Its nice to have a “local” restaurant – a place which you can afford to go to quite often, where the welcome is good and where the food is pretty decent too. Its a place where you can take friends and family and it still has a human side. In the past it’s tended to be a local curry house or a little Italian.
In Kenilworth we have to walk past the Michelin-starred Cross to get to Harrington’s on the Hill. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to make a regular thing of eating at the Cross but its not to everyone’s taste. Some people can feel intimidated by the fancy menus, the price and some of the ingredients. It can also be a costly business.
And so we continue on with an appetite-building stroll for pre-drinks in the garden at the wonderfully set Queen And Castle overlooking the ruins of Kenilworth Castle. Its a nice start to the evening. It has delivered some of the best service and worst service in the past. There is an extensive bar with some cocktails and the essential summer Pimms (but some things are very expensive – the Coopers Sauvignon Blanc costs almost £40 a bottle here compared with £28 at the restaurant next door). We have eaten here too and enjoyed what we had but it still feels quite pub-like.
Harrington’s is an unassuming double-fronted building but inside it has a nice cosy feel. I like that the tables don’t match and that there are little tucked-away corners. There’s an upstairs too which follows the same theme. Even the glasses vary according to where you are. The staff are young and happy and dress like mime-artists in the modern black vogue.
The menu has a nice variety to it. I’d describe it as modern British with a decent fish menu which is showcased on Fishy Friday. There are daily specials to complement the usual fayre.
On our visits I have tried the scallops with pea purée and the goats cheese and peach salad. Both are fine bistro standard. The ingredients are good and I like that the goat’s cheese is browned and that the plates are well presented. This is probably what I like about the place – its simple and effective in what it does. You can chat around the food rather than the food being the event.
The mains are good but not spectacular. The aged steaks are not cut thick enough for my taste and as a result I heard a number of people questioning the cooking of their dish. It doesn’t take a lot to get it wrong – you are always seconds away from medium-rare becoming medium and, unfortunately, you do get some pedants and opinions. For my taste too there wasn’t enough crust on the steak from the initial searing but I will happily eat. The chips are very good though. On another occasion I had the fish and chips which do exactly what you’d expect – accompanied by tartare sauce, chips and mushy peas. The batter was a little thick and crunchy for me but again – perfectly edible. My favourite was the roast cod I had on my first visit. This is one thing I like about the place – if you don’t like something try a different choice from the range of options.
Desserts are very good – the treacle tart and the Elton mess stand out for us. It is definitely a tribute that so far we have gone for the three courses on each occasion. The creme brûlée was well ‘glazed’ but the custard was slightly grainy when I tried it. Beautiful flavour but not the creaminess that the best of them have.
With a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc the bill for three courses for three comes to less than £120 which I don’t think is bad for the quality of ingredients. We’ve managed three visits in as many weeks and it is definitely the sort of place we could imagine falling in to at pretty short notice. Its not quite there yet. I realise as I reread this that I have found little faults with many of the things I have tried but I make these points as a friend. This has all the makings of a ‘local’.