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MUDDY EATS:The Star and Garter, Leamington Spa

What's new at this Warwickshire gastropub?..A new chef, a new manager and a new spring menu that's what! Muddy meets the team at a fantastic spring taster evening.

LOCATION:

Opposite the delightfully secluded Dell gardens a short distance from the main Regency town centre in Leamington on Warwick Street.

THE LOWDOWN

This month new Coventry-born Stefan Elliot Head chef and new manager Hollie Hawkins laid on an appetising spring feast for local journalists and bloggers to showcase the new season’s menu. Stefan has returned from working with Michelin-starred Catalonian chef Sergi Arol in Madrid followed by a stint in Marbella to take on the mantle of head chef at Leamington gastropub The Star and Garter. You can look forward to lots of Spanish influences on his new menu  – and an Espanol night on Thursday June 21 sounds fabulosa!

Hollie and Stefan both joined The Star and Garter last autumn. Originally from Cheltenham, Hollie planned to become a doctor studying biomedical science at Cardiff Uni. During holidays she worked in hospitality and realised this was where her passion lay. Her fantastic food and wine knowledge comes from her days working at the Compass Group and Greene King pubs, and she loves making guests feel completely at home.

Stefan’s culinary journey has taken him from Mrs Kirkham’s famous cheese farm in Preston to a Welsh restaurant in Llangollen before cooking with Michelin-starred Warrick Dodds of Northcote Manor and Marc Guibert. It was then he spread his wings and moved to Spain absorbing different style restaurants including gastro tapas. and spending time in Marbella cooking with local produce from wild fish to caviar.

The Star and Garter is part of the switched-on Peach group. Like its sister Warwickshire eateries in Warwick (The Rose & Crown), Kenilworth (The Almanack) and Stratford-upon-Avon (The One Elm), the food is locally sourced and crowd-pleasing but each pub likes to do their own thing.

Stefan only cooks with the good stuff, too – free-range chicken, free-range eggs, Jimmy Butler’s free-range pork, ice cream and sustainable fish, native where possible. All the beef and lamb he uses are British, reared by farmers who share the same ethics and with whom the company has long-term relationships. All the pub’s 28 day dry-aged steaks and steak burgers come from Leamington’s Aubrey Allen, who only supply slow and ethically reared beef.

THE VIBE

We were seated in the gorgeous upstairs private dining room overlooking the Dell gardens opposite.  Its decorated with geometrical patterned wallpaper, striking lighting and has the loveliest full-length sash windows with its own balcony. The room’s ideal for family celebrations, dinner and drinks parties, business meetings and conferences catering for up to 26 guests.   

Downstairs  there’s a cool, buzzy local vibe. It’s a modern haven but feels cosy and unpretentious with stripped wooden floors, deep olive green walls and copper vases filled with fresh flowers. Hollie’s already brought some nice touches to the bar, with new high tables and chairs for more informal grazing or a relaxed bite to eat, and a sense of style to the eatery with smart new place settings and tableware.

SCOFF & QUAFF – A 5-COURSE SPRING TASTING MENU

The night’s gastronomic adventure began with a fun gin and vodka tasting led by family-run Chase Distillery in Herefordshire. This is the family who also invented Tyrells crisps.  We learnt that 250 potatoes go into every bottle of award-winning Chase Original Potato Vodka – that’s a lot of spuds!

Four glasses were set out in a row before each place setting to sample Chase Vodka, Chase GB Gin, Chase Pink Grapefruit & Pomelo Gin, Chase Rhubarb and Bramley Apple Gin and the Chase Oak Aged Sloe Gin. The Pink Grapefruit & Pomelo is the company’s current best-seller!

A 5-course tasting menu including appetisers of Capreolus Charcuterie, sourdough bread and Campagnola olives.

The appetisers

And Hollie opened two of her favourite wines – a Portuguese red from the Douro Valley (Tanners Douro Red) and a South African white chenin blanc (After the Clouds), one of Peach’s own – to accompany the meal.

