Chef Dom Robinson gives up Michelin star to open French cuisine restaurant Renaissant in Newbury
The former Blackbird pub at Bagnor has gone, it has a new name, Renaissant and has had an interior makeover, writes Angela Knight.
Head chef and owner, Dom Robinson, is serving up a modern interpretation of classical French cuisine in taster menus, “It’s what I love and where my passion is”.
Dom's passion has translated very well to the food he serves up.
We ate at The Blackbird pub some years ago and remember the interior resembled a vintage style sitting room with a clutter of china ornaments and dark wood furniture.
The pub has recently been transformed into a fine dining restaurant and renamed Renaissant. It has new chairs, crockery, art works, white table cloths, napkins and pristine loos. The walls are a sophisticated cream and dark cinnamon with a wooden floor. In the background jaunty french music plays softly and pot plants have been placed decoratively in corners; the ambience has been very much improved.
Renaissant had only been open for less than two weeks when we arrived for lunch in the small hamlet of Bagnor with the River Lambourn running through this picturesque setting.
We were greeted warmly by Mark, a South African who was Front of House on the day, and whose daughter Renee is an assistant chef to Dom Robinson.
We were planning to have lunch before a matinee performance at the nearby Watermill Theatre, so we only wanted a glass of wine each. Mark showed us a gadget which enables bottles to be opened and sampled then resealed, called a Coravin which pumps argon gas into the bottle to replace the oxygen. He said the wine could be stored for up to a year.
He recommended that we try a red South African Pinot Noir 2018, Sauerwein, ‘Nom”. Nom being the forgotten African Goddess of Agriculture.
Mark tells us that the menu is changed every six weeks but the staples are cray fish from the river outside and foie gras.
To start I ordered a ravioli of Kennet crayfish and sauce Nantua and my husband, John had the vegetarian option – a ragout of borlotti beans and squash, taleggio, lemon thyme in a tasty sauce.
The ravioli was very delicate and contained scallop and salmon as well.
Both dishes were delicious, the sauces so scrumptiously sumptuous that we had to order more bread to mop up the sublime flavours.
For our second tasting course we both couldn’t resist the saddle and farci of venison with carrots, a smooth mashed potato, cardamom and sauce Bigarade (the Provençal name for bitter orange).
Mark told us that the venison bones were first roasted, then put in a stock pot for 24 hours into which the vegetables were added.
Dom is a saucier by trade and each of our plates had sauces we wanted to savour.
For dessert, John had a Bavarois of malted milk with pears and hazelnuts and, being partial to chocolate, I had to have the chocolate Negus ‘Nico Ladenis’ with quince and honey ice cream. Needless to say they were exquisite.
We would have spent more time over our lunch, but found we had only two minutes to get to the matinee.
Mark admitted that it’s a challenge serving theatre goers, especially dinners pre-theatre as there are seven or eight courses and it can’t be rushed.
We will know next time to devote our time to the food and to savour every minute of Renaissant’s gastronomic performance.
The restaurant serves a Menu du Jour for lunch three days a week from Thursday to Saturday, 12noon - 2pm. £45 per person. Wine Flight £35 per person.
It also serves a Menu Hommage four days a week from Wednesday to Saturday, 6.30pm - 8pm. £85 per person. Wine Flight £55 per person.
Dom has written his first book, Born to Cook, which relates how he decided to become a cook after reading Marco Pierre White’s White Heat. Since then he has learned about techniques from around the world and he reveals his influences and inspirations of global gastronomy.
The book is available from www.awaywithmedia.com/buy-books/Dom-Robinson
When Dom closed the Blackbird he had to give up his hard-earned Michelin star. However, some Michelin inspectors had visited incognito recently – so fingers crossed for good news before Christmas.
To find out more about Renaissant visit www.restaurantrenaissant.com or instagram: @restaurant_renaissant