It seems obvious, yet so few abide by a simple rule of cooking; start with great ingredients and you will end up with a great dish. I am living proof that with a good butcher (Roger Browns of Harborne, if you’re interested) and a trusty place to get veg, even the most inept of cooks can rustle up something edible. Transfer the produce to someone much more capable and what you have is culinary fireworks. The Talbot Inn, a sleepy pub in Newnham Bridge, doesn’t have far to look for its raw material. Nestled in amongst the borders of Worcestershire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire, it has some of England’s finest bounty on it’s doorstep. From the windows of the former coaching inn it is possible to see tomorrows dinner grazing up on the hills.
It is pleasing to know that the Talbot is making the most of its location by sourcing as much as possible from its doorstep, and its at these moments that the menu really sings. Bubble and Squeak, a leftover dish often relegated to breakfast in our household, came with a poached egg and a sharp hollandaise that made for a gutsy starter. In between the mound of veg and egg sat a piece of back bacon from a pig that had led a happy life; the porcine flavour present with a layer of unctuous fat to coat the mouth.
A hefty portion of goats cheese was warmed through came with some lightly pickled pear that provided contrast and acidity. A fig and balsamic dressing balanced the whole dish out by further interplaying the sweet and the sour. A fish cake of salmon and crayfish that benefited from not being overloaded with mash potato nodded politely at the far east with a salad of spring onions and sweet chilli sauce.
A carefully roasted beef dinner and another of pork both had some good roasties, creamed cabbage, and heritage carrots that were seemingly plucked out of the ground just hours before. We sat around the table discussing how the meat was of obvious quality whilst agreeing that the carrots were the best things on the plate. Another plate had more of the superb carrots with a compression of sweet potato and parsnip as the centrepiece. A tomato and herb sauce added vibrancy to the earthiness of the root veg, all of which were impeccably fresh.
After all this, desserts failed to reach the expectations set from earlier on. Not because they were bad in any way, but because they followed the same rustic lines as the savoury courses and lacked the refinement required to make it stand out. A fruit crumble was well made, though a lemon and lime posset was the pick of the bunch; the marginally over-set cream was sharp with citrus and worked well with both the sweet mango salsa and coconut shortbreads.
Speaking to our waitress after the meal I got a sense of the ambitions here. The Talbot’s website may play down the cooking here as “relaxed rustic food”, but it’s obvious they are aiming much higher than that. It’s a well thought out operation with real care made to the sourcing and cooking of its food. For a business that has only been operating for two years it has found its feet remarkably fast; it can only be a matter of time before the accolades and crowds come trotting along just as quickly.