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Reinventing the Wheel, Sunday lunch finds food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne at a special place in the country...
About the restaurant
Residents in and around Albury are fiercely proud of The Catherine Wheel. There has been a pub on the site since around 1765, although the original building burnt down in 2004. Rebuilt and reopened with an increased emphasis on food in 2007 under Punch Taverns, it closed again last year but has now passed into independent family ownership with TLC Inns under the management of John and Christine Wilson.
Atmosphere and decor
The Catherine Wheel is still a pub but TLC has wrought its own changes since opening in July, including creating a separate 62-cover dining area called the Albury Room. It looks new and airy with a clean design but it can get crowded and during my visit suffered a bad case of Rampaging Toddler Syndrome, though not enough to spoil the meal.
Sunday lunch was busy and the staff seemed rushed at times but my little corner was well served and everybody stayed cheerful.
The kitchen under chef Kester Malin-Smith maintains a full menu on Sundays as well as traditional roasts. There is also an extensive bar menu and a gourmet menu is an occasional feature on Fridays and Saturdays.
A touch of the exotic appealed with a warm aromatic duck salad (5.95) on mixed leaves with cucumber and spring onion and Hoisin sauce. This was well up to standard, with the meat moist and flavourful. Billed as chefs secret recipe, the smoked haddock and spring onion fishcakes (6.25), cooked fresh to order, was an equally satisfying combination of tastes.
My companion chose the roast of the day (9.95), a generous helping of pork that earned extra points for its block of tempting crackling, as it should be, I was informed. Served with home-made Yorkshire pud, roast potatoes, seasonal veg and gravy, there were obviously no problems there. I went for grilled lamb chops (12.50), listed as one of five chefs specialities, served with creamy mash and rosemary and redcurrant jus.
The chops came slightly pink as requested and kept up the good work begun by the fishcakes and duck salad. As with the roast, this was simple food properly prepared.
Chocolate fudge roulade, chocolate brownie, chocolate torte, lemon cheesecake and apple and fruits of the forest cheesecake (all at 5.25) formed a tempting array. The roulade won and justified the decision.
Sunday lunch is still a great excuse to go and explore your local pub. The Catherine Wheels offering is typical of many and the food is a definite plus. Facing the challenge of balancing the traditional with the contemporary, it acquitted itself well.
The Catherine Wheel
Pelham Road, Gravesend, Albury SG11 2LW
01279 771191 www.thecatherinewheelalbury.co.uk
The cost of this lunch was 50.40 including two beers and a glass of wine, plus service. House wines are from 13.95 a bottle.
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.
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