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BON APPETIT AT THE BEAR

PUBLISHED: 00:16 08 November 2011 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 February 2013

The Bear

The Bear

Nick Channer enjoys the relaxed atmosphere and good food at Hungerford's newly-refurbished historic inn...

Apart from its extensive range of dishes, the great thing about the Bear
Hotel's Brasserie menu is its flexibility. It doesn't matter whether you
lunch informally in the attractively designed bar or choose the contemporary
restaurant for a special family occasion, the same menu applies.

The newly-refurbished Bear at Hungerford is also one of those places where
you can absorb the history and sense of times past while you ponder over the
choice of starters and mains. This grand old former coaching inn is one of
the last surviving landmarks on the old road from London to the west -
better known today as the A4.

The hotel was owned by Henry VIII (plus several of his wives) and visited by
Elizabeth 1. Samuel Pepys stayed here in 1668 and, twenty years later, William
of Orange met the Commissioners of James II in his bedchamber to receive the
English crown.

As soon as my old friend Mike and I arrived to dine at The Bear we made straight for the bar to relax and peruse the menu over a
drink. That's the great thing about dining in a hotel. The bar is an obvious
destination before adjourning to the restaurant, but I'm not sure the 42-inch
plasma television on the wall is necessary in these otherwise stylish
surroundings. Most of the guests and non-residents seemed happily engrossedin conversation without the need to watch soundless BBC News 24.

The atmosphere in the restaurant was equally cordial, with the buzz of conversation noticeable but unobtrusive. The new-look restaurant is an integral part of the Bear's ongoing
refurbishment programme, which has cost near on 1 million up to now. We liked the relaxed lighting, immaculate table linen and unobtrusive background music.

My starter consisted of wild mushroom on toast with fried duck egg and truffle oil. This turned out to be a truly melt-in-the-mouth experience. I had never sampled fried duck
egg before but I could detect its distinctive taste immediately. This was no
light starter - in fact, it would have been more than ample as a main
course.

Taking that into account, I opted for smoked salmon with scrambled egg and
fresh crab - an interesting combination - as my main dish. Again, I chose
well - the lightly textured scrambled egg complementing the fish and proving
to be just the right quantity after a delicious but somewhat filling
starter. The dish was beautifully presented, though a little top heavy with
the ubiquitous salad garnish.

Mike sensibly opted for a light starter as he would be following it with rack of
lamb. His grilled asparagus was accompanied by Parma ham, parmesan shavings
and almond oil. The rack of lamb was exceptionally good, though at 22.95
and with vegetables not included in the price, this was, by far, the most
expensive dish on the menu.


To follow, I opted for banana creme brulee with strongly flavoured rum and
raisin ice cream, while Mike decided to try sticky toffee pudding with
exquisitely textured ice cream and custard - on the whole, a
good choice in both cases.

All the staff are friendly, service was prompt and our order was taken
and served quickly. We had to ask for serving spoons and when we requested
a jug of iced water, we were offered a bottle of mineral water. However,
these are minor irritations and the food is good, while the restaurant has a
welcoming atmosphere - all part of the Bear's
new and much improved image.

The Bear Hotel, Charnham Street, Hungerford
Berkshire, RG17 0EL
Tel:01488 682512, www. thebearhotelhungerford.co.uk



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