It was one of our regular trips to Broadway and was made all the more enjoyable by the good weather - what we call 'An Italian Day' - cold but bright and sunny. We usually have lunch at the White Swan at the bottom of the high street and we always get a good meal at a good price. Today, the 'Italian Day', had brought out the locals and with a mix of autumn tourists, the White Swan was very busy and the chance of getting an 'unbooked' table was remote. A wander back up the high street, we spotted Russell's - 'a restaurant with rooms', and having never tried it before, we decided to see if a table for two was available.
I remember Gordon Russell's premises from many years ago, a classic furniture maker, I recall that one of my former students got a job with the company after leaving University with a degree in furniture design. Now the former shop premises and Russell's workshop are occupied by the restaurant and seven individually designed bedrooms. It has been tastefully overhauled and the downstairs restaurant has a contemporary, light and airy feel with good quality tables and chairs and caters for about 50 covers.
We were shown to a table near the window and drinks were ordered and delivered with no delay by polite and well presented staff in black outfits. The manager was very smartly dressed in a pinstripe suit, such a pity his male assistant couldn't have made a similar effort! The menu was quite short, but focused on their two or three course Sunday lunch service, with two courses at £21 per head. There was a choice from five starters and five mains with the latter featuring, roast beef, roast lamb, salmon, fried plaice and a vegetarian option. I opted for an onion squash salad starter, my wife the duck liver parfait, while we both went for the roast beef as our main course.
Freshly baked bread with a choice of different butters arrived without delay. Sadly the bread was crispy on the outside but doughy inside, the result of a lack of adequate 'proving' before being thrown into a hot oven. Our starters followed swiftly. Excellent warm onion squash was accompanied by crisp roasted pumpkin seeds and nicely dressed leaves. A very wouthwatering and tasty dish. Equally, my partner's duck liver parfait was beautifully presented and soft and moist to the taste. Both starters can be recommended.
The restaurant became busy as we awaited our main dishes - mainly couples in later years with a few larger tables of aged aunts, brothers and uncles. Why or why do some restaurants think they can also double as an art gallery? Yes, I like to see good original works of art on restaurant walls but not a range of unrelated landscapes, flower paintings and abstract pieces with large price tags featuring the artist's life story. Leave that to the gallery!
We had quite a wait for the main course, hence the distractions on the walls, but when they arrived they look fresh and piping hot. Two generous slices of good beef, cooked just right with fresh and crisp broccoli and carrots and a yorkshire pudding and finally the roasted potatoes. O dear, sunday roast to me means good roasted potatoes but these were very disappointing. You need a good variety of spud for good roasties - a Maris Piper, for example. Russell's Roasties were poor quality, badly cooked and tastless. I can only guess from their taste that they had been pre-prepared them and then quickly heated up in a deep fat frier. Fat was all you could taste.
This Sunday lunch was not good value for money, I felt. My bill which included the two courses for two persons, two glasses of house wine and a bottle of sparkling water was £59.75. We are unlikely to return when we are in Broadway again. There are a lot of very good restaurants providing very good Sunday lunches (with good roasted potatoes) for a lot less.
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