The Woodspeen * | Newbury (UK)

Well-designed dishes with original flavour combinations, cooked with authority and finesse.
An ambitious restaurant – classy without self-consciousness.

The Woodspeen is set in a lovingly restored 19th century farmhouse, nestling in the West Berkshire countryside in the little town of Woodspeen, NewBury (UK).  Billed as a “smart country restaurant without formality”, The Woodspeen incorporates a pubby bar with Berkshire ales on tap, plus an airy conservatory-style extension with a sparkling open kitchen, vaulted ceilings and picture windows. A really young, modern yet chic atmosphere.

Co-owner John Campbell (joined partnership with WSH) made his name at the Vineyard at Stockcross (less than a mile away from The Woodspeen), where he acquired two Michelin Stars. He later launched Coworth Park near Ascot, acquiring another star. Late 2014 John Campbell opened The Woodspeen. He has also opened a cookery school across the road, with an excellent vegetable garden, next door. The Woodspeen has been awarded with a Michelin star since 2016.

Head Chef at The Woodspeen is Olly Rouse (since August 2017). Olly returned to work for John Campbell after being a Head Chef for 4 years at Lainstone House. Working for John Campbell before as Head Chef at Coworth Park and Sous Chef at the Vineyard. Olly began his career at Les Bouviers in Dorset before moving to London to become a Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus under Marcus Wareing.

The Woodspeen is open 7 days a week for lunch and 6 days for dinner (closed on Sunday evening). They offer an à la carte menu with 7 Starters (at £11-£19), 8 Mains (at £19-£36), 3 Mains to share (at £59-£69), 6 Sides (at £4) and 7 Desserts (at £9-£13). During weekdays they also offer a Set Lunch and Early Supper menu (2-courses £25 and 3-courses £31). A Sunday Lunch menu with a beef and pork roast (at £25-£27) and a special Children’s menu.
We went for lunch last Saturday and made our choices from the à la carte menu.

Sourdough bread with pumpkin flavoured hummus and salted homemade butter

Nice, green tasting olive oil on the hummus. Homemade butter is creamy and full of flavour. Good sourdough bread to go with it.

Pickled herring, scorched bean and lemon potato salad, sea lettuce (£13)

Spring is in the air! That’s what I though after my first bite. Fresh herring pickled just right. Lemon potatoes underneath with some spring onion. Squid ink coloured crispy tempura crackers to go with it and sea lettuce to deliver the saltiness. Love it!

Garden pumpkin, chick pea curds with sage, seed dressing, malted biscuit, pomegranate (v) (£11)

It looked amazingly fresh and inviting. Didn’t really deliver though. The pumpkin was a bit to hard and lacking flavour actually. The pumpkin seeds with Indian seasoning was overpowering and not really complementing. The puree with the pomegranate seeds was lovely and the best on the plate. The seed crackers didn’t work, they were tough not crunchy as you want. When tasting everything together it was better, but still doesn’t work as a dish to me.

Mushroom broth, smoked eel, caramelised onions, horseradish and thyme (£11)

To our surprise, we received an extra dish (each) we didn’t order. The mushroom broth was earthy but delicate. Not too deep flavour, which went perfectly with the puree and sliced chestnut mushrooms dusted with trompette mushroom powder. Clean and delicious.
The dish was accompanied by soda bread with smoked rarebit (not on the menu). Really comforting in taste and flavour. A definite keeper!

Jerusalem artichoke, cashew nut sauce, wheat grass oil, pear, crispy wild rice (v) (£11)

The other extra dish was just a match made in heaven. The artichoke with the cashew nut sauce and pear, refreshing wheat grass oil, pickled shallots and green olives added an extra dimension and crispy wild rice added the crunch. What an excellent dish with pure green flavours!

Roasted cod, king oyster mushroom, cep puree, pickled shallot, broccoli, hazelnut and lemon (£24)

Cuisson of the cod was perfect. Moist and flaky as you want it to be. The mushroom and broccoli gave a real earthy flavour, which worked surprisingly well with the cod. Not overpowering the cod in any way. Clever dish. Lovely.

Venison, bubble and squeak, savoy cabbage, brown sauce, leeks and apple (£25)

Oh so tender venison, nice and pink. Loved the bubble and squeak, with a bit of bacon and a crunchy crust. Plum puree goes perfectly with the venison of course. More of the delicious jus please!

Triple cooked chips (£4)

If you put triple cooked chips on the menu, I can’r resist to try them. And yes, these passed the test with good marks! Nicely salted as well.

Caramelised white chocolate, fruit cake, preserved and fresh fruits, vanilla ice cream (£9)

Caramelised white chocolate was just like Dulce de Leche, but so much more than that! Punchy fruit cake cubes, just the right portion not to overpower things. Seasonal fresh fruit and snappy seed cracker. Milky ice cream was lovely, but didn’t taste the vanilla in there. Rich and comforting dessert.

Crème Fraîche Cheesecake, Kumquat, Oat Crumble, Basil

Cheesecake from homemade crème fraîche. The sour note of the crème fraîche is in perfect balance with the bitter/sweetness of the kumquat. The basil tones in the ice cream are so fresh and bursting in the mouth. Another excellent dish I thoroughly enjoyed. Bravo!

Service is spot-on, professional, warm and smiling, unobtrusive and efficient to a fault. Although additional praise is heaped on the female front of house staff, who made us feel very special.

Solid one-star cooking with service to match. Today’s lunch displayed well-designed dishes with original flavour combinations, cooked with authority and finesse. John Campbell’s Woodspeen is that thing many others crave: an ambitious restaurant which does its classy thing without being self-conscious about it. The cooking at The Woodspeen is of a high level, the ingredients impeccable. Until next time!