This year, Rick Stein opened his 14th restaurant, in Marlborough, Wiltshire, at the heart of the town’s historic High Street. Set in an attractive Grade II listed building, Lloran House, it’s the ideal location for a leisurely weekend lunch or post-shopping bite, and is a popular spot amongst locals and visitors alike for evening dining, where you can enjoy an expertly-made cocktail – try the signature Champagne cocktail (£9.95), which features Somerset cider brandy and chocolate bitters, or a summertime G&T made with the exceptional Four Pillars Gin (£6 + £1.95 with Fever Tree tonic), which uses local Australian botanicals for a complex and unique flavour – at the restaurant’s cosy bar before sitting down for dinner.
The restaurants menu is constantly evolving, reflecting the seasons to make the best of seasonal produce. However, Rick’s most iconic dishes, such as a melt-in-the-mouth brill with Hollandaise sauce (£22.95) – whose simple and perfectly executed style celebrates this wonderfully delicate and sweet fish – and a classic Dover sole à la meunière (£37.95), which is lightly dusted in flour and lacquered in glistening noisette butter. Rick Stein’s bright and fragrant Spanish White 2015 (£24/bottle) is the perfect accompaniment to either of these dishes.
I would usually skip the bread before a three-course meal, for fear of filling up too fast, but here, you’ll regret missing out on the exquisite rich, fruity and golden Spanish olive oil, textured and nutty walnut bread, and waxy sourdough with a killer crust.
For a light start, choose the mussels. The bowl is piled high with glistening black shells, cooked in a garlic, parsley and Kashmiri chilli broth – delicious soaked up with sourdough bread. The gentle heat, mellow garlic and fragrant herbs are a heavenly match.
The fish and shellfish soup, served with rouille, Parmesan and croutons – a recipe straight from Provence – brings a taste of the sea (£7.95).
Since my visit a couple of weeks ago, the squid and chorizo starter, with crisp pan-fried baby potatoes and sweet red pepper, has left the menu, but it’s still worth a mention. Land and sea come together, bound by saffron and spice, speckled with fresh diced tomato for a little freshness.
The mains menu comprises a fantastic range of different – fish from meaty hake to tender sole – and takes a trip around the globe, inspired by the fish dishes of countries far and wide. For the adventurous, there’s an Indonesian curry (£22.95), with sea bass, cod and prawns, garnished with grated coconut, crisp fried shallots, garlic and chilli. Not your standard seafood dish, it bursts with flavour. For something more simple, yet equally tasty, go for the whole Lemon Sole (£24.95), pan-fried with black olive butter, garnished with crisp fried basil leaves, and served with buttered new potatoes. The tenderstem broccoli side, cooked with garlic and blanketed in melted Parmesan, complements the dish well.
The pan-fried John Dory (£23.95) with charred baby leeks, a soft-boiled egg and a mustard vinaigrette embraces spring. It’s a sophisticated dish that balances different textures: crisp fish skin, molten egg yolk and tender leek.
Many a time have I watched Rick Stein create a perfect Crema Catalana (6.95) on one of his cooking programmes, so I of course have to give this a try. A silky, just-set vanilla custard is concealed beneath a glass-like finish. Few things provide as much pleasure as tapping a spoon to break the sugar into shards.
For something more extravagant, the elegant, and girly – not to put off any men thinking of ordering this dish[!] – milk chocolate and rose dessert (6.95) comprises a luxuriously thick milk chocolate cream, topped with a round of white chocolate-vanilla ice cream and decorated with dark chocolate crisps, crunchy baked white chocolate crumble and rose sauce. Another dish that plays with texture.
Rick Stein Marlborough
42a High Street,
T: 01841 532700
Open: 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-22:00 (Mon-Fri); 12:00-22:00 (Sat); 12:00-21:00 (Sun)