Doug Whittaker samples the delights of Chef James Sherwin's restaurant, Wild Shropshire.
Arriving at the rather unremarkable junction of the A41/A53 near Ternhill either meant I was settling into a 4 hr car journey or just completing one; my mind was never on what the solid redbrick building on the corner contained or functioned as. This weekend I was introduced to one aspect of it – the ‘Wild Shropshire Restaurant’ - run by James Sherwin.
It is worth reading the reviews on his website, there is a consistent theme which runs throughout and, having experienced the 9-course ‘Taster’ menu and 5 wine ‘flight’, I have to say are a very fair and representative summary of our party of fours experience.
Based on 16-20 covers in a small, pleasant, yet entirely functional restaurant, the staff are friendly and engaging and have mastered the knack of appearing only when you need them. What makes this experience unusual is that there is no menu to choose from, each course (along with its corresponding wine/beer, should you choose that option) is well presented and arrives with no clue as to what you are being served (you are, however, asked if you have any allergies or dislikes when you book).
The pace of the evening was just right and a 7pm start saw us leave some 3 hrs later, replete and still trying to place all the ingredients we had just experienced – with Google coming to the rescue on more than one occasion!
We only had the Wine Flight (the beer version is to be experienced another time); all 5 wines were interesting, good in themselves and quite excellent with the food they accompanied. James’ supplier (Robin from ‘Iron and Rose’ who has a stall in Shrewsbury Market Hall) is most certainly worth a visit in his own right. Spain and Italy have a habit of keeping their good wines for their own consumption (one can’t blame them), but Robin seems to have found a way to ‘liberate’ some gems.
Between the four of us, we probably managed at 55-60% success rate in guessing the ingredients throughout the evening. Whilst the portions were small, without having declined to minimalistic ‘Nouvelle cuisine’ levels, they were well balanced and genuinely tasty. Dietary requirements were readily catered for without any reduction in the quality, deliciousness or overall experience. Each course was different and it is clear James puts considerable thought into what he presents and does his utmost to keep it local, different and to the brief he has set himself. Another nice touch is that the chef introduces himself at the start of the evening and personally brings the menu to your table to discuss your experience at the end of the meal.
The price for both the food and wine is well judged and the overall experience is definitely a positive and enjoyable one. It is not a place for just an average night out but if you want something slightly different, memorable and worth talking about after – then James and the ‘Wild Shropshire’ should be high on your list of restaurants to eat in.
By Doug Whittaker
To book visit www.jamesinaspace.com