Christmas comes early at Stamford's Cosy Club, but there's no complaint from me
I haven't seen a card or heard a festive song yet this year, but I have had my first Christmas meal... and second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth for that matter!
It was, of course, all in a good cause after being invited by Cosy Club in Stamford to run the rule over their Christmas menu which launches on November 22.
What they hadn’t mentioned is that I would be served a sharing platter, all six main courses and five puddings.
Luckily I had Neil, a regular eating out partner, to share the workload.
And with the pair of us having eaten at the quirky, warmly lit and, er, “cosy” bar/restaurant at The Old Delivery Office, on Horseshoe Lane previously, there were no qualms on that front - apart from it still being October.
There was mulled wine, mulled cider and a sparkling wine on arrival - and the fizz was fine by me.
Starters was in the form of a sharing platter, where the only problem was in not over-indulging, bearing in mind what lay ahead.
That said the irresistible Cumberland pigs in blankets, in a sticky cider glaze, and the slow-cooked pork belly bits, with a sticky five-spice and honey glaze, were impossible to leave alone.
The baked camembert with toasted sourdough bread and a sweet chutney also went down well; so too the little smoked salmon blinis.
We also tried the mushroom, chestnut and tarragon pate (very herby) and the crisp and crunchy holloumi and sweetcorn bites to be polite.
And so to the mains... in our considered order of preference:
The confit duck leg with dauphinoise potatoes , braised red cabbage with a red wine gravy just edged top spot. The meat was unbelievably soft and tasty; the gravy a sweet, smooth delight; the potatoes could have been creamier, but the red cabbage was divine.
In second place, the slow roasted outdoor bred pork belly just melted in the mouth, served with the same accompaniments.
The Norfolk turkey and smoked bacon pie was the pick of the pies with a great crust and a real smoky, creamy filling packed with soft chunks of meat. I loved the creamy mash and gravy; the pigs in blankets matched what we had already had, and the vegetables were nice and firm - no mushy sprouts and carrots here.
The pan fried sea bass had an earthy taste which paired nicely with the creme fraiche and herb crusted new potatoes and peas, while the beetroot, carrot and parsnip pie, with all the trimmings, was certainly different and flavoursome with a nice crust.
Neither of us were particularly enamoured with the halloumi and winter vegetable wellington, served with all the trimmings. The case had a nice crunch but the filling was under-whelming, a view perhaps skewed by the big flavours from the competition on the other plates.
And finally the puddings; I shouldn’t have, but I did clear the plate (the only one of the evening) when the soft, light, fresh limoncello cheesecake arrived. Wow. Delightful.
The traditional Christmas pudding was beautifully zingy and fruity with brandy sauce, and the rich, thick chocolate and orange torte went down well with the refreshing raspberry sauce.
The vintage cheddar was my pick from the cheese board although the Shropshire blue also got a thumbs up. As for the chocolate brownie and cinder toffee trifle, with chocolate fudge sauce and salted caramel cream, it was too much - tasty but so, so, sweet.
An unorthodox Christmas meal but all in all, I think Cosy Club diners will have plenty of reasons to look forward to this festive season .
Brad Barnes joins Cosy Club, Stamford, for the launch of the Christmas menu. More at www.cosyclub.co.uk