There are always a few places that for me have a special place in my mind. Whether it’s because of the location, fabulous spa, views over the countryside or destination dining. Fishmore Hall in Ludlow is a place which has all of those things, the spa being the most recent addition. But perhaps more relevant to this article, is that its restaurant has just landed a shiny new chef!
While I loved this restaurant and its previous chef back in 2015, the food right now is really going to put this hotel on the map, offering culinary excitement and what felt to me like the beginnings of those shiny red stars. Looking after the kitchen is head chef Joe Gould and I can tell you now – it’s just got rather exiting here in Ludlow. We took our seat and settled in nicely with a well-crafted negroni.
Unluckily for the other half, he came down with a cold that evening and so was bed bound. But dining alone is never going to stop my enjoying food and in fact on this occasion it meant I really got to pay my full and undivided attention to the dishes. Some bread arrived to the table shortly after order and its accompanying butters were oh-so good. I always say bread should be exciting as it’s the first thing you eat and Joe clearly understands that. Regular (but delicious) butter with a flavoured salt and Marmite butter which was heavenly. As were the selection of snacks, all of which were faultless.
First of the dishes from this tasting menu was this small bowl of wild mushroom risotto, blue cheese, pickled walnut, beetroot and pear. Rich, silky and full of textures which made for such an exciting start to the meal.
I’m not going to pretend, but there was one dish which didn’t quite sweep me away and not because it was bad in any sense, but simply because I’m not sweetbreads biggest fan. What I will say however is if I was ever to be converted (almost) this would definitely be that dish. The golden crumb was lovely, the oyster mayonnaise tasted like the sea and the rocket, lemon, turnip & hazelnut really cut into the soft creamy flavour and texture of the sweatbreads. I ate almost all of the food on the plate, so that must be saying something for Joe’s talents.
Better still was my favourite dish of the entire evening. Thin slices of moist smoked eel, succulent morsel of chicken wing and flavours of cauliflower, shallots, apple and wasabi which made up this wonderful dish which was so exciting to eat. The balance of this dish and at times a umami element meant every mouthful was so satisfying.
What I loved most about this menu from Joe is that it wasn’t following trends that every other chef seems to be doing, but instead it seemed much more original and with more personality. This dish of wood-pigeon with damson, buckwheat, tatsoi (Asian green) and sage & onion was one that was full of originality and beautiful to both look at and eat. The accompanying wine of a young Rioja Crianza married perfectly too.
The one dish which didn’t quite arrive how I expected it to this was plate of cod with celeriac, feta, onion seed, clams and bacon. The cod was expertly cooked, the single clam was just as good but the piece of onion seed bread (maybe soda I couldn’t work it out) which took me by surprise was the real winner, binding everything together so nicely.
Travelling to Jerez in the south of Spain every year, Iberico pork is something I take very seriously and I’ve had enough of it now to realise what’s good and what’s not. Never have I had Iberico pork in the UK anywhere near as good as back in Jerez, but this piece here at Fishmore Hall was excellent on comparison. I’d have perhaps liked it a little more rustic in its cooking approach, but the texture and flavour were on point. Accompanying the meat was a spoonful of tabbouleh, palm heart, green peppercorn, hibiscus and sesame.
Barely any room left for any more food, I somehow still and always managed to practically inhale desserts. Served in a little cast iron pan was this lemon flavoured dessert was exactly what I wanted. The zestiness of the citrus lemon, fragrant vanilla, sweet honey, crunchy meringues, rosemary and a gin & tonic sorbet. A very mouth-watering dish.
Main spectacle of the desserts was this gorgeous creation of hazelnut, dark chocolate soufflé, coconut ice-cream, raspberry tube and flavours of amaretto & basil. Everything tasted just as good as it looked and that soufflé really was delicious, with all of the other sweet ingredients only complementing. My only negative was the raspberry tube whose outer should have cracked at the sight of a fork, but instead it flattened out.
I finished up with some coffee and Joe’s petit four take on the classic “Pick ‘N’ mix”. All were sublime and it was the perfect ending to such a terrific meal before retiring upstairs to our room. Whilst I loved this restaurant at Fishmore Hall all those years ago back in 2015, the food and cooking here right now is on a completely different level and I can’t wait to see how both the menus and kitchen develop over the next few years. If you’re looking for destination dining in Ludlow, it doesn’t get much better than this.
NB: Elements of my meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.