Published on August 18th, 2013 | by Nottingham Drinker0
Fare Deals 117 – The Anchor & The Wilford Green Pub & Kitchen
John Westlake seeks out some of the places in our area where good food and good ale go hand in hand
Back in 1774, it was originally intended to build the Anchor alongside the nearby Grantham Canal, but the centre of Plungar was eventually decided upon instead, its pleasing, redbrick, Georgian frontage facing straight down Church Lane in this tidy, Vale of Belvoir village, just across the county boundary in Leicestershire where the pub also once served as the local courtroom. Today it comprises a comfortable, L-shaped lounge with real fires, banquette seating and plenty of prints and pictures of village life around the walls; a small pool room to the rear and on the left, Marco’s Restaurant, a neat little dining room extension with polished pine tables and padded chairs set against an attractive magenta and pale grey colour scheme. Along the bar, handpulls offer an ever-changing choice of up to three cask-conditioned beers, often from local micros, with Welbeck Red Feather (3.9% abv) and citrusy Oakham Inferno (4% abv) in residence on the occasion of this visit. Meanwhile, to the rear is a small, paved beer garden with steps leading to a small, adjacent car park, which has a tendency to overflow during busy periods.
Clutching a glass of well-kept, nutty Red Feather, I seek out a quiet table where I can give due consideration to what is on offer. The dinner menu is particularly tempting as it includes one of my favourites, crispy duck confit, here served with homemade chilli jam (£4.50) as one of the starters, possibly to be followed by homemade venison pie with chunky chips (£8.50), but I am here at lunchtime and the menu is a little more restricted. Nevertheless, grilled asparagus with a fried egg and some more of their homemade chilli jam as a prelude to roast pork fillet, glazed apple, broccoli and Parmentier potatoes, served with a cider sauce sounds not only promising but jolly good value considering both courses are priced at just £8.50 for the lot (three courses £11.50).
The first thing to arrive is a small wicker basket containing a light and fluffy homemade wholemeal roll together with a pat of slightly salted Lurpak. The bread has been nicely warmed through and provides something to nibble at while waiting for things to happen. And they happen pretty quickly with the almost immediate arrival of a plate bearing a more than adequate helping of green and perfectly cooked asparagus spears, glossy with butter beneath a nicely runny fried egg and edged by a couple of swirls of the house’s vibrant chilli jam. It is all very tasty and my only regret, from a personal point of view, is that the ratio of chilli heat and sweetness in the jam could not have been in reverse order, just to give the dish a little extra kick.
The Welbeck beer is proving to be an excellent accompaniment as I await the main event, which I am soon admiring with a degree of incredulity as to how the Anchor can afford to be so generous at these prices. A very healthy helping of thickly sliced, prime pork fillet topped with a chunky roundel of glazed apple, three large broccoli florets and a mound of diced potatoes, which have been cooked in butter and nicely browned in the oven, have all been neatly assembled and surrounded by a well-executed, delicate, creamy sauce. The meat is beautifully tender and flavoursome, especially against the tartness of the fruit, the broccoli still retains a welcome bit of firmness to the bite, while the soft centred potatoes are just the job for soaking up the sauce, which is much too good to leave any behind. This may be more akin to top quality home cooking rather than cordon bleu but there is nothing wrong with that. And for such a modest outlay, it probably represents the best value meal deal to be found anywhere in the Vale.
In addition to such homely desserts as treacle pudding with honeycomb ice cream (£4), it is nice to see the option of having biscuits and cheese (£4.50). But just because you are in this neck of the woods, don’t go thinking it must be blue Stilton. Blue, yes, but according to the dinner menu, the selection here is Cashel Blue, an Irish farmhouse cheese, together with Dorset Red. Now that’s a bit different!
