The Yew Tree, Highclere.

Our first restaurant meal of the new year didn’t go as we would have hoped. The destination, Marco Pierre Whites former country pub, The Yew Tree, is just a few minutes drive away from neighbouring Newbury. It’s idyllic setting, the menu and the cute 17th century building in which it was all wrapped just oozed charm.

Unfortunately after that things went south pretty quickly. Having arrived about 10minutes early for our 7pm reservation we were seated immediately and presented with the food menu. Roughly 15minutes went by before we were asked for our drink choices.

Whilst we’re on the subject of drinks, they have some pretty nice glassware. The sort of nice that would draw your attention whilst you were waiting for something to go in them. What wasn’t so nice, was the watermarks on both our glasses where someone had failed to do their job. Call me what you want, but smeary glasses at home I could let slip, but in a restaurant?! When not even what I consider the basics are done, I couldn’t help but wonder what else had been missed.

Drinks were sorted and within minutes our food order was taken. Bread was supposed to be the course to kick everything off, except it arrived over half way through the starters along with an apology from the waitress. We all make mistakes I thought as I grabbed a slice from the mixed bread basket. They shouldn’t have bothered or at least words to that effect came from my sweet as pie, butter wouldn’t melt looking girlfriend as she to dived in. It’s true, they really shouldn’t. A diagonally sliced piece of dry white and even drier brown bread wouldn’t be what I call a mixed basket.

Things did get better though, if only for a brief while. A starter of Pea and ham soup was both fresh in taste and appearance with a slice of ham hock submerged in the centre. For me having this as a starter was a no brainier, Ham and peas being one of my all time favourite combinations, this version up there with the best I’ve had. If I had one criticism, as a starter there was probably too much, something we soon realised would be a reoccurring theme throughout each of our courses.

My partners starter of Potted Hereford beef, Yorkshire pudding and jus was just as good. A well cooked light and crisp Yorkshire pudding sat on a board along with a jug of jus that carried a real richness and depth, perfectly matching the shredded beef.

We weren’t in any sort of rush but well over an hour into the evening our starters were only just being cleared away, perhaps due to the fact that attention had turned to the eye-watering smoke filling the room, later being informed that cause was damp wood on the open fireplace.

Lamb Cutlet, Artichoke Puree, Roast Garlic Mash, Sprouting and Jus was the main of choice for my other half. Smooth, creamy mash carried the expected, yet slightly overpowering notes of garlic, not allowing the rest of the dish to shine to its full potential.

I’m a sucker for a good bit of Pork Belly. I don’t care how cheap a cut it is, done well it can be something special. However, this wasn’t one such ocassion. A dish of Confit Pork Belly, Dauphinoise, Braised Red Cabbage, Black Pudding, Jus and Apple Puree added more disappointment to the evening. Crackling that couldn’t be further from crisp, was the start of a slab of belly that was for the most part overcooked, a feat that must have taken some doing considering its supposed low and slow cooking. The fact it was  3/4 of the way across the plate did little in making up for its cooking. Once again, the dish wasn’t all bad, the dauphinoise and braised red cabbage both doing their bit to rescue the car crash that was my main course.

Feeling like she’d had enough and me wanting to give the guys and girls at The Yew Tree a fighting chance, dessert was ordered for one. A Lemon Posset would indeed go some way to rescuing the evening. Bits of lemon coming through with every mouthful and two discs of buttery sweet shortbread was a delightfully refreshing note on which to end the meal.

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Even the size of the portions served here (an attempt I believe to cover up a bigger issue), cannot possibly justify the £75 bill for the evening, especially when taking into account the catalogue of mistakes made over the 2 hours we were there that ultimately made for a really disappointing start to 2018.

3/10

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