La Becasse, 17 Corve Street, Ludlow, Shropshire. T: 01584 872 325
Based on the fact that this is nearly in Wales, La Becasse is a bona fide destination restaurant but the four-day car journey from Birmingham is well rewarded.
Will Holland is running his own Michelin-star kitchen at the age of 29. Claude Bosi picked up two stars at the same pitch in Corve Street – then known as Hibiscus – before upping sticks for London. Holland could emulate the Gallic gourmand.
The bullet-proof three course a la carte is £55 (you’re also likely to get a chef’s appetizer and a pre-dessert). You can opt for two courses for £49, but you’d have to be potty. The epic menu gourmand is only a fiver more than the full a la carte at £60.
As you will have had to change the tyres on your Range Rover to get out here, an additional tenner for two to go gourmand isn’t worth a second thought. That said, the menu du jour offers enjoyment and value.
Three courses (with a couple of shot glasses of fun tasters) works out at £26. It’s just the ticket for a top-class munch in the country, an affordable family splurge or a discreet liaison you might slip through on expenses.
Courses on the menu du jour come in triplicate – three starters, three mains, three desserts. What’s the problem with chefs who offer endless options of mediocrity? They’re a menace.
Holland isn’t, especially if you don’t quote him, which I don’t. The day before our visit, he was on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. He got through an entire show without upsetting anybody, which is remarkable.
So to the starters: asparagus mousse came with a confit pullet egg yolk and a summer truffle dressing while the tomato gazpacho “La Becasse style” looked ravishing, el soupo shot through with a pure distillation of the fruit. I had the jellied pig’s head terrine because, well, you’ve just got to. Like all the dishes, it was perfect, cool, light with a zing injection courtesy of a sauce gribiche and caper berries.
My main course of Moroccan spiced lamb farced with couscous had lovely flavours, the rich meat offset by a tomato, coriander and chickpea salsa and divine smoked aubergine.
Our girls both went for the pan-fried sea trout fillet. Polly, the eldest, declared it the best main course she’d eaten. The trout came with puy lentils, apple puree and a curried veloute that offered total sensory satisfaction.
After giving La Becasse the big sell to Sally, her main course was a solitary blip on a grand occasion. The chargrilled chicken ballotine was with a strawberry and tarragon jus. The constituent parts were good, but made awkward bedfellows.
A pre-dessert featured elderflower and gooseberries. The latter is the only thing I cannot eat. I am told it was lovely, by Livvy, to whom I passed my glass. Traumatised, I had the excellent cheese. The party cleaned up with peach melba – thyme poached with raspberries, meringue and vanilla ice cream. Later, Holland gave me a scoop of his iced strawberry parfait with Pimms jelly and sweet cucumber foam. I should have had it. Divine.
Exemplary cooking, superb value. If Holland doesn’t get a second Michelin star, I’ll eat my gooseberries.