Restaurant Review: The Checkers, Montgomery

At The High Street Delicatessen, we will be championing great tastes …

Where we can proudly shout about Wales-based businesses that soar high above the quality threshold, then that’s what we will do

Products will be highlighted but so too will restaurants and chefs who source outstanding ingredients and do something magical with them.

The Checkers in the beautiful Georgian town of Montgomery, the old county town of Montgomeryshire is just the sort of restaurant we will enjoy signposting to food-lovers.

This review first appeared in the Bookends and BinEnds blog in November 2014:

The Checkers is a Restaurant with Rooms established in an old coaching house in the beautiful Georgian County town of Montgomery in mid-Wales

It is said that self-appointed ‘hard man’ of the restaurant scene, Gordon Ramsay, wept when The London, in New York, (perhaps a symbol of the hubris of over-extending his influence) was stripped of its two Michelin stars:

“… it’s a very emotional thing for any chef …”

There’s a danger that amidst the expectation around Michelin star ratings, it is easy to forget that enjoyment of a meal is personal.

It depends not just on the quality of the food and the precision of the service but also the company you keep, the mood of the occasion, luck (or judgement) in picking the precise part of the wine list that matches preference with price point … so many factors play into the moment – and on a table for four, those subjective factors are wrapped up into a complex bundle

So it was with a sense of excitement – but no little apprehension – that a trip to The Checkers in Montgomery coincided with the celebration of a milestone birthday for an old friend.

The excitement was born of the knowledge that ‘The Frenchman and the Farmer’s Daughters’ had delighted previously; the apprehension linked only to a desire that those subjective factors would align for a shared experience that matched our collective expectations …

The atmosphere in the restaurant is as elegant as the town itself; the quiet simplicity and lack of fussiness or pretension totally in keeping with an area that relishes its quiet, off-the-beaten-track exclusiveness. The warmth of the greeting on arrival is genuine and chilled glasses of Billecart-Salmon Brut contrast perfectly with the welcoming heat of the wood burning stove on an Autumn evening.

The seductiveness of light, delicately flavoured amuse bouche set the tone perfectly for the culinary delights destined to flow from chef Stéphane Borie’s kitchen. Seven years with Michel Roux at the Waterside Inn, Bray reinforced his commitment to classic French cooking and an evident passion for flavour.

Starters

Roast parsnip velouté with smoked Pheasant and thyme

Cannelloni of crab (with the most perfectly cooked scallops)

Homemade boudin noir, richness offset by subtle sharper tones of apple and a jus that made you close your eyes to prolong the pleasure

Mains

Venison, cooked to the chef’s preference, perfectly pink and moist – the feuilleté of mushrooms the source of great envy –

Poached Dover sole, creamy and rich, yet light to the palate

Pork belly, Welsh sourced but delicately adorned with French sensibility

Desserts

Soufflés (in this case, marbled peppermint and dark chocolate) are a house speciality, a trick with the mind – voluminous on first glance, yet as light as feathers, one flavour stepping over the next to make its mark on your taste buds

Creme brûlée, a classic, perfection

The tart citrus gorgeousness of the Checkers ‘St Clements’, all delicate lemon mousse, crisp nougatine and orange

It is often hard to pitch a wine choice to dishes spanning depths of flavour ranging from venison to pork to dover sole, as well as starters of astonishing subtlety. Returning to provenance with an emotional connection – a wedding in Saint-Émilion in 2008 – is always a safe reference point which in this case surfaced a Château Laclaverie, Francs-Côtes de Bordeaux 2009 which complemented all the selections from this seasonal menu

This Restaurant delivers every time – while some chefs might judge their standing by the Michelin recognition coveted stars bestow (and shed tears at the loss of such plaudits), my sense here is of a chef at the top of his game, relishing the chance to put beautiful plates in front of the judges who matter most to him

Patrons return to The Checkers not because the Michelin Guide tells them to … they do so because that subjective judgement on the quality of an evening (the company, the occasion, the mood, the wine, the service) are seriously – and positively – influenced by the outstanding quality of the food on offer

The Checkers
Broad Street
Montgomery
Powys, Wales
SY15 6PN

Tel: 01686 669 822

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s