Boozy desserts can be a letdown — often the alcohol plays a too minor a role. Not at The Unruly Pig. Here, the whisky custard — poured liberally over fluffy pistachio sponge with a light honeyed touch — has a real kick. Of course, technically, the sponge should have top billing in this dish — but this isn’t custard to be messed with. What’s more, it’s fantastic.
Now, I admit, I generally don’t have much confidence in pub food. Perhaps it’s a touch of snobbery on my part, but I’ve been disappointed before by the overhyped menus of rural ale houses. But The Unruly Pig is a pub with a rep. And it certainly looks the part. The building dates back to the 16th century and the old timber beams and log fires are matched with splashes of well-chosen modern art and furniture that make everything cosy while somehow elevating it above your standard ale-stained tavern.
And when it comes to the menu, from the off, they get it. There’s a Drivers’ Drinks list, including a Lemon Curd Spritz: big tick. Nibbles include arancini that crack like the first step in snow, then give way to a mouthful of rich Mediterranean piggy (nduja and chorizo) muddled with Taleggio cheese and a fizz of chilli. It’s the best start to a meal I’ve had in ages. And we’re not even technically on the starters. A thick curl of charcoal-grilled octopus with a spicy sausage puree, apple and fennel is the winner here, although chubby oysters in warming leek and potato velouté is a close second — especially on a cold winter’s day.
After a start like that, the main courses don’t quite hit the same level. It’s not that they aren’t good, but they perhaps lack the pizazz of the arancini. Take, for instance, the 11oz pork T-bone with macaroni cheese. It is what it is — really good pork with really good macaroni cheese. If that’s what you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. A special of rose veal with wild mushroom and blue cheese risotto is big strips of tasty meat on a comforting bed of umami richness. The winner, though, is the partridge. Not just because the butter-roasted breasts are so wonderfully plump, but because it comes with a confit leg pie that seems to pack the flavour of 10 birds into one little pastry parcel. It’s delicious, filling, and makes the most of this relatively lightly flavoured game bird.
Which brings us to the end, which was where this review started. Remember the whisky custard? I do, but only just. Three-course meal for two with wine around £86. theunrulypig.co.uk
Published in Issue 1 of National Geographic Traveller Food