Backwell House, Backwell: Restaurant review

 

Backwell House - Exterior

 

It’s official. I want to move into Backwell House.

This restaurant-with-rooms just six miles from Bristol only opened in 2016, with the restaurant opening to the public in April 2017. Backwell House is a beautiful 19th-century Georgian building – a former family home that’s been lovingly converted, all still in keeping with its period style.

We were just there to enjoy a meal in the restaurant, but were lucky enough to have a guided tour from Guy Williams, who runs this ever-growing venture, before we ate. We had a nose around three of the guest rooms – all beautifully decorated with quirky touches – before being shown the developments that are currently in progress: a subterranean cinema room that will include chaises longues on which to recline while enjoying a film on the big screen, and a cellar bar that will certainly have plenty of atmosphere when finished. They’re also midway through the swimming pool and sauna, which are set to open soon…

Before we ate, we chose to enjoy a drink at the bar while perusing the menu – and for me, it’s one of the most beautiful bars in the area.

 

Backwell House - Bar

 

Carefully crafted from old kitchen floorboards from the building, it’s certainly a focal point – and with a huge choice of spirits, beers, ciders, wines and soft drinks, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

We chose to enjoy our drinks in the lounge: an elegantly-designed room complete with feature chandelier, wood burning stove and beautiful views over the rolling countryside.

 

Backwell House - Lounge

 

It was our first chance to experience the exceptional service from our barman/waiter for the evening: a friendly yet formal guy for whom nothing was too much trouble.

While enjoying the atmosphere, we were brought a board of snacks before our meal – I do love a restaurant with extras not listed on the menu! Our favourite was the pressed lamb with anchovy emulsion: a thick slice of rich lamb, with an almost offal-like flavour, and a stunning beignet-style coating. The anchovy was good and strong too – a classic pairing.

We also enjoyed a feather-light whipped goats’ curd sprinkled with beetroot dust that offered just a hint of earthy flavour, and what was described as a “take on a BLT”: a charred lettuce wedge topped with crispy breadcrumbs, a sweet tomato jam and salty, smoky bacon bits – the flavour was fantastic, but it was impossible to eat without dropping the topping everywhere…and we had no napkins to clean up afterwards either.

 

Backwell House - Snacks

 

Post-snacks, we were shown through to the restaurant: a lovely room that’s open from Wednesday through to Sunday lunch, with the main room seating around 22 and more in the conservatory out the back. The Georgian period features are still there, along with more modern touches, like the uplighting spotlights set into the floor, and the speakers piping out the likes of Nina Simone while we ate. Each table is simply adorned with a mini bottle or jar with a few wild flowers – and while we weren’t sure about the chains between the ceiling lights, the room had a lovely, comfortable feel.

 

Backwell House - Restaurant

Backwell House - Conservatory

 

The menu? Well, it’s available for lunch and dinner from Wednesday lunch through to Sunday lunch, with head chef Ross Hunter and his team changing the menu daily. They use top quality local and organic produce, with vegetables and herbs from their own walled garden, and meat, honey, eggs and more all sourced hyper-locally. I couldn’t believe the pricing either: at 2 courses for £29 or 3 for £35, it’s incredible value for money, as you’ll soon see…

 

Backwell House - Menu

 

Two thick slices of white sourdough with a quenelle of whey butter topped with salt and burnt onion seeds made its way to our table after we’d ordered: the bread with a good sour flavour, the crust chewy rather than overly crunchy. The butter was super soft and fluffy, with a good hit of flavour from the onion seeds and salt sprinkled on top.

 

Backwell House - Bread

 

I started my meal with the “Brixham crab, beetroot, apple, nori seaweed”: such a beautiful plate of food! This dish, like all the others to follow, showcased the kitchen team’s fondness for working with a range of flavours and textures on one plate: the salty, crispy nori topping a mound of the tiniest flakes of delicately flavoured crab, minute cubes of tart green apple and very finely chopped chives. The beetroot purée was voluptuously smooth, and wonderfully sweet.

