The Wine House stands on the site of what was Joe Delucci’s, an horrific sounding place where, I am told, barbaric things happened to cows that should be punishable with a lengthy sentence in one of Her Majesty’s hotels. I never went to Delucci’s, but I hear that grey steaks and frozen chips were the norm. It sounds like hell. Or Beefeater. Either way, its not for my taste, or, it appears, that of the locals. Its gone. And good riddance, too. The people of Lichfield deserve better.
In its place we have the aforementioned The Wine House, a bare bricked, wooden floored, restaurant that looks the part. Its ambitious – overly so at times – giving the impression that there is a very good restaurant lurking behind one that is still finding its feet. The menu is a large offering that extensively covers both land and sea, with plenty of room for impulsive splurges, such as a 7oz wagyu fillet at a pokey sixty five quid.
A starter of beef carpaccio is well conceived. The thinly sliced fillet is of obvious quality, lifted and seasoned by a little grated horseradish and slithers of parmesan. There is further complexity with well dressed rocket and dots of pickled cauliflower. Yet at £8.00 for three slices, the value is debatable. There was no doubting the value of spring rolls, vivid in colour due to its generous filling of beetroot and goats cheese. Its all technically correct – the brik pastry is crisp, its interior properly seasoned – and we pile high the broken off shards of pasty with the last of the chilli jam, addictively hot and sweet. A take on yuk sung with duck is a success, though they may want to calm it down a little on the star anise. I liked it more with the chilli jam, but then I’d like most things more with it.
Mains dropped the standard a little. Least notable was a pretty filo pie, generous in size yet unremarkable in flavour with its filling of halloumi and roasted veg. A lamb dish saw the rump served on the cusp of nearly being too rare, the meat magenta in colour and deep in taste. There was a second cut of braised belly and a fricassee of peas; the two elements providing the needed shade and light on the plate. I would have liked more of the sticky sauce, but that’s me just being picky; this was solid, assured cooking. A short rib pie was nothing of the sort, consisting of two whole ribs which required longer in the pressure cooker, mash, peas, and thick gravy with bacon and shallots. It encompassed everything that frustrates me about deconstruction. If the menu says pie, I want pie. At the minimum I want pastry. This was a homely dish that needs a little rework and a lot of rebranding.
Too replete, we skipped dessert, though I was tempted by the black cherry panna cotta which appealed to me on every level. The bill, with too much to drink, was a very reasonable £40 per head – undoubtedly good value for the quality served. False promises of pie aside, there was little to dislike about the food we ate and a lot to admire. I’ll be back in time to see if The Wine House has grown into the restaurant that I hope it will become.