The first thing I do when I sit down to write one of these reviews (and there have been hundreds) is think about how to start it; waffle about why I went to the place (it had recently celebrated its first anniversary), maybe something quirky that happened, or dive straight in with the food - which was (is) amazing.
No, I thought I would deal with the elephant in the room; The Chubby Castor is - and I say this without a hint of criticism - expensive. I would go as far to say I applaud the statement chef patron Adebola Adeshina has made: This is our venue, this is our service, this is our cooking, these are our ingredients, and this is how much it costs. There has been no dumbing down to find a lower common denominator with customers.
The Chubby Castor is, if you don’t know, the former Fitzwilliam Arms (for hundreds of years) and latterly Fratelli’s (a decade) which has been refurbed - or as much as you can a stone-built, thatched Listed Building.
It is light and spacious with lots of nice touches - from the service (formality without being stuffy), to the crockery, cutlery, the glasses. These are the things you pay for, as is the glorious food of course.
I reviewed the great value set menu a year ago which I described as making what is on offer more accessible, but going a la carte does take things up a notch, at a price, as I have mentioned.
So here is how things panned out.
I strangely feel fresh bread at the better places I frequent is a good indication of where they are at. Here, a lovely light brioche with sea salt butter formed the first piece of my French connection.
Amuse bouche came in the form of a joyously soft black pudding “sausage roll” with ever-so delicate pastry.
My starter - a French speciality boudin blanc (£14) - was a new one on me. A meaty sausage, made with chicken thigh meat, accompanied by small and juicy girolle mushrooms, shallots (sausage and onions what’s not to like?) and a telling chirozo and red pepper sauce. Ooh la la.
Continuing the Gallic theme, Tournedos Rossini (£33)- a French classic that was a real thing of beauty and has me salivating as I write.
The centre pice was the dry aged Red Poll fillet - nice colouration and beautifully pink and cooked throughout. How do they do that?
The duck liver parfait looked like a quenelle of sorbet, had the consistency of thick yoghurt but delivered an almighty hit of liver. Wow.
They were accompanied by a beautiful soft brioche, which soaked up the sauce, spinach, King Oyster mushroom and a Bordelaise jus.
A wonderful sweet dark chocolate sponge (£10) rounded the meal off with an incredible mint ice cream that tasted just like fresh mint from the garden.
My wife was equally impressed. Her yellowfin tuna starter (£14) served with a deep fried oyster, and soy braised fennel and cucumber was simple yet stunning (the photo just doesn’t do it justice!).
The panfried monkfish, soft and buttery, was delightful and was partnered with clams, purple sprouting broccoli, a watercress puree, Tokyo turnips and curry velouté (£24), while we shared a mouth-watering truffle cauliflower cheese (£4.50).
She rounded things off nicely with a perfectly risen and nutty pistachio soufflé topped with black sesame ice cream (£9).
A stunning meal washed down with a couple of glasses of red. Lunch doesn’t get any better than this, does it?
Brad Barnes goes a la Carte at The Chubby Castor, in the village of Castor www.thechubbycastor.com
Brad’s rating: 10