 

Backwell House - Crab Starter

 

For Chris, the “Pressed Backwell pork, new season peas, pancetta, tarragon emulsion” – it looked almost too good to eat. The crackling was perfect, seasoned well and crisp on top while still fluffy underneath. He’d been warned in advance that the peas would be cooked very al dente and they and the broad beans were indeed, meaning their freshness came through well. The tiny slivers of pancetta mixed in with the pulses added saltiness, and the tarragon emulsion had a good flavour, overpowered slightly by the use of vinegar. He loved the tender, melt-in-the-mouth pork, which had a lighter flavour than expected.

 

Backwell House - Pork Starter

 

Seafood for my starter, seafood for my main…the “Cornish cod, Brixham crab bonbon, crab bisque, kohlrabi, pak choi” sounded too good to pass up. While the cod skin may have been better crispier and a little less salty, the fish was cooked perfectly – and an excess of salt was an issue with the crab bonbon too. Apart from that, the bonbon was perfect, the crisp crunch of the breadcrumbs and a decent amount of crab was a winning combination. The pickled kohlrabi slices cut through the richness of the crab bisque (which was a little hard to eat from a plate…), and the pak choi was nicely grilled. My only real complaint was that the plate got very cold very quickly, which meant that its contents did too…

 

Backwell House - Cod Main

 

Chris chose the “60 day Hereford sirloin, ox cheek, alliums, king oyster mushroom, beef jus”. On ordering, he was told that the beef would be served medium rare, which he was more than happy with – and it was perfect, very tender and seasoned well, although maybe just a touch too salty. The portion of ox cheek was generous and needed no knife, as it cut like butter with a beautifully rich flavour. I’d say it was maybe a little too melt-in-the-mouth, but loved the good, rich jus drizzled over the top.

The alliums, in the form of baby onions and leeks, were beautiful but slightly gritty nearer the core, while the onion emulsion added a touch of sweetness to the plate.

 

Backwell House - Sirloin

 

We ordered sides of spring greens and Jersey Royals (£3 each), and it was nice to see something slightly different to what we’d expected. After asking for serving spoons (which also didn’t come with the sides at a neighbouring table…), both arrived: the tender spring greens still had a bit of a crunch, and came in the form of asparagus, baby leeks and pak choi. The potatoes were served crushed with skin and drizzled in oil – and the decadence continued with the addition of a little bacon fat stirred through for a lovely smokey flavour.

 

Backwell House - Sides

 

Our desserts were outstanding. My “assiette of chocolate and passionfruit” featured a hollow globe of super-dark chocolate (shame about the fingerprints) filled with a passionfruit and, I believe, white chocolate mousse, while the quenelle of passionfruit sorbet was equally sweet, balanced by the tartness of the sherbert-topped shortbread cubes and the tangy gel that coated the base of the plate.

 

Backwell House - Chocolate and Passionfruit

 

Chris’ mango parfait was blinding: a big old plate for a little dessert, but again, a great combination of tart and sweet thanks to the combination of the smooth mango dessert and the topping of pineapple salsa. The chocolate macaron on top was beautifully made, the ganache inside incredibly, incredibly rich.

 

Backwell House - Mango Parfait

 

Guy was surprised that we hadn’t chosen the “strawberry cannelloni, meringue and Cheddar Valley strawberries” between us…and so we ended up with a portion to share. The cannelloni, made with agar and filled with a smooth vanilla-scented cream, was tasty enough but could have done with more of a strawberry flavour, and we loved the combination of the fresh strawberries and raspberries and the French and Italian meringues.

 

Backwell House - Strawberry Cannelloni

 

Just when we thought our meal was over, we were presented with a tray of petit fours to share: more of those decadent chocolate macarons, an earthy but sweet beetroot and blackberry marshmallow, a “fruit pastille”, which reminded us of sugar-topped set raspberry jam, and a couple of squares of that tangy orange sherbert shortbread – a tasty treat at the end of the meal, but we felt that it would have been made a little more special had two of the four elements not been included in our desserts.

 

Backwell House - Petit Fours

 

Our verdict? Go – definitely go. Sure, there were a few niggles, but there’s no denying the talent of the kitchen team, the fantastic combinations of flavour and texture, and the ridiculously great value pricing of the Backwell House menu. Highly recommended.

 

Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

2 Responses to Backwell House, Backwell: Restaurant review

  1. Looks good, going to try for sure. Cheers Em.

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