As some of you know if you follow me on Instagram (@autumndays_) I turned 23 on Thursday – literally can’t believe I am 23! Anyway, I wanted to celebrate by going to one of the most recommended restaurants in my hometown of Newbury. Opened in 2014 by Michelin star chef, John Campbell, The Woodspeen was THE perfect place to celebrate my birthday and have some truly magnificent food.

Glad rags on, we were ready to go! We arrived at the restaurant and was completely amazed by its architecture – it was a building that was once a run-down pub, now with the addition of a floor to ceiling glass extension to the rear of the original pub shell the restaurant oozes style.

The Woodspeen bar

The Woodspeen bar

Walking in we were greeted by a waitress with a very friendly smile, who offered us to either have a drink at the bar or to go straight to our table – I was starving so I said straight to the table (I am always hungry of course!).  We were escorted by our host to our table in an airy, modern but luxurious dining room. Our table was in the corner, but it still felt light and clearly had no expense spared when it came to the décor. From our table we could see the open kitchen, where chefs were making our amazing food just meters away. We sat down on chairs which were draped in what could only be descried as Mongolian fur rugs, making the chairs the most comfortable things to sit on. This was the little touch really set me in stride of the restaurant being impeccable.

Inside The Woodspeen

Open kictchen

Open kitchen

 

Once we had all got to grips with the sheer beauty of the restaurant, we were served complimentary homemade bread, butter and pots of homemade red pepper humus – this humus was to die for, perfectly spiced and seasoned with a hint of oil. A great way to start an evening of fantastic food.

With drinks following, we ordered our starters and two waiters came over balancing them on their forearms – it was amazing because they knew who had ordered what and just put the plate down in front of you, wishing us to enjoy the marvellous creations set in front of us. I chose, alongside one of friends to have roasted scallops, pork cheek, mulled wine pears with a thyme and shallot puree. I cannot tell you how divine this was – I am a big fan of scallops, but these were perfectly cooked and the gamey/smokiness of the pork cheek and mulled wine pears complimented it so well. One of my friends ordered pigeon with a pickled parsnip, apple and watercress with a malt crumb. And the other ordered a wild mushroom risotto with aged parmesan and balsamic. All of us were blown away by the presentation and flavours of our dishes. I devoured mine, and couldn’t wait for the main.

Roasted scallops, pork cheek, mulled wine pears, thyme and shallot puree

Roasted scallops, pork cheek, mulled wine pears, thyme and shallot puree

Pigeon, pickled allotment parsnip, apple and watercress, malt crumb

Pigeon, pickled allotment parsnip, apple and watercress, malt crumb

 

Service was swift and we had only had about 5-10 minutes between our starters and main courses – just enough time to get over how amazing this Michelin star food was, we were graced again with even more excellent food. Three of the four of us had rib eye steak with mushroom gratin, chips and a balsamic salad. They raved about the tenderness and size of the steak. It really did look delicious. I stepped out my ‘normal’ food comfort zone and went for beef fillet with a cheek fritter, shallot, black kale and smoked mash in a red wine sauce. My mouth is literally watering thinking about it now – the presentation was impeccable once again. The tenderness and flavour of the beef fillet just melted in your mouth. Alongside the creamy mash and crunchy kale, the cheek fritter really added a different level to the taste of the dish – I would say it added a real meaty-kind-of taste to the dish and a new texture which complimented the softness of the beef fillet and mash. By the time I had eaten a good three-quarters of the dish, with lots of mmmm-ing and ‘oh my word this is so good’ I was truly full. You think of Michelin star food as being super tiny portions, but these portions were just right – I mean we wanted to have a whole three courses, so we needed to leave a bit of room for desert.

Beef fillet, cheek fritter, shallot, black kale and smoked mash, red wine sauce

Beef fillet, cheek fritter, shallot, black kale and smoked mash, red wine sauce

 

Deserts followed and nothing was compromised – not taste, nor texture, nor flavours and definitely not presentation. Two of us had white chocolate crèmeux with passion fruit and scorched pineapple which looked divine. The other had an egg custard tart with nutmeg ice cream which got an ‘oh my goodness that looks amazing’ comment as the waiter brought it over, see picture below.

Egg custard tart with nutmeg ice cream

Egg custard tart with nutmeg ice cream

 

I ordered a mint and raspberry pavlova which was perfect to have after a big meal – I wouldn’t say the meal had been heavy but I did feel full and definitely well-fed! However, the raspberry and mint definitely helped to not feel as full by the end. My meringue was light and had the perfect chewiness. The raspberry sorbet was impeccably shaped (see the picture below) and cleansed my pallet to a certain extent. The meringue was filled with what I could only describe as a mint cream – it probably has a name but it was thick and creamy and burst with the flavour of mint.

Mint and raspberry pavlova

Mint and raspberry pavlova

 

Throughout the evening, the waiters and waitresses were serving diners their food whilst what I would deem as the maître d of the restaurant would never let our wine glasses fall below a certain line. The staff really were so attentive and I felt myself saying thank you about a thousand times just to show them how grateful I was for presenting such marvellous food to me.

We were just about to get the bill, when our waiter came over with a dish in his hand and a lit candle. He said that there was a special birthday on the table, glowing red from embarrassment I put my hand up and he placed the dish in front of me. A beautiful chocolate macaron with a small candle alight with ‘happy birthday’ in chocolate writing around it. Not wanting to draw attention to the table or myself I quickly blew out the candle and devoured the beautifully succulent and luxurious tasting macaron – a simple but beautiful touch to end the evening.

Birthday macaroon

Birthday macaroon

 

After having such a lovely evening at The Woodspeen, I would go back every night if I could. The food was utterly to die for, I have been awakened by flavours and meats that I wouldn’t normally choose on a menu and my expectations of the restaurant were exceeded. I would recommend The Woodspeen Restaurant to anyone as it really is a fantastic culinary experience, and I honestly would say it was worth every penny. I know from friends and on their website that John Campbell offers tasting menus and a cookery school, so The Woodspeen isn’t just a restaurant – his cookery school ranges from meats to dinner party food to even patisserie; I know what I’m putting on my Christmas list!

Head over to The Woodspeen website to check out all their seasonal menus, cookery school and sampling menu.