Restaurant review: On the Green, Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 10:14 27 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:14 27 January 2017
Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne discovers a little gem in Old Stevenage
As any restaurateur will tell you, food is only one element, albeit probably the most important one, of what goes into the business of tempting the great British public through your door for a meal. Most chefs worth their salt can serve up a decent plateful; it’s the little things that go on around it that count and can make the difference between filling tables and losing customers to somewhere else.
On The Green in Stevenage Old Town is a rarity; one of those places that seems to have thought of everything and puts it all together in proper order and at the right pace. It came about for the best of reasons, as proprietors Marie-Claire and Paul Clinton explain on the website. ‘On The Green was born out of our family’s frustration that we have to travel outside of Stevenage to find an independent restaurant offering quality, seasonal, local fare,’ they say. ‘We feel passionately about knowing the provenance of the food we serve and where it is not possible to source locally (Hertfordshire is not blessed with a coastline for example) we will only use suppliers where we can track the produce back to source.’ They are not alone in that, but then there is the invitation to click-on for the list of suppliers in question. Point scored.
Thus encouraged, we arrive to find a Grade II listed building converted, apparently not without some controversy, into an attractive restaurant in the current light and airy fashion; small but not over-crowded, unlike some I could mention where packing ‘em in is still the order of the day. Another plus point, followed swiftly by the news that, having booked our table, it’s ours for as long as we want it. The feeling of bonhomie brought on by all this is reinforced by the arrival of the menus, which actually match the ones on the website, even down to the specials. As we read, two pieces of salted apple cake arrive as appetisers ‘with compliments’.
The several intriguing touches among the starters include my choice of black pudding ‘Scotch eggs’ (£5.95, top right) which, as the menu hastens to explain, contain no eggs, just the pudding encased in the usual deep-fried overcoat. Served with apple purée and a red-wine reduction, they were different and delicious. Across the table, the slightly-less-unusual dressed white crabmeat on toast (£5.95) finds an equally enthusiastic welcome. Other good-looking starter options included Portobello mushroom (£5.45) stuffed with mixed vegetables, with or without chorizo, topped with cheddar cheese and served with a mixed salad; or moules marinières (£6.95) – Scottish mussels poached in a white wine and garlic sauce and served with garlic bread.
The list of ten mains, including two vegetarian choices, was wide ranging but looked straightforward. The difference, and another sign of an adventurous chef, was in the accompaniments and presentation. My choice of seared sea bass (£15.95) came with crushed potatoes, butternut squash, roasted fennel, sauté spinach, and a black olive tapenade. As well as being properly cooked, with the skin crisped just enough to hold the juices, it was also, like all the dishes, a work of art on the plate – none of your flat fish and scattered veg here. My other half was persuaded by a trio of Brookfield Farm lamb cutlets (£21.96, above right), generous in size and served with pea purée, carrot, dauphinoise potato, courgette, English asparagus and a rosemary sauce.
Desserts were tempting enough to lead us astray from our usual abstinence, especially the chef’s speciality of Portuguese almond tarte (£5.95, below) served with poached pear and a vodka reduction. Close behind was the French take on apple turnover, chaussons aux pommes (£5.45) – apples flavoured with cinnamon, wrapped in puff pastry and served with Maynard’s ice cream. Both were exactly as good as they sound.
On The Green proved a pleasant surprise, a fine-dining venue in Stevenage with reasonable prices, pleasant surroundings, efficient and friendly service and lots of little twists to keep it interesting. The wine and drinks lists are worth a chapter on their own. There are plans for a supper club and there is a ‘Jazz on the Green’ lunch on the first Sunday of each month. This was our first visit but unlikely to be the last.
The cost of this meal for two was £76.71, including two glasses of wine and a taster glass of custom-made Old Vodka from Church Farm in Ardley. Service was extra.
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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On the Green
11 High Street, Stevenage SG1 3BG. 01438 722811. onthegreenrestaurant.co.uk
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