We felt like we travelled back centuries when we arrived at the Swallow Belstead Brook Hotel. It was during lunch hours, a warm summers day, and the atmosphere was quiet and very relaxed.
We were welcomed by our waitress and shown to our table, layered with clean white linen, polished glasses and silverware. This applied to every other table in three sections of the restaurant – it was a classic private dining scenery.
As I sat down with my friend Josh Vartan, we looked around the room and discussed the décor. We were told that our dining room used to be the library, and a closed off area. Our section of the restaurant was the brightest, with white and baby blue walls and large windows letting the light shine through. There were a few sectioned off dining rooms with dim lights but still pleasant, with displays of antiques, dark varnished wood and red furniture.
For our arrival drinks, I had a simple yet refreshing Apple Britvic 55 over ice, and Josh had a crisp pint of local Adnams ale.
The a la carte menu was small and the choices were varied, fitting to everyone’s taste. Main course examples were Thai style prawns, creamy pasta, steak, duck, roast of the day, vegetarian, and a fish dish. There were some historical facts written on the first page, talking about how this building has gone back to Jacobean times during the 1600s, and how it first became a hotel in 1955 with several large extensions added in 1996.
After we ordered our starters and main course, the waitress came with a wicker basket of bread. We could choose between crispy white and granary rolls, or olive bread slices. Intrigued, we both chose the olive bread, which was soft, fresh, and filled with dried black olives. The taste of the bread was magnificent and readied us for the rest of our meal.
For starters Josh had Portobello mushrooms stuffed with bacon and cheese.
The mushroom was well cooked and not too greasy. The topping of sweet fried onion, pancetta and strong cheese made it an extremely flavorsome dish. There were a few crisp salad leaves on the side with a honey glaze dressing.
Mushrooms on their own can be quite bland, therefore the sweetness of the onions, the saltiness of the pancetta and the strength of the cheddar gave it a good kick.
I had butternut and sweet potato soup served in a very hot bowl, which kept the soup at a heated temperature for longer. The soup tasted fresh, sweet and had a good colour. I’m not sure why I picked soup on such a hot day, but as I’m a huge fan of butternut squash, I couldn’t resist!
For my main course I was served confit of duck with lashings of redcurrant jus. The duck was tender, fell off the bone and had beautifully crispy skin. The dish was aesthetically pleasing to the eye and was accompanied with al dente steamed broccoli, braised red cabbage and with leek bubble and squeak.
For the wine I had a glass of light Cinsault rose. The medium-sweet taste was deliciously flamboyant with a burst of summer fruits; this went well with the flavours of the red currant jus and added that hint of summer to the meal.
Josh had the rib eye steak cooked medium rare and chose a side sauce of creamy peppercorn sauce. It was served with chunky chips, sliced mushrooms, grilled tomato and soaked in red wine jus.
The steak was beautifully marbled and melted in the mouth. The red wine jus was punchy, but not overpowering and released the flavours of the meat. The chips were cooked to perfection, with a soft fluffy centre and a lightly crisp skin and it wasn’t long before he covered the entire dish with that creamy peppercorn sauce!
To compliment the steak, he ordered a large glass of Merlot La Doutelle, which was a deep purple colour with aromas of plum and the flavour of blackcurrant on the palate.
For dessert I immediately chose the eton mess. This was a pure taste of summer with chunks of crushed meringue, halved fresh strawberries, whipped up double cream and strawberry coulis. For once I went quiet because of how much I was enjoying the sweetness of the meringue and coulis, which complimented the ripe tartness of the strawberries. I was in heaven, and even picked up the glass to make sure I scooped up every last piece.
Josh picked the ‘hot dessert of the day’ – sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and custard.
The pudding slice was light, airy and not too heavy which tempted you to go for seconds, and the sweet toffee sauce was soaked through to complete the taste sensation. There was a generous amount of custard in the warm bowl, which added more moisture to the pudding, and there was a lovely dusting of icing sugar to complete the look.
We decided to have our hot drinks sitting outside in the sun, as we could see dark wooden pub-style benches on the manicured lawn out front. We were brought out a tray, which was displayed with a silver teapot, milk jug and sugar bowl, along with chinaware, and a café style cappuccino.
The tea was nice and strong to my liking, and the cappuccino had the full flavour of fresh coffee beans with light, fluffy milk and a sprinkle of chocolate powder.The little plate of chocolate mint creams was a lovely finish to the entire meal, and it shows they go a little but further.
The Belstead Brook was a cosy and intimate place to go for lunch if you wanted peace and quiet with a classic scenery.
The staff were very attentive and nothing was trouble, and the beautiful lunch with tranquil surroundings left us walking away refreshed, relaxed and satisfied.