possible to enjoy the sun, disturbed only by the occasional sound of falling ripe mulberries.
The Restaurant leads off The Conservatory, often used as a breakfast room, and overlooks the gardens. Two or three course lunches are served, but as ever the main event is dinner, when Head Chef Frank Bailey and his team pull all the stops out, making heavy demands upon local sources for their ingredients, sometimes organic, using sporting estates and occasionally more modest locations to which only they have access.
Starters yield a pressed game pate set with its own marinade and home made chutney, roasted breast of wood pigeon with a cep and herb risotto, or grilled red mullet with a coconut and coriander cous-cous. And a hint - do not treat lightly the seasonal country soup, all too often an amalgam of kitchen bin ends - but here a source of subtle flavours.
The main event demonstrates a kitchen that is in full charge of its output, ranging from duck breast stuffed with black figs, celeriac fondant and a mulled wine sauce, or pan fried Longleat pheasant with a baby onion and garlic tart tatin. The venison from the West Country is renowned for its flavour; expect to find pan fried saddle with gratin potato and wild mushrooms.
And so to dessert country, or as the menu encouragingly calls them, "puddings". A parfait made from honey, whisky and Irish Cream is served imaginatively with sweet golden raisins, and the wonderful array of West Country farmhouse cheeses represent an opportunity not to be missed.
A leading Conservative MP once famously referred to a colleague as having "something of the night" about him. I wonder if she had in mind the dark side of the melting chocolate fondant served in the Mulberry.
In keeping with the spirit of the times they serve a canape selection, a sort of English dim sum, suitable for a light lunch accompanied by a canny choice from the excellent wine list.
Amongst a good range of choices expect to find parmesan and olive biscuits with goat's cheese and pesto, blinis with smoked salmon, crème fraiche and dill, ham roulade with Dijon butter or mini baked potatoes with caviar and sour cream, all for a very modest sum, no pun intended.
The same high standards of von Essen everywhere apply at this delightful restaurant.
English, Modern British
Longleat Forest, Warminster, BA12 7PU [Map]
Strada describes itself as 'a group of stylish, contemporary Italian restaurants, serving good quality, simple and freshly prepared dishes'. The statement sums up what this group of around seventy restaurants offers to people looking for good Italian food. The first outlet opened in Battersea in 1999 and their clientele has been increasing steadily ever since.
Though Strada has grown into a fair sized group, each outlet retains the feel of being a local neighbourhood Italian restaurant. The menu includes pastas, risottos, salads, and fish dishes, but they are best known for their quality pizzas.
They present authentic Italian dishes in contemporary surroundings and aim to use only the freshest and finest ingredients, such as Mantovana sausages, Parma ham and buffalo mozzarella, imported from Italy to provide exactly the kind of rustic, traditional dishes one would expect to find travelling around its regions.
A meal could kick off with insalata Toscana, melted buffalo mozzarella wrapped in speck on a Tuscan salad of plum tomatoes, cucumber, sweet peppers, onion, ciabatta croutons and olives, or the delicious sautéed butterflied king prawns with garlic, white wine, chilli, and lemon butter with ciabatta.
Move on to their creamy risotto verdure, freshly grilled asparagus, broad beans, peas, spring onions, zucchini, green beans, grana padano and mint, finished with baby spinach leaves. Or you could opt for the healthier, spigola al forno, filleted sea bass stuffed with rosemary and lemon, served with rocket and new potatoes. A real treat for the taste buds comes in the form of the bistecca di manzo, a 10oz rosemary-marinated char-grilled, rib-eye steak, roasted new potatoes and onions with rocket.
A range of pizzas, all spun by hand, is an integral feature of each restaurant. They include the rossa, with spicy southern Italian salami, roasted red peppers, chilli, caramelised onion, garlic, fresh oregano, tomato and mozzarella. Nor are vegetarians are overlooked, and can be found tucking into dishes such as fiorentina, made of wilted spinach cooked with garlic, nutmeg and black pepper with mozzarella, parmesan, tomato and an egg.
For those wanting to satisfy their sweet tooth, there is torroncino affogato, an ice nougat semi freddo with a shot of espresso to pour over, or a classic Italian tiramisu and, as you might expect Illy coffee to round off the meal.
A wine list consisting of purely regional Italian wines, beers and liqueurs, all carefully chosen to complement the menu comes as no surprise and in addition, every table receives a complimentary bottle of purified water.
The Longleat Estate, Horningsham, Warminster, BA12 7LY [Map]
Clay Street, nr Warminster, BA12 8AJ [Map]
English, Gastropub, Modern British
High Street, Codford St Peter, Warminster, BA12 0NG [Map]
The worthy chef proprietor of this admirable inn is Boyd McIntosh, formerly head chef at nearby Howard's House, and my heart warmed to him as I read Boyd's Philosophy on Food, summarised as "over complication of dishes is the downfall of many a good chef".
The George at Codford is one of those country inns with rooms where the moment you stick your head round the door you know you are on to a winner. There is a gentle air of mild and comfortable scruff that implies the main burden of effort is exerted towards the food and drink, nor would that be wrong.
Starters of cream of spiced parsnip and sweet potato soup with garlic croutons gives a new dimension to a dish often regarded as only de rigueur on days when brass monkeys are searching for welding sets. The twice baked soufflé of blue cheese, fresh asparagus, with red pepper fondant, priced at under a fiver, is the sort of thing which, served up in a smart London restaurant would have the critics agog with delight.
The main event yields such dishes as fillet of red mullet, cherry tomato and chorizo salad, with a delicate lime and coriander vinaigrette, or caramelized breast of Gressingham duck, sautéed wild mushrooms, and Earl Grey jus. Their English fillet steaks arrive at table seared with black pepper, with nothing left to the imagination on the trimmings.
Puddings come within an ace of defying the Boyd McIntosh dictum, in that they are what might be termed as highly structured, but as Betjeman once said of a flamboyant Victorian church in Norfolk, "naughty - very naughty - but in the right spirit".
A decent wine list, Timothy Taylor at the taps, all's right with the world.
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