In 1846, Spencer Hall, a local poet, posed the question: “Who ever saw Wilford without wishing to become an inmate of one of its peaceful woodbined homes?” Located just to the south of the River Trent, Wilford did indeed retain its tranquil village identity until well into the latter half of the 19th century when, in 1870, Clifton Colliery opened just across the river, followed by a period of rapid urbanisation in the surrounding area. Today Wilford forms part of the Nottingham conurbation, a fact soon to be emphasised by its place on one of the new tram lines, and right at its heart is the Wilford Green Pub & Kitchen sitting smack on the junction of Wilford Lane and St Ervan Road, which older readers may remember as once having been a Home Ales tied house originally called the Maypole, but now reincarnated as a very different place. The low-slung exterior has been refurbished with olive green and cream paintwork; there is a sizeable, flagstoned, outside drinking area with sturdy garden furniture shaded by mature trees and ample parking is provided towards the rear. Stepping inside reveals a light and airy, sophisticated, open-plan space, perhaps more bistro than pub, but skilfully broken up into more intimate drinking and dining areas with lots of polished wood and décor executed in muted shades of brown and turquoise. Along the bar, four handpumps offer Caledonian Flying Scotsman (4% abv) and Castle Rock Harvest Pale (3.8% abv) together with two regularly changing guest beers, whilst blackboards announce sharing platters alongside a short tally of daily specials to supplement the standard lunch and slightly more extensive dinner menus.
Selecting a table by the window, I start to ponder the lunchtime offerings, which at this time of day also include an interesting choice of hot and cold sandwiches with an optional pot of chips. Feeling rather more peckish, however, I decide to kick off with a homemade, pan-fried fishcake served with a mixed leaf salad and tartare sauce (£4.10), although the mushrooms on toast with a rich, creamy garlic and herb sauce (£4.90) sound equally tempting. It is not long before I am admiring a reassuringly plump, golden creation placed beside a small mound of salad leaves, which have been drizzled with a delicate dressing and completing the ensemble, a neat little Kilner jar containing a well-made, crunchy sauce, its lid flipped open and supporting a wedge of lemon. The fishcake itself is delightfully firm within its crispy coating yet smooth in texture and best of all, the taste buds are left in no doubt about its fishy ingredients. So far so good but will the main course manage to avoid letting the side down? I am soon to discover, however, that this is home to some very competent cooking and I have nothing to worry about.
Two of local butcher Andrew Marsden’s sausages served on thyme mash with onion gravy (£9.50) nearly get my vote but it is the roast chicken breast presented with pan haggarty, Irish cabbage and tarragon sauce (£10.90) that eventually wins me over, if only for its unusual accompaniments. Once again service is pretty brisk and in a very short space of time I have before me a stylish, narrow, oblong plate bearing a nicely browned piece of chicken, albeit a little on the small size in my opinion, sitting atop a mound of properly cooked, shredded cabbage mixed with chopped carrots and thinly sliced bacon lardons. Alongside is a good slice of the pan haggarty, a hearty dish from the north east of England comprising layers of sliced potatoes and onions cooked in a heavy frying pan, usually topped with grated cheese and finished by browning under the grill, with a delicate, herby gravy completing the dish. The chicken skin is agreeably crisp whilst the well-flavoured meat below has remained tender and succulent; the potatoes are nice and soft with crunchy bits on top, albeit I can find little evidence of the customary cheese, whilst by way of compensation, the Irish contribution is probably the best and tastiest form in which I have ever been served cabbage, and better still when washed down with a fine drop of Harvest Pale.
Apart from ice cream or sorbet (£3.50) there are just four fairly simple desserts to choose from, such as Bramley apple pie with custard, all priced at £4.50, and it is worth noting that the Monday to Saturday fixed price lunch deal offers two courses for £10.90 and three for an extra £3, although certain dishes do carry a modest surcharge.
1 Granby Lane, Plungar, Leicestershire NG13 0JJ
Tel: 01949 860589
Food served Tuesday to Friday 12 – 3 and 6 – 10. Saturday 12 – 10 and Sunday 12 – 4.
The Wilford Green Pub & Kitchen
Wilford Lane, Nottingham NG11 7AX
Tel: 0115 9815479
Food served every day 12 – 9.30 (Saturday brunch 11 – 2).