"Ms Wilson, I presume" - Hobbs House Bistro Restaurant Review
PUBLISHED: 10:24 18 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:52 20 February 2013
This month, Katie is rumbled as she visits the informal surroundings of Hobbs House Bistro...
This month, Katie is rumbled as she visits the informal surroundings of Hobbs House Bistro.
The vital component of any restaurant reviewers working life is to be completely anonymous. No excuses, no mistakes, no prevarications. Were the Banksies of the restaurant world, spraying our food comments everywhere.
Katie! says Amanda, General All-round Front-of-house Star of Hobbs House Bistro in Nailsworth. Lovely to see you! But didnt you book under the name of Wilson?
A bit, I say, mysteriously. Amanda possibly gives me a funny look.
The point is, anonymous or not, I am beyond-thrilled to be reunited with Amanda. The last time I saw her to talk to was more than 20 years ago when my stomach was flat, my chins were few, and hairdressers didnt ask me if I was happy with my hair colour. These were the long-ago days when my parents had Snowy, the Worlds Most Considerate Dog, and Pushkin, the Cat with No Personality. It was Amanda who actually gave Pushkin to my parents. A long-haired colourpoint, he looked as if hed been artificially created by a Blue Peter presenter. The vicar, on one of his less-pastoral days, once referred to him as that rat, an incident my mother has never really came to terms with.
I love the fact that Hobbs House Bistro doesnt try to be different. Its what makes it stand out from the crowd. Its very informal a bit like youve wandered into someones private house mistakenly thinking its a restaurant and they dont want to embarrass you by pointing out that it isnt so they start to cook you a meal instead but in a really good way. You can have a private table, but theres also a multi-person one in the centre. In fact, Ian and I start off at a table-for-two, and end up dining communally. As Ian has all the social gregariousness of Howard Hughes in his dodgy fingernail phase, this is simply astonishing.
The menu states it is unashamedly British or britannique sans vergogne, as one should properly say in a bistro and bijou: small and gorgeously put-together. Today, the starters are wild salmon fishcakes with sauce verte (love these; both the burstingly-green sauce and the just-as-youd-make-them-at-home fishcakes); a devilled crab, tomato and watercress salad; and a Madgets (where else?) duck charcuterie with rillettes, parfait and hearts. The latter is technically for two (9.50) but they kindly allow Ian just to have the rillettes bit. Beautifully tasty.
Admittedly, youre a little stuffed if you dont like fish on this particular night because, of the three main courses, one is haddock with herb crust. I have a wood-grilled Barnsley chop with chickpea puree and Greek salad, and Ian has a rare roe deer haunch with braised lettuce, peas and bacon. (Im assured theyll do veggie options if you ask them when you book.) The thing about all these Herberts, who proliferate at Hobbs, is that, between them, they have enough knowledge to take over the world. Or at least a small South American country. And they use it to brilliant effect. The excellent butchery is courtesy of Henry Herbert, who runs their butchers in Chipping Sodbury. The 2/3 cant-get-enough bread baskets reflect Toms passion for the perfect dough. I know I complain about having to pay for it in restaurants but, when its this good, it figures.
In between snatched memories, Amanda is perfect: recommending wine, suggesting dishes, ever attentive.
My only slight quibble involves desserts. Theyre good, but not as outstanding as the rest of this meal. And with only one choice - roast plums with honey, crme fraiche and shortbread; or chocolate and raspberry hot-pot with cream it does feel limiting.
But for this kind of quality and ambience (score very slightly reduced in the name of balance, because informality wouldnt be everyones cup of tea), I really defy you to do better. Fantastic evening, costing less than 80, including pre-drinks and wine.
Later in the week, I reassume complete anonymity and bump into Tom Herbert cooking burgers outside Hobbs. Hes wearing sunglasses and I almost dont recognise him. Katie! he calls out. So how was the meal the other night?
Hobbs House Bistro, 4 George Street, Nailsworth GL6 0AG, 01453 839396; www.hobbshousebakery.co.uk. (Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.)