We’ve had a busy couple of weeks at the pub recently.
Finally the cold weather is dissipating, giving way to warmer days and this has lead to our weekends and lunch times becoming much busier.
All it takes is a couple of sunny days and you’ll find the Great British public are more than eager to take a pint with their lunch. With the return of Spring, of course, comes a fond farewell to the Winter-specific items on our menu and cask list. So we say ‘goodbye’ to our award-winning pies and ‘hello’ to our vegan-inspired Buddha Bowls, which will hopefully make a splash throughout Spring and well into Summer. Anyway that’s enough about work…
As much as I love to cook at home for myself, this week there was small snag in the road to delicious home cooked meals.
Off for three days, I was particularly excited to do some experimenting with a whole hare that I’d recently procured from the local butchers. With the animal prepped and ready to go I went to turn the oven on and…nothing. After a few minutes of frantic sweary investigation, I found the problem: the heating filament was completely blown.
With the oven not heating up, it looked like I was going to have to order my food in for the next few days, that is, until I was invited last minute to dinner with an old chef pal. Although I was still a little livid from the oven breaking in the first place, I soon cheered up when he picked me up and told me where we were heading.
The Willow Tree is one of the best kept secrets in Somerset, nay, the entirety of the South West.
Opening in 2002, head chef Darren Sherlock established his eatery in a 17th century listed building in the bustling town of Taunton. After spending a large portion of his career under the tutelage of the Roux Brothers, the chef now runs the business along with his wife Rita and a handful of staff. Despite the popularity of the restaurant, Darren insists on manning the kitchen by himself, meaning that every single cover that comes out of the kitchen is hand-made by the chef himself.
The menu at the Willow Tree changes every couple of months or so, meaning that returning customers are often rewarded with brand new meals to enjoy and the prices, considering the local pedigree of the food and the man making it, are very reasonable indeed. Open for four dinner services a week, the mid-week set price is a very reasonable £27.95 for three courses and the weekend prices are just a touch pricier at £32.95. In short, The Willow Tree offers fantastic value.
Taunton is a strange old town.
Gorgeous old houses mix uneasily with ugly 90s retail centres, as such the town feels like it lacks a certain amount of cultural heritage. Thankfully, as soon as you take a seat in the tiny dining room of Darren’s restaurant you’ll forget about the odd town outside.
On the Willow Tree’s website there is a banner proclaiming it as ‘One of the top ten romantic places to eat in the UK’, despite not being there on romantic business, I nonetheless felt the vibe. There couldn’t have been many more than 20 covers in the entire place – explaining how Darren can deal with running the kitchen by himself – which led to a quieter more informal dining experience, as if the chef had decided to invite a bunch of strangers to a dinner party and split them all off into pairs.