For starters we were presented with Stefan’s new spring menu vegan deli plates made up of beetroot falafel, coconut yogurt and baba ghanoush, pomegranate and flatbread, followed by Native scallops with cauliflower puree was served with optional black pudding – I gave that a miss – and pickled apple.

The vegan beetroot falafel, coconut yogurt and baba ghanoush

Native scallops

Stefan chose one of his favourite fish the mains: Skrei Cod Loin. It’s a type of Norwegian cod only in season from January to April each year. It was the real surprise  of the evening and melted in the mouth serve with brown butter, capers, shaved fennel and new potatoes.

Skrei Cod Loin

Skrei Cod Loin

Meat-eaters on the table raved about the roast Cornish lamb with broad beans, button onions and peas.

Roast Cornish lamb

The main courses were full of flavour and cooked to perfection. Dessert was fab too -Tiramisu cheesecake with Expresso Martini crumb and Sticky Toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.

Desserts

A cheeseboard including 5 spring cheeses: Camembert Gillot, Northern Blue from Yorkshire (v), a delicious Rutland Red (v), Blanche Goats cheese and Strathearn, a hand-crafted whisky washed soft cheese, with chutney, apple slices and water biscuits. (£12 for all 5).

Union hand-roasted coffee and tea rounded-off a lovely gourmet evening. The food we were served was really top-notch.

The Star & Garter is well-loved among the locals for its foodie offerings.  It serves up both pub classics and more inventive dishes. New for spring are mains of wild mushroom and pea tart with truffle Hollandaise, rocket, radish and beetroot salad and the roast Cornish lamb. Stefan has also created a good range of veggie and vegan dishes, including creamy garlic mushrooms on sourdough toast and a daily changing spring soup of the day. Menus are are pleasingly European/ Modern British and have something for everyone – whether you’re looking for a quick pit-stop for lunch, a leisurely weekend brunch or delectable three course dinner. Check out all the food and drink menus here.

WHAT’S ON: SPRING & SUMMER 2020 

All Saints will be performing at Pub in the Park, Warwick this summer

Highlights include:

  • Mother’s Day, Sun March 22 Why not start off the day with a Buck’s Fizz Breakfast before heading out for the day or treat your mum to a Sunday roast with all the trimmings?
  • Spring Lamb Supper, Thur Mar 26 Join the team as they cook free-range Cornish lamb from award-winning Aubrey Allen butcher’s in four ways, serviced with wine and cheese. £40 per person. Tel: 01926 359960.
  • Easter Weekend, Apr 10 – 13 Includes Sunday Best, Bank Holiday Best menu from midday and roast rollover to cure any hangover – they’ll have the Bloody Mary’s ready.
  • Pudding Party, Thur May 21 The Star & Garter’s second Pudding Party includes a light main followed by 4 puds all with drink pairings. £30 per person.
  • Pub in the Park, June 5 – 7 Tom Kerridge’s festival is back for a second year with a stellar line up of chefs, pubs and music including a Basement Jaxx DJ set, Gabrielle, Roland Gift, All Saints, Beverley Knight and Craig Charles. The Star & Garter will be serving a selection of tasting dishes.
  • Espanol Night, Thur June 25 A Spanish supper in the private dining room will include tasting tapas, great wine and delcious puds, £40 per person. Book online and quote ‘Take me to Spain’.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for A proper sense of community, laid back, friendly vibes and the gorgeous private dining room and balcony.  The Star and Garter would work equally well for relaxed family gatherings, business lunch or a lo-fi date night. Foodies will be impressed by the locally sourced ingredients including Aubrey Allen steaks and interesting cheeseboard.

Not for: Sticklers for fine dining etiquette and white table cloths.

The damage: Mid-range for gastropub prices the roasts come in at £15.50, and there’s also spring vegetable wellington at an even more pleasing £13.75. A fixed price lunch every Mon to Sat, with two courses is £14.75 or three for £17.70.

The Star and Garter, 4-6 Warwick Street, Leamington Spa CV32 5LL. Tel: 01926 359 960.

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