The tempura coating was delicate, golden and crisp; the fish fillet inside light, fluffy and whiter than a reality TV star’s teeth; the honey glazed carrots were a delight and the peas fresh-tasting and sweet, set against the salty crispy kale.
The fact that I am describing one of the children’s meals from Saturday’s lunch at The Wicked Witch in Ryhall, near Stamford, in such glowing terms is a hint to how good it was for us grown-ups.
If I am honest I expected nothing less. It has been, since my first visit in December 2014, my favourite restaurant. And as Donna reminded me, we returned in the January for her birthday, February for Valentine’s Day and March for Mother’s Day.
It is a great countryside setting, there is a comfortable bar and two dining areas, one, where we sat, which is nice and bright.
The menu- we had the “set” version for lunchtime - is still a thing of joy.
My starter was a great example of how keeping things simple can still provide something special. Marinated figs with Parma ham, pressed gala melon and balsamic vinegar. Four very different flavours and ever so enjoyable.
Donna, a lover of seafood, was in food heaven – cured cod, pickled cucumber, caviar, plankton and yogurt sorbet. Again a great flavour combination. Faultless.
There were four choices of main, and all equally delectable. Panfried chicken breast with pak choi, ginger bhaji, bangal potatoes and tikka sauce and blue cheese and pear risotto with micro herbs and parmesan were overlooked.
I just loved the sound of my choice - and with chef Dameon Clarke the creator, you never know quite what is going to be served up. What you do know is it will be a treat for your tastebuds and the presentation will be a thing of beauty.
And so it was - the roast barbary duck breast was stunning - nice and pink in the middle and a litle crisp on top; it came with confit celeriac, crispy kale, parsnip and violet potatoes, with a fantastic jus. What’s not to like?
Donna, meanwhile, was equally as enthusiastic about her main course - a lovely piece of roast seabass, topped with scallops, and accompanied by mussels, squash and a pesto sauce that saw a spoon called into action.
The girls finished off with ice cream while I tucked into a cheesecake topped with caramel and accompanied by honeycomb with salted caramel ice cream.
Donna wrapped things up with warm gulab - light, spongey and very moist - with stem ginger ice cream and almond.
Three courses for £17.95, great, friendly service and a lovely, informal setting means lunch doesn’t get any better than this.
VENUE: Brad Barnes dines at The Wicked Witch, Bridge Street, Ryhall. Tel 01780 763649 www.thewickedwitchexperience.co.uk