This understated spot shines like a beacon on the dreary evening we visit, wrapping us in a hug with its welcoming interior. Sitting on a side street a brief jaunt from the station, simple wooden tables and benches are clustered beneath eye-catching portraits on the white walls, while bare bulbs offer soft illumination.
Their daytime selection is appealing, with plates ranging from a full English for the bargain price of £6.95 and homemade granola, to Thai chicken curry and cocido (stew) of lamb. But we’re here for dinner – a recently launched menu served Thursday to Saturday.
The operation is run by mental health charity Bridge Support, and aims to help the immediate community with employment opportunities by allowing them to gain invaluable culinary work experience. Ex-Roux Brothers and Tom Aikens prodigy Stuart Todd is at the helm: hailing from the area, he’s keen to champion local suppliers, and the team have their own allotment too.
The concise chalkboard list – just two starters and three mains – offers superb value for money, and is read aloud to us by our charming server who details each item with passion and warmth. “There’s nothing like this round here,” she says.
It’s a BYO affair, so be sure to stop in at the offie before turning onto Anglesea Road. With corkage of just £2 per bottle, it’s a no-brainer. Here are three dishes we tucked into.
Leek and Potato (vg) (£3.95)
A steaming bowl of soup is adorned with shreds of deep-fried allium: the crisp garnish is not only visually attractive, it brings texture to the smooth blend of root veg. Accompanied by an impressive range of still-warm bread – sun-dried tomato, focaccia, walnut and raisin, and seedy sourdough – it’s a simple, wholesome way to kickstart the meal. Non-vegan variations are usually blitzed with a liberal amount of cream; this dairy-free offering more than holds its own.
Confit duck (£12.95)
Simmered gently in its own fat before a brief roasting to crisp up the skin, a pleasing crack sounds as we dig in, giving way to gamey, fall-off-the-bone meat within. Plated with a duo of sides – dauphinoise and bean cassoulet – we conclude that one alone would be enough to satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. Our vote goes to the former, whose thinly sliced potatoes baked with cream, garlic and cheese proves to be the ultimate decadence.
This generous helping of slow-cooked fork-tender beef is coated in deeply rich red wine gravy and flecked with lardons and slices of mushroom; comfort food epitomised. Dished up with a giant quenelle of smooth-as-can-be mash infused with just the right amount of potent truffle oil, and a mound of cinnamon-glazed carrots, it’s a sumptuous – albeit slightly oversized – version of the much-loved French classic.
Main photo credit: Vikas Malik