With Adam Brown now heading up the kitchens at Killingworth Castle, its food offering is once again soaring.
Owners Jim and Claire Alexander brought the esteemed head chef in when they sold its sister pub The Ebrington Arms to concentrate on their beloved Killy in Wootton near Woodstock.
And Adam was the right man for the job, his impeccable standard of cooking serving as a refreshing reminder of what’s possible in our country pub kitchens.
“The attention to detail, the love and dedication attributed to each component, was humbling”
What Killy doesn’t do is pub grub. No fish and chips, burgers and ploughman’s here. It’s serious food from a chef whose pedigree includes the Michelin starred likes of Gordon Ramsey’s, Royal Hospital Road, Mallory Court in Warwick and Le Champignon Sauvage.
Which meant we were easily persuaded to try the recently introduced seven course taster menu, the perfect opportunity to sample a good selection of Adam’s esteemed food, trying both the vegetarian and carnivorous menus between the four of us. There’s a wine flight to match if you want, although we stuck to a delicious Provencal rose.
First up was some ‘snacks’, or what I’d called amuse bouche, of crispy organic lamb shoulder with fermented black garlic and a wild garlic emulsion (see above), and a cheese and onion tartlet with shallot cream, pickled shallot and aged parmesan, both of which took our breath away.
The attention to detail, the love and dedication attributed to each component was humbling, but certainly set the scene for what was to come – a gastronomic feast of complexity, fun and accomplishment.
Other favourites included the treacle soda bread with Ampersand butter – a rich, sweet, moreish slice of Irish goodness and then the pea veloute with poached Cacklebean egg, whose bright green colour shouted spring and still had the bite of fresh young peas.
Course after wonderful course ensued, each a new surprise, a new taste sensation. a new demonstration of Adam’s skill and passion presented beautifully by our waiting staff Halli Harrison and Elyssa Carcagni who looked after us impeccably, knowing every element in the dish as they presented and explained them.
Further delights included the death of flavour evident in the Isle of Wight organic tomatoes with ricotta and lemon verbena, the complexity of the cured trout and rillette with buttermilk and cucumber, or the luxurious stone bass with charred broccoli stalk, squid and a crab veloute.
The delicacy of the courgette flower served with a salsa verde and goats curd was crisp, light, fragrant and seasonal contrasted beautifully with the more sturdy organic Aylesbury Peking Cross duck breast with apricot, carrot and wilted baby gem lettuce, all met with gasps of appreciation and murmurs of assent.
Portion control is a concern with a taster menu, and yet at The Killy each course disappeared suspiciously easily. Which meant that when we got to the lemon and rose geranium set curd with tangy meringue and yoghurt sorbet we still miraculously had room, each mouthful a little gift of light, burnt, sugary heaven with the tang of flowers and the sharp hint of lemon.
For £65 a head, this really is treat – you could easily spend that on an average three course meal – and yet here we were replete, spoiled and lost in admiration.
Of course, by the time I write this up, Adam Brown’s tasting menu at Killingworth Castle will already have moved on, but whatever new, seasonal temptations he dreams up will be no less scrumptious. I’d highly recommend a visit.
Killingworth Castle is at Glympton Road, Wootton, Woodstock, Oxfordshire
OX20 1EJ. Book at https://www.thekillingworthcastle.com