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Culinary reboot of the year?

Attention South Oxon foodies! There's an incredible new chef and menu at the Leatherne Bottel in Goring. Muddy's Sascha Way gets stuck in.

THE LOWDOWN

Located in an incredible spot on the river in Goring-on-Thames, we reviewed the Leatherne Bottel exactly a year ago when it was trad Italian restaurant, Rossini’s. It’s now been taken over by Sally Albin, ex marketing director of Michelin-starred L’Ortolan in Shinfield, who’s joined by head chef Adam Hague, previously of The White Oak in Cookham. There he gained the restaurant 2 AA rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand (Muddy Berks is a big fan – see her review here). He also helped establish Hotel du Vin in Henley, so he knows his stuff.

 

THE VIBE

The décor is still old-fashioned Italian – white table cloths, terracotta tiles – but Sally and Adam are keen to make the place more modern-rustic, introduce a kitchen garden and do up the riverside terrace, which is a truly beautiful place to be in the summer. The place itself currently looks pretty much unchanged.

What has most definitely changed is the food, which is frankly brilliant, and the service – attentive, knowledgeable but not stuffy.  Connie (front of house) and bar manager Piers are experienced, helpful and very friendly. We dined on a Thursday evening, with our fellow diners all couples quietly chatting over their wine and food. Gone are the huge plates of carbs – a relief as I’d bought my most foodie girlfriend with me and we were eager to sample the new offerings.

 

SCOFF & QUAFF

The menu changes regularly (warning: most of what we ate is about to be replaced with new dishes). Adam is an avid researcher and note-maker of potential ingredients and flavour combinations. We liked the fact we weren’t automatically served a basket of bread at the beginning of the meal – so weren’t tempted to tuck in and fill up. Nibbles are available as extras – focaccia, Nocellara olives or smoked almonds (£2.50 – £3.50).

There’s a surprising Asian influence running through many of the dishes, all of which are prettily presented on attractive, chunky rustic earthenware plates. I started with the crab (£12) accompanied with a sweetcorn panna cotta and sweetcorn and chilli salsa, pickled black radishes and fresh breakfast radishes (nope, me neither), coriander oil and cress. It was light, delicious and quite sweet. My friend had cured mackerel with wasabi mayo, cucumber ribbons, dill and nasturtium oil and leaf, which was unbelievably fresh and zingy (£9.50).

Next, my cannon of lamb (£28) was both stupendous and satisfying. It was cooked with Thai green curry paste, bok choy, and sticky rice flavoured with coconut, chilli, lemongrass and coriander and garnished with puffed rice and pickled chillis.  I loved the crunch of the puffed rice and the lamb was perfectly cooked and tender.

My friend had monkfish (£29) with melted leeks in gruyere, cream and mustard wrapped in leek skin, plus a spiced cauliflower purée and salt and vinegar butter scraps.  The latter were a genius touch – just like the best bits at the bottom of your fish and chips.  Our mains were accompanied by equally tasty sides of tenderstem broccoli with chilli and garlic mayo (£6.50), plus snow peas with brown shrimps, bacon and mint (£8).

There’s also a small but excellent wine list – I had a large glass of their house white (£7.50) – dDe vero Biologica 2017’, a Sicilian organic wine at a very reasonable £22 a bottle.

We shared desserts – a banana panna cotta, with caramelised bananas, banana bread, caramel ice cream, caramel tuile and candied pecans (£7) and Fourme d’Ambert – French blue cheese with poached pickled pear and smoked celeriac and wonton crackers (£8), accompanied by fresh mint tea. Having been enthralled by the rest of our meal, the desserts didn’t hit quite the same heights – the panna cotta had a strange grey colour and not a lot of wobble but this didn’t detract from our delight at the meal as a whole.

 

OUT & ABOUT

The Ridgeway National Trail

The pretty village of Goring (most famous resident: the late great George Michael) is walkable from the restaurant – the path takes you away from the riverside so it’s probably best to ask staff for directions. Goring has a growing reputation as a foodie hotspot – try the chi-chi Goring Grocer for take-home fresh and deli goodies – and it has access to the Thames Path for all your riverside strolling needs.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

GOOD FOR: Foodies, couples and groups celebrating a special occasion, and during the summer there’s the added wow factor of sunsets and alfresco dining. River rats rejoice – you can moor your boat nearby or come via paddleboard (although fyi, you can’t launch from here for health and safety reasons).

NOT FOR: Families, especially with small children – it has a very grown-up vibe and there’s no kids menu. Late risers or long lazy lunchers – even at the weekends lunch is only 12-2pm. It’s not the best spot for a rowdy girls’ night out. And anyone on a tight budget will balk at the prices.

THE DAMAGE:  Ingredients and cooking of this calibre doesn’t come cheap. The average cost for 3 courses A La Carte, without wine, is £43 but there’s a fairly priced set lunch menu of 3 courses at £24 a head, or small plates menu (individually priced or 6 plates for £49).

The Leatherne Bottel, Bridleway, Goring on Thames, Oxon RG8 0HS; Tel: 01491 872667. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Small plates only 6-8pm on Sunday. leathernebottel.co.uk

Words: Sascha Way

 

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