The Larder on Goosegate is a bit of an odd one. They are quite tucked away above Oxfam in Hockley and don’t seem to promote themselves a lot, but they do have a reputation for good food. We have eaten there before but not for a while so decided to try out their set menu deal, which offers two courses for £14.95 or three courses for £17.95.
What we first noticed on entering the restaurant is how few people take advantage of the fixed price menu deal. It runs until 7pm but we were the only diners there until about 7.15pm, when another four tables were seated. The a la carte menu does look amazing, but at around £17 for a main course is something we’d only consider for a special occasion, and then we’d probably rather eat at Hart’s for that price point.
The Larder is located in the very first Boots store and has a lot of rustic charm, but could maybe do with a lick of paint to spruce it up. Emily and I are both Boots employees so the reminder did nothing to aid digestion of the food.
The set menu is fairly limited – only three options for each course, but all of the choices looked tempting to me (apart from the inclusion of sweet potato on the chicken dish – devil food!) The menu seems to change regularly and there are always specials on offer – a good sign that the restaurant cooks with seasonal and local produce and you’re always getting the best of what is available.
I ordered the ham hock with pickled vegetables for starter
The pressed ham hock was served alongside tasty pickled carrot, cornichons, capers and apple sauce. These sharp, tangy treats with the sweetness of the apple perfectly complemented the hock, and while the serving wasn’t massive it was a very pleasing dish. Personally, I would have preferred it served with toast rather than warm bread.
Emily’s ordered the grilled courgette with sheep’s curd, broad beans and mint.
Although neither of us often order vegetarian dishes, the flavour combinations really stood out on the menu. Served cold, the salty sheep’s curd was delicious with the courgette, broad beans and tomato combo but the real surprise was the mint and crunchy hazelnuts, without which the dish would have been ordinary. With these genius additions, it was amazing. As with my starter, it wasn’t a large portion but really very tasty.
For the main course I ordered the plaice (which prompted Emily to crack a hilarious ‘place’ gag – did I mention that her dislike of mustard is her only fault?)
My plaice arrived sleeping on a bed of smashed new potatoes, and served with green beans and smothered under a duvet of saffron sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly, as were the potatoes and beans, but the real standout of the dish was the lemony saffron sauce. It was creamy, rich and quite sweet. I’m not sure that I have ever eaten saffron before, but it seemed like the perfect accompaniment for the fish – this was such a good dish that I missed it as soon as I’d finished the meal. I could’ve eaten it twice over.
Emily ordered the roast chicken with sweet potato puree, cabbice and rocket pesto.
The chicken breast arrived perfectly seasoned and tender with a lovely, crispy skin. The sweet potato puree was plentiful and delicious and went wonderfully with the rocket pesto, milder and more peppery than its basil-based cousin. We debated for a while about what on earth ‘cabbice’ was (frozen cabbage? A cabbage/rice combo?), we’re none the wiser after it arrived but it seemed to be an al dente, cabbage-like veg cooked with a lovely char.
We decided against a dessert in favour of going for a beer, so we can’t comment on the puds, but the menu choices looked tempting.
Overall, we can declare that the Larder is well worth a visit. Everything we ate we thoroughly enjoyed; the quality is absolutely fantastic. The portion sizes are on the small side and, with wine, the price point is slightly higher than other restaurants for a pre-theatre set menu. Having said this, we can defnitely see that the quality justifies it – so why is it so quiet?! The service is really good but the empty building made for a lack-lustre atmosphere.
Hopefully one day we will return to try the a la carte menu – after all, a weekend is a pretty special occasion, right?
Overall score: 8/10
Atmosphere and surroundings: 4/10
Emily and Stuart