Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Review: Goodfellow’s, Wells

Photo from a fellow visitor, Tripadvisor

Walking along the main shopping street in Somerset’s prettiest of towns Wells, my ears rang with the sound of tyres screeching and police sirens wailing.

“Cornetto?” The Boy turned to me and said, in his best West Country accent with a hint of a smirk. Anyone who has seen Hot Fuzz, which was filmed in and around Wells, will understand. Anyone who hasn’t seen it... Where’ve you been? Watch it now.

Just off the Market Place and across from the beautiful sandstone arch, you will find Goodfellow’s Restaurant. Consisting of the patisserie-by-day/brasserie-by-night and fish restaurant within the same establishment, their website describes the ground floor dining room, which also houses their kitchen, as having a 'theatre in the round' atmosphere though I wasn't so sure. The ground floor is a little cramped but, despite my reservations, it was really interesting to watch the chefs at work.

We were led to our table by Martine who runs front of house and - we later found out - is married to Adam Fellow, head chef and name sake of the enterprise. I was impressed that we were asked if we had any allergies or preferences in terms of our food when we sat down. Both The Boy and I will eat pretty much anything as a rule but for my Mum, who is at pains to explain to every eatery she attends that she has a gluten intolerance, this would be a refreshing start to a meal.

We'd gone for the tasting menu which started with a glass of Prosecco while we perused the wine list. The fizz was great - not overly bubbly or dry and very drinkable. A good start. Next, we were presented with a gorgeous selection of homemade breads to munch on, which were delicious if a little dense. The tasting menu consisted of six "smaller in size, delicate in construction but intense in flavour" dishes. I couldn't wait to give it a try.

It wasn't long before our first course of chilled gazpacho with crayfish tails and pesto arrived. I must admit that I don't think I've tried gazpacho before but cold soup didn't really float my boat. It was nice enough but I wondered if their interpretation of "intense in flavour" actually meant "seasoned within an inch of its life". Oh dear. Anyway, onwards and upwards.

Our next course was a Seared Tuna Carpaccio with Nicoise salad which was very pretty on the plate. The tuna was perfectly cooked and very flavoursome while the juicy fresh tomatoes contrasted well with the salty olives and anchovy fillet. When this course arrived, I was chastising myself for not bringing a camera but I often worry that taking photographs of my food will be a bit conspicuous and/or makes me look like a mental case. Since then, I read Em's review of Berwick Lodge and their tasting menu on Bristol Bites where she was able to take a photograph of every beautifully presented dish. I'll have to work on my covert snapping skills.

Next up on our culinary adventure was Smoked haddock brandade with pea purée. Again the fish was perfectly cooked and fell apart as you brushed it with your fork. This was a close contender for our favourite dish but then the Sea bream with cucumber spaghetti and a champagne sauce arrived. Wow. The sauce had a spice to it that I wasn't expecting and the ribbons of cucumber were surprisingly refreshing. The Boy and I were both quiet for the first time that evening while we devoured our respective portions before we erupted into praise.

Our final savory dish was a pan fried scallop with black pudding, honey-roast bacon and a red wine and star anise reduction. The scallop was beautifully cooked, as was the black pudding which was still moist and slightly crumbly. Scallop and black pudding is a tried-and-tested winning combination so, although it was enjoyable, it didn't blow our minds. The honey-roast back was a fantastic morsel - sweet and salty, crisp and yielding. The plate was decorated with, what we thought was, a purée of scallop coral which was an interesting use for it and nice to see that there was very little wasted.

Finally, we were presented with our dessert, a trio of Sicilian lemon desserts. This made for a nice palate cleanser at the end of a rather gargantuan meal though it hasn't stuck in my memory. Our menu included a hot drink with homemade chocolates to end the meal but neither of us were in need of a caffeine fix so we passed. I was curious to see what their homemade chocolates were like so next time, I'd definitely leave space.

Each dish was announced to us as it was served and we were topped up on bread and water throughout the meal. As my first tasting menu experience, I'd recommend it. I was surprised that I didn't walk away feeling too full despite the large meal we'd just enjoyed. All in all, the service was friendly and attentive but unobtrusive. The fish, as you'd expect from a speciality restaurant, was all beautifully cooked though some of our dishes were over seasoned for our tastes. If you're planning a romantic meal without any distractions, I'd ask for a table in the upstairs dining room but if you're interested in seeing a professional kitchen at work, go for a table downstairs. I would certainly recommend them to our friends who live locally and feel its something of a hidden gem.

Goodfellows can be found on 5 Sadlers Street, Wells, Somerset BA5 2RR. Tel: 01749 673866. The tasting menu is £55 per person.

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