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Michelin star for Bagnor restaurant The Blackbird

West Berkshire now has two Michelin star restaurants, as The Blackbird joins The Woodspeen on the prestigious list. Hilary Scott visited the newly-crowned star restaurant last year and had nothing but praise for the fine cooked seasonal fare

There’s a poem on the wall of the quaint Bagnor pub The Blackbird – funnily enough about a blackbird and it is believed to be an old Somerset folk song.

It reads:
Where be that Blackbird to?
I know where ’e be.
’E be up yon wurzel Tree
’N I be arter he.
’E sees I
’N I sees ’e
Jigger’d if I won’t get ’im
Wi a ruddy gurt stick
I’ll knock ’e down
Blackbird I’ll have ’e!

Now, whether this poet was a farmer worried about the blackbird eating his produce or whether he simply wanted to eat him Sing a Song of Sixpence-style we don’t know.

But it certainly gave us food for thought as we sat down to dine at this charming olde worlde pub with bang-up-to-date cooking.

Just open for a short time, Dom and Marliz Robinson have taken on a labour of love. It’s pretty, has an original tiled floor, an American harmonium in the corner (if anyone can play it they are welcome to contact the pub for carols around it this Christmas), and modern prints mixed with country cottage paintings. It simply exudes charm.

But it’s the food that should lure you in. A short menu means seasonal and fresh dishes, and all served on delightful old-fashioned china. It was hard to fault anything.

Our choices to start were, for me, a venison tartare (£9) – not-too-finely chopped rich venison topped with slices of Jerusalem artichoke, a truffle mayo, hazelnuts and micro herbs with a generous grating of fresh black truffle. It was autumn on a plate.

My companion had a huge River Kennet crayfish ravioli covered with a foamy bisque and buttered leeks (£9). The ravioli filling was mousse-like, yet packed a real fish flavour. Light, fresh and memorable.


  Venison tartare                                                                River Kennet crayfish ravioli

Next was a partridge (£16) carved into legs and breasts on top of buttery mash, a tube of fried foie gras wrapped in a cabbage leaf, choucoutre (a kind of sauerkraut, but this was mild and not too sharp) and a rich jus. The partridge was tender and cooked just right and it was good to veer away from the usual sweet sauce for the gamebird.

The other main was a stunning sight – a plump piece of pink trout with a crispy skin surrounded by a light rosy grapefruit sauce and alongside a fondant potato with the veg, spinach, hidden below (£14). The grapefruit was a revelation and proved that any citrus works well with fish. This was the one we wanted the recipe for.


  Partridge                                                                            Trout

Desserts felt like a walk through autumn leaves too – a prune and Armagnac sundae (£6) was soft and yielding to the spoon and revealed luscious prunes flavoured with the brandy, cream and more.

I opted for a chocolate fondant (£7), always a test, with blackberries and what the menu said was evaporated milk.

Now that took me right back to my childhood and puddings of tinned peaches or mandarin oranges with Carnation evaporated milk straight out of the can, with its lid pierced by dad at the table.

In fact, this was velvety evaporated milk ice cream and with a biscuit crumb also on the plate, the textures and tastes were just right. And the fondant oozed generously, as it should.


  Chocolate fondant                                                         Prune and Armagnac sundae

Our wine from an impressive list was English – a New Hall Vineyards from Chelmsford White Pinot, which had a peachy blush and was light and fruity.

And we must not forget the bread served with our meal – Dom’s home-made treacley-tasting rye with a real hint of sweetness, so good we asked for it twice.


  Rye bread                                                                         Blackbird interior

Dom has, in fact, just returned from Dubai after many years and, as many of his London friends had moved to the Home Counties, he began looking for a village pub where he could settle with wife Marliz and their two young daughters.

While the family feel lucky they found The Blackbird, we should think ourselves lucky The Blackbird found them.

And like the poem I quoted at the start, we should all ‘be arter’ this very appealing bird. But simply to celebrate it.

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