Reviewing The Blackbird at Bagnor

PUBLISHED: 11:56 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:56 16 October 2018

Roast fillet of lamb, feuille of braised shoulder, stewed fruit and aubergine caviar, served as we like it!

Roast fillet of lamb, feuille of braised shoulder, stewed fruit and aubergine caviar, served as we like it!

Maureen McLean

The Blackbird at Bagnor has a nest we can all settle in, courtesy of the engaging patron

This time last year globe-trotting Dom Robinson, the classically trained foodie maestro previously executive chef at Dubai’s Supperclub on the back of being head chef for Tom Aikens, arrived in one of Berkshire’s beautiful ‘hidey-holes’.

Come one and all, we say, the county lures and traps many of Europe’s top class menu creators, but we did wonder how someone who believes ‘cooking begins and ends in France’ would settle at The Blackbird in Bagnor, opposite a little stream and a short walk from The Watermill Theatre.

One year on and you can tell the man is thriving. He, his family, local people who still see this as their pub, and those of us who happen to know about the gems down some little lanes on the outskirts of Newbury, are still all ‘merci beaucoup’ for what has been a sensational success.

The Blackbird, like Dom’s menus, is an eclectic mix which comes together to create a one-off magic act you want to see again.

A bit obsessively, we were almost sidetracked by the cutlery, old and paying homage to mostly Sheffield past masters (‘Oooh, I’ve got a Mappin & Webb dinner knife’), the similarly gathered bone china plates and dishes, and pre-War but lovingly restored furniture which makes you think ‘Nanna had one just like this’.

But in the end it’s the food that does the talking. Look, there’s stuff like foie gras and veal as menu options, but Dom has somehow also collected vegetarian and even vegan fans. And this is how we know he loves making people happy. One of us did that thing where you can put the chef in a strop by asking him to cook the lamb to browny rather than pink. Not a blink, and it arrived just as ordered. Bon appetit!

Organic Buffalo Ricotta, marinated tomatoes, basilOrganic Buffalo Ricotta, marinated tomatoes, basil

What we ordered

• To start - Tartare of beef fillet with pickled mushrooms; organic buffalo ricotta with marinated tomatoes

• Main - Roast fillet of lamb, feuille of braised shoulder, stewed fruit and aubergine caviar; chalk stream trout, vegetables a la Greque, tapenade

• Dessert - Prune & Armagnac sundae; Dorset Blue Vinney with sourdough crackers

• Drinks - This was a working lunch so we stuck to a peppery ginger beer and sparkling water. On another occasion we’d have been tempted by the Picpoul De Pinet, Beauvignac, Languedoc 2017, £30

One of the cosy spots to dine at The BlackbirdOne of the cosy spots to dine at The Blackbird

Our verdict

Dom’s Menu du Jour is a feast full of tangs and sensations which will draw you back to try the a la carte. We have no idea how anyone can leave without purring their way through that prune and Armagnac sundae. | 01635 40005 | Open for lunch and dinner, Wed-Sat plus Sunday lunch


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