Flint Barn Restaurant in Berwick: Restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 10:03 28 March 2017
Matt Bode Photography
Designed to showcase the best of English wines, Flint Barn Restaurant is all about local and seasonal produce. Duncan Hall tucks in
Colin and Christine Munday opened the English Wine Centre nine years ago to celebrate the best of the UK’s vineyards. And it seemed a natural move to open a restaurant on site in what had previously been a low-ceilinged store room, to allow people to savour some of the treats on offer with well-matched dishes.
Although the wine centre itself is visible through a low doorway, the restaurant space manages to conjure up its own ambience with its dark timbers, spacious settings and whitewashed walls designed to show off the wine’s clarity in the best way. When I drop in on a Friday lunchtime in January it is perhaps unsurprisingly quiet – the month after Christmas is traditionally a time to watch the finances. But after tasting two courses on the lunchtime menu it is a mystery why the small dining room isn’t packed every day. This is good British seasonal fare, beautifully cooked with a minimum of fuss at a reasonable price.
A starter of devilled lamb kidneys (£7) came in a rich moreish sauce of port, cayenne and redcurrants which would have been a gorgeous starter on its own as a spicy soup. The pillowy homemade bread mopped up every last drop.
The main course of locally sourced slip sole (£16) had its own surprise contained within its garnish. Alongside the bacon, prawns, potatoes slices and rich lemon and parsley butter were dark green sprout flowers, mixing a saltiness from the bacon with a complex bitter undertone. There was no hint of their parent vegetable – something usually only suitable for Christmas torture and feeding animals.
Despite deliberately trying to order light dishes to fit in a dessert there was no room – so the delights of a Baileys and Maltesers cheesecake (£6.50), rhubarb, pear and hazelnut crumble (£6) or classic crème brulee with pomegranate sauce and chocolate shortbread (£6) remained untasted until next time. A gratis homemade chocolate did come from the kitchen showing head chef Adam Krajewski and assistant Jake Stockley are no slouches when it comes to the sweet stuff. Choosing from the small but perfectly formed menu was tough – and it changes every month to follow the seasons. Tempting starters were the potted shrimps (£9) or a cream of celeriac and apple soup with Sussex Charmer croutons (£5.50). Mouthwatering mains included venison haunch braised with chilli and chocolate (£15), a classic toad in the hole with mustard-infused mash and red wine and onion gravy (£13) and a rainbow root vegetable gratin with smoky cauliflower sauce and roasted shallots (£12).
Waiter Danyal Shafiq provided attentive, friendly and knowledgeable service. He is usually accompanied by server Emma Owen, with Colin and Christine occasionally serving too, adding to the restuarant’s intimate feel. Wine is at the centre of the venue, and alongside the extensive list visitors can have anything else from the shop for a £5 corkage fee. Drivers aren’t just stuck with a choice of orange juice and Coke as there is a range of soft drinks. “We are trying to use classic ingredients and buy local,” says Christine. “We aren’t afraid to incorporate new things into English cuisine – we want to reflect us as a nation. The chef does a fish with a curry-based sauce – curry has become part of our cuisine. Our dinner menus are based on what we do in the day.”
The English Wine Centre hosts tutored wine tastings on the first Saturday of every month with lunches afterwards. It sounds like a perfect way to spend a weekend.
The Flint Barn Restaurant at the English Wine Centre, in Alfriston Road, Berwick, is open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday noon to 3pm, and for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays from 6.30pm. Call 01323 870164; englishwinecentre.co.uk.