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Fred Chan investigates the foodie phenomenon that is Ludlow

Oaks Restaurant

Oaks Restaurant is one of the foodie treasures of Ludlow, indeed a perfect reason for visiting what is fast becoming the gastronomic Mecca of middle England. Ken Adams and his wife Isobel are your hosts, he in the kitchen and she front of house. A feature that Ken is keen to impress upon diners is the quality of his basic ingredients whether it be the fruit and vegetables, the organic meat, fresh fish and seafood, right through to staples such as flour and eggs. To this end the menu comes with a directory of his suppliers and what they supply, a most commendable practice that should be more wide spread. What is doesn't say is the Adams's have their own herb garden which is also an important resource for the kitchen.

Oaks gets its name from the superb oak panelling to be found in the lounge area and dining room. The beams in the ceiling are from the building's past life as a 17th century coaching inn, as is the stone fireplace. The panelling also dates from the 17th century but it originates from local country houses at Acton Scott and Bitterly Court to be precise. All this gives the place a tremendous sense of history, yet the feel of the restaurant is friendly and inviting.

The menu is a set price affair with three courses (£ 22.50) or four (£ 27.50), and it offers exceptional value for money. Menus change with the seasons and are supplemented with daily specials. There is a choice of four dishes per course and a separate vegetarian menu is available. The restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday evenings, though lunch is available by prior arrangement.

Our meal started with superb smoked salmon soufflé in a caviar and vodka sabayon on a bed of wilted rocket. The rocket was cooked so that it still retained texture and the soufflé was complimented by the creamy sabayon were the alcohol was a suitable foil for the saltiness of the caviar. Sauté breast of wild duck came on a wonderfully crisp potato rosti (something that is rarely done well) and an apple and local cider brandy sauce. The duck was suitably gamey and done just the right side of cooked through I feel that duck served pink is not always as good an idea as it is made out to be.

Seared scallops with a timbale of spinach, bacon and herb butter impressed. The cooking of the scallops was perfectly timed to give a crisp exterior whilst retaining the smooth creamy texture on the inside. Full marks too for the choice of such superb scallops that enabled the kitchen to show off its skill.

Breads deserve a special mention, with oven fresh proper white rolls, granary molasses bread and the speciality of the house – Aberdeen Buttery, more like a pastry than a bread but utterly delicious.

A special that evening was calves' liver on a bed of spinach and topped with a potato galette in a pool of balsamic vinegar, sherry and port sauce - absolute heaven. The sauce had a superb flavour, and the combination of the richness of the calves' liver, the sweetness of the sauce and caramelised onion and spinach gave for a brilliant taste and texture sensation with each mouthful. A fillet of sea bass with tomato confit, fennel, leeks and lobster tortellini was also enjoyed.

Lemon mousse with candid raspberries was suitably sweet yet tart and the cheese board is exceptional. Though limited in choice to six cheeses, they were well kept and served at the correct temperature with more of the lovely molasses bread. There was some Leinster, Longre (incredibly smelly and runny but a joy to eat with chutney and molasses bread), Lancashire, Cheshire, Caerphilly and Jersey Blue. Ken told me that the more usual accompaniment to cheese was his homemade sunflower bread.

Decent coffee came with homemade blocks of fudge, chocolate and miniature Madeleine biscuits.

The wine list is extensive and covers most bases from the traditional wine regions of Europe, the New World and even a Chateau Musar from Lebanon. Also commendable is the wide selection of half bottles available, which also includes champagnes, ports and sherries. Mind you, it should really come as no surprise that Oaks has such and fine and extensive wine list as the restaurant shares the building with the local wine merchant who is also their landlord.

Eating at Oaks was a memorable experience. It is not often that you get fine food in relaxing surroundings and at a price that is more than fair - not cheap but definitely value for money. Oaks should be on the itinerary of any one who is paying a visit to Ludlow and if you happen to live nearby and haven't eaten there, my advice is to visit Oaks and spread the good news.

Fred Chan January 1999

Open Tues – Sat : evenings only Lunch by prior arrangement Ken and Isobel Adams Oaks Restaurant, 17 Corve Street Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1DA Tel: 01584 872 325 Fax: 01586 780 546 E-mail Oaks on:

Fred Chan also visited Les Marches at Overton Grange, Ludlow

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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