Sunday lunch in a restaurant is generally a bit of a flop. Eateries that are superb on any other day but the Sabbath seem to fall at the altar of the mighty roast, but why?
Is it because chefs find it dull? After all, there’s probably less creative freedom than any other day of the week. Does the chef have a day off? Or perhaps it’s down to ingredients – there’s nowhere to hide with a hunk of roasted meat and a slug of gravy. Whatever the reason, it’s odd. So, sampling Sunday lunch at one of my favourite haunts wasn’t high on my list of things to do for fear of ruining it. However, one sunny Sunday in a moment of weakness I was ushered to the beloved Forest by a salivating husband and a duo of persuasive daughters. Fingers crossed.
The Forest has been the backdrop to many girlie nights out and has impressed without exception. The service has always been fantastic, the place decked out beautifully and the food superb. I was just hoping lunch would stack up too. The place looked different by day – more top notch gastro pub than restaurant. I noticed different aspects like the sun streaming in, the games selection in the bar, the art on the walls and the pretty garden. One of the joys of having young children and serving breakfast at 6.45am is that by 12.30pm we’re famished. An early table was much easier to accommodate than later, so happy days. General manager Lucas greeted us and popped us at a very nice table in the sun-baked extension. The wine list is a gem from which we opted for a lively Gavi. The menu sounded great and amid the roast meat there were some refreshing alternatives like the cod and crab fishcakes which I’d had before and thoroughly recommend, or a tart fine with roasted red onions, feta and fig. To start I was tempted by the roasted field mushrooms on toast with Devon blue cheese, walnut and rocket which was rich, moreish and a pretty good start. JC enjoyed the chicken liver parfait with pickles, red onion marmalade and toast. It could have done with being half the size, but it was pleasing none the less and the pink peppercorn butter around the parfait was very tasty. The girls polished off some ‘delicious’ olives and warm sun dried tomato bread while the tables around us filled up quickly creating a lively buzz. There was even a rendition of Happy Birthday for one diner enjoying a celebratory family lunch.
While there was a very reasonable children’s menu at £7 for two courses, it was half portions of roast beef for the girls which the chef was happy to accommodate. I opted for roast beef too and JC the pork. The beef – Aubrey Allen’s finest was absolutely amazing, cooked to pink perfection and accompanied by delicious gravy, tasty veggies and a sizeable yorkie. Hurrah! Everything you’d want from a roast. The pork was amazing too with crunchy salty crackling and fantastic gravy. The children’s portions were a perfect size and they loved it. Their beef was thoughtfully cooked a tad more than mine and wasn’t pink at all, so if your children prefer their meat blushing it’s probably best to ask. I’m not a dessert person, but assured that the raspberry and pistachio tart was neither too sweet nor too big, I thought I’d give it a whirl. The girls chose a scoop of ice cream from a fantastic selection of flavours while JC opted for a halfway house of espresso served with a miniature sweet. Firstly, the ice cream is seriously good and secondly, the tart is the best dessert I’ve eaten. Ever. I’ve racked my brains since and despite eating at plenty of brilliant restaurants, lots of them adorned with Michelin stars, I can’t come up with one that tops it. As we left, still gushing about dessert, I felt very relieved that rather than spoiling one of my favourite places, Sunday lunch had actually enhanced it. We walked our considerable lunch off in an actual forest a stone’s throw from the restaurant feeling rather pleased with ourselves. Hallelujah.