REVIEW: The Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow
PUBLISHED: 17:49 23 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:49 23 February 2018
ANYONE who knows Dunmow will know about the history of the Flitch Trials, and with Valentine’s Day almost upon us, what could be better to review than a restaurant which takes its name from this ancient, romantic ritual?
The Flitch of Bacon was something awarded to couples who could prove that for 12 months and a day they had ‘not wisht themselves unmarried again’. It’s now also the name of Michelin-starred chef/patron Daniel Clifford’s restaurant nestled serenely in Little Dunmow.
Daniel hams up the name with ornamental pig references dotted about the restaurant. He’s even named the three bedrooms available after rare breed pigs. Nevertheless, the menu for The Flitch is actually down to head chef Martin Major, who came to Dunmow after working in London, most recently at L’Autre Pied.
The restaurant is easily found just six minutes away from the A120, before Stansted, with its own car park opposite. The restaurant has undergone a substantial refurbishment, reopening last year at the end of April.
Inside there’s a small bar area with wood-burning stove and smart white ash coloured wooden tables, alongside olive green walls with hessian wallpaper. Distressed, brown leather arm chairs and banquettes provide comfortable seating while copper lamps swing overhead.
Described as the more accessible little brother to Midsummer House in Cambridge, this small but perfectly formed restaurant is punching well above the weight of its former pub façade. The menu is succinct with just three starters, four mains and three desserts to choose from.
However, as we discovered, there’s also a tasting menu (£70 per head) and the wine list was expansive with wines from some of the most unexpected parts of the world including the USA, Cyprus, Japan, Croatia and Chille.
While we made our minds up about which dishes to try we were surprised with some mini h’ordeuvres – a seaweed cracker with taramasalata, mini Parmesan choux profiteroles and some delicious Mediterranean olives.
Next came our starters of grilled artichokes with Cornish yarg, hazelnuts and Treviso. A generous portion and the cheesy crunch of the toasted hazelnuts complemented the artichoke very well indeed.
My guest enjoyed their chalk stream trout with cucumber and crème fraiche gently infused with Lapsang Souchong. Another surprise was an amuse bouche of butternut foam with parsley oil and topped with salt and vinegar pumpkin seeds.
This was closely followed by warmed, rustic, wholemeal bread slices with homemade butter. We remarked on how professional and knowledgeable our waitress was. Each dish she served was carefully described and explained.
I did wonder if, with a large table, that might not prove as practical, but it was fascinating to admire her recall, as well as noting the exciting ingredients.
To follow my starter I chose the venison with celeriac served with cocoa and red currents in a rich jus. The blush, succulent meat melted from the fork with each mouthful. My guest enjoyed the partridge served with truffle, macaroni cheese and quince.
Both portions were plentiful and next came the third surprise of the evening – a pre-dessert of crushed pear, blackberry sorbet and ginger foam with a pepper tuile. We were grateful for a lull afterwards before our desserts arrived.
For me it was a refreshing clementine cheesecake with almonds and Cointreau and for my guest a roasted caramel apple crumble served in its own mini skillet pan served with vanilla ice cream.
We finished with coffee, served with homemade petite fours. Alas the wood burner was no longer alight by the time we left our table to relax next to it, but we bid all a very contented goodnight.
Useful to know
The total bill came to £160.05 for three courses for two people plus drinks and coffee. This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and wine editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.