If Birmingham ever feels a bit quiet in the eating out stakes, we know why. It turns out the world and his wife are in Henley-in-Arden, a place that boasts enough cracking foodie options per capita to give the big smoke a run for its money.
We popped down to the picturesque village on a Friday night expecting a quiet supper and were confronted with a buzzing food and drink scene that might knock spots off any city. You know all about our love for Cheal’s – some of you questioned our impartiality such was the gushing after a birthday lunch last year – well, just opposite Cheal’s is The Butcher’s Social. You might recognise the name as it started life in Harborne doing amazing things with the humble chicken wing. Now established in its new home it’s all grown up.
Lively is an understatement. A small, but beautiful bar area was packed with people quaffing gin – we recommend the Cotswold gin served with a slice of grapefruit – and great beer, snacking on chicken wings among other delicious looking morsels. Out back, the forty-ish cover restaurant was all Farrow and Ball-esque dark walls with a great lighting game that’s gone straight into the fantasy mood board in our mind.
We ate from the a la carte menu which was a belter. Scallops served in a moreish Roscoff onion broth with charred baby leeks was seriously tasty although the liquid meant that the lovely crust you get from a pan-fried scallop was lost. It tasted great though. Glazed pig cheek was melt in the mouth tender and packed with flavour served with pickle kohlrabi for a nice bit of zing.
Lamb navarin with a lamb wellington and sweetbreads was a mammoth plate of food – more than enough for two. The navarin bit was absolutely superb as was the sweetbread and the deliciously sweet heritage carrots. The lamb in the wellington was cooked perfectly, but the sheer size of the dish defeated us.
Pan fried cod was beautifully cooked with a delicious lobster and lemon beurre blanc. It was served with a cod roe potato rosti that we didn’t really get. It wasn’t crisp on the outside which you’d expect from a rosti and I know this sounds bonkers given it’s a fish dish, but it tasted overly fishy for our humble palate.
This is without doubt a place we’d like to spend more time. It felt like a proper buzzing local restaurant that we’d be delighted to have on our doorstep. Hugely popular for Sunday lunch, head chef and owner Mike tells us they’re regularly doing 200-plus covers every week which rises to 400 once it’s warm enough to make use of the garden area. We can see why.