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Restaurant review: Water Lane, Bishop’s Stortford

PUBLISHED: 09:56 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 20:34 21 April 2017

Water Lane, a former brewery

Water Lane, a former brewery

brian arnopp

Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne finds a Sunday meat treat in a former Bishop’s Stortford brewery

Slow roast ‘tear and share’ lamb shoulder (photographs by Brian Arnopp)Slow roast ‘tear and share’ lamb shoulder (photographs by Brian Arnopp)

Vegetarians, look away now. This is the tale of a meaty Sunday lunch discovered after friends recommended I take a look at Water Lane in Bishop’s Stortford. Sunday lunch can be a challenge, with kitchens falling back on the tried and trusted roast and two veg formula because it’s easy. Comparatively, that is. It’s still possible to ruin a good joint. Times have changed however, and customers are demanding more. It’s places like Water Lane that are providing it.

The restaurant, part of the growing Anglian Country Inns family, is an instant hit if you’re into industrial chic and history. It’s housed in the former Hawkes Brewery, which dates from the 17th century, and there are various reminders of the company and Bishop’s Stortford of old dotted about the roomy space. Lots of bare brick, beams and authentic-looking pipework set the style and there is a popular and suitably atmospheric Cellar Bar for evenings.

Water Lane sells itself as a steaks, burgers and cocktails sort of place, but suitably primed to investigate further, I found rather more on the menu than that suggests, even for Sunday lunch. Nibbles on offer included olives marinated in parsley, cumin seed and garlic at £3; ‘kitchen breads’ at £3.50; baked Camembert to share with toasted baguette, cornichons and pickled shallot chutney (£12); and Norfolk oysters with Tabasco and lemon in shallot and red wine vinegar with horseradish ketchup (£2.20 each). Rounding off that section of the menu is the Water Lane sharing board with reggae jerk chicken wings, tempura king prawns,

crispy squid, flatbread, beetroot hummus and marinated olives at £16.

The spacious interior has evidence of the town's pastThe spacious interior has evidence of the town's past

To follow, the Sunday set menu offers two courses at £19 or three at £24 and was similarly adorned with intriguing touches, including our starters. I chose a Stilton crème brûlée with spiced pear chutney, chargrilled chicory and walnut toast (opposite, top). I had not heard of this dish before and it was sweet and creamy, though the Stilton flavour was a bit hard to detect. I could have done with something a bit sharper, though the chicory was a good accompaniment. No such problems across the table, where a teriyaki chicken terrine with a chutney of five spice, plum and pumpkin and sesame prawn toast (opposite, bottom) clearly went down a treat.

Other starters on offer included a soup of the day with kitchen bread; the almost inevitable salt and pepper squid, garnished in this case with cannellini bean cassoulet and a rocket and basil salad; and a larger plate of the reggae jerk chicken wings with mango and cucumber salsa and a Jamaican sweet and sour hot sauce.

The real star of the show, however, was contained in the Sunday roasts section of the menu, which did indeed offer ordinary-looking chicken, pork and beef but also slow roast ‘tear and share’ lamb shoulder with roast garlic and mint sauce at an £8 per person supplement. If you know your lamb you will know shoulder is full of fat, but that’s what gives it the flavour and the fun of the tear and share style is you can, as my grandma used to say, get on the mat with it in true Henry VIII style. The slow roast style gives the meat a softness and it’s easy to cut around the fat as you go. With two of us ordering, we were presented with a very generous hunk of meat served on a board and surrounded by the trimmings (above), including giant Yorkshire puds, and invited to ‘dig in’. Which we did, to great satisfaction.

As well as the Yorkshires, all roasts are served with dripping roast potatoes, market vegetables and meat liquor gravy. The other choices are corn-fed chicken supreme with sage and onion stuffing, Prior’s Hall Farm pork loin roasted on the bone with caramelised apple purée, and garlic & thyme slow roast British striploin with horseradish and shallot chutney.

Teriyaki chicken terrine with a chutney of five spice, plum and pumpkin and sesame prawn toastTeriyaki chicken terrine with a chutney of five spice, plum and pumpkin and sesame prawn toast

Desserts, which we were too replete to contemplate but again featured some intriguing touches, included chocolate and pistachio cheesecake with malted pistachio truffles, cherry compote, and cherry Garibaldi; a double chocolate brownie with popcorn ice cream and fudge, passion fruit and pink pigeon gel; and finally pineapple tarte tatin with coconut and yoghurt sorbet, mango salsa and coriander cress.

The cost of this Sunday lunch for two was £59 for two courses for two people including olives to start, one glass of wine and a mint tea.

This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

Stilton crème brûlée with spiced pear chutney, chargrilled chicory and walnut toastStilton crème brûlée with spiced pear chutney, chargrilled chicory and walnut toast

Book a table

Water Lane

31 Water Lane, Bishop’s Stortford, Herts CM23 2JZ. 01279 211888. waterlane.co

3 of a kind

Herts Anglian Country Inns

The Fox

Willian SG6 2AE. 01462 480233. foxatwillian.co.uk

Modernised historic village pub with popular bar plus restaurant with menus that change regularly to take advantage of seasonal crops.

Hermitage Rd

20-21 Hermitage Road, Hitchin SG5 1BT. 01462 433603. Hermitagerd.co.uk

Former Hitchin ballroom converted to spacious bar and restaurant with open kitchen and varied menu plus street-level coffee shop.

The Cricketers

Damask Green Road, Weston SG4 7DA. 01462790273. thecricketersweston.co.uk

Another updated village pub setting refurbished to combine the old with modern twists including a cricket ball pizza oven and the Pavilion dining room.

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