After a December spent swanning around in 30-degree heat, reacclimatising to the Great British weather proved painful. School runs in the dark, ravaged skin, ice encrusted motor – you know the drill.
The morning of 14 January proved the last frosty straw prompting me to clear my diary and book lunch with an equally confused other half for whom a sandwich just wouldn’t cut it. We needed warmth and some serious comfort food. But where? Considering this dilemma, we plumped for The High Field for a number of reasons – mainly because we agreed! The opening night in late 2014 was a stonking great party that said ‘we’ve arrived and you’ll never want to leave’. The place was packed to its beautiful rafters with local lovelies quaffing free flowing vino and nibbling delicious canapés. The seventeenth establishment from the clever sticks at Peach Pubs, The High Field got off to a dream start and has been thriving since.
We slipped our way down Highfield Road like a couple of pensioners and plonked ourselves in a cosy booth near the open kitchen. The food menu headed Winter at the High Field was just what the doctor ordered. There was a roast of the day along with warming dishes such as mulled lamb stew, coq au vin, butternut squash tart tatin and salmon fishcakes. Comforting creamy mash featured heavily too. There’s also an interesting Deli section with five ‘boards’ to choose from – cheese, charcuterie, favourites, fish or veggie. They sounded great, just not for today. The drinks list appealed too with a Winter Warmer section of mulled cider, an adapted version of Pimms, Baileys latte and hot buttered rum. The wine list, as you’d expect from Peach, is a winner and pretty reasonable. I chose a pleasing Argentinian malbec while the other half slurped a super chardonnay.
We happily devoured a dish of tasty olives and a warm mini loaf with roasted garlic butter as we admired the cleverly designed decor. An eclectic mix of upholstery, natural materials and rustic wooden crates sit alongside a swish, well stocked bar and sleek lighting which makes for a cool, relaxed vibe. Floor to ceiling folding doors revealed an impressive terrace housing a handful of dedicated smokers huddled together keeping warm like penguins on the ice. Onto the food. I chose from the specials board in the form of a celeriac and pear soup with crispy bacon to start and Aubrey Allen’s faggots to follow. The other half opted for a winter salad of Clonakilty black pudding, poached egg, bacon lardons and a caramelised apple dressing then good ol’ fish and chips. The smooth creamy soup was just perfect with salty bacon and crunchy croutons and while I didn’t try the other half’s salad – not a fan of black pudding – I know it was good. He polished it off with much fanfare and praise. For the mains, I don’t know why I chose faggots as it’s not the kind of dish I’d normally go for, but I was pleased I’d gone off-piste. Made with pork and lamb, they were packed full of sage and seasoning and were cooked beautifully. The mustard mash and rich jus were delicious too. Very satisfying and warming.
The accompaniments to the fish were superb – minted peas, tartar sauce and great chips. The fish itself was really tasty, but the batter was a bit greasy. My theory, for what it’s worth, is that maybe it was one of the first fish of the service and the oil wasn’t hot enough. Subsequent fish left the kitchen looking much crisper and darker in colour. Anyway, it didn’t spoil lunch – just a minor gripe. Reluctant to leave, we indulged in a wholly unnecessary dessert. A super hazelnut parfait with Valrhona hot chocolate sauce was sweet and nutty. A maple pannacotta with berry coulis proved a hit too, but could have done with a bit more of the sauce.
For a slippery Wednesday the place was surprisingly busy and according to manager Sarah they’ve been blown away by how lively trade has been. Certainly the cracking launch would have provided an initial boost, but that wouldn’t keep people coming back. It’s surely the winning combination of happy staff, a warm welcome, great wine and delicious food that has punters returning again and again. If they had rooms we’d still be there. We’ve heard good things about breakfast…