Opened in March 2017 by Chef Patron Paul Foster, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Salt is a fine dining restaurant with a growing reputation, situated in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Having been awarded three AA rosettes and a precious Michelin star in 2018, I was reasonably expectant of a high quality meal as I visited as a table of six for lunch with my wife, young daughter and baby son, as well as my sister and her partner, on a mild May Saturday.
Parking wasn't an issue, with a good sized pay and display car park located on Church Street, a couple of minutes walk from the restaurant. The welcome on arrival was pleasant and professional and we were shown to our table, complete with a high chair ready as requested on the booking (always a good sign). The restaurant is quite small but there are two distinct areas; the front is quieter and overlooks the road whilst the rear carries a bit more atmosphere with views over the open kitchen. I could see with children why they'd put us at the front and I had no issue with that at all, I'd have done the same. As a whole, I thought it was a nice space; the building is grade II listed but I think they've successfully mixed in a modern feel with touches such as grey painted beams. The toilets aren't the swankiest you'll ever see (and amazingly for a Michelin star restaurant, there's no rolled up hand towels), but they work.
On offer at lunch is a relatively concise carte menu (two choices per course) and a lunch tasting menu. As we were with the kids it had to be the carte for us. My sister is vegetarian and was given a full vegetarian menu to choose from; what I didn't know in advance, and therefore didn't tell them when booking, is that she is pregnant (surprise!) but they were able to adjust the dishes accordingly with the minimum of fuss which was good to see. There's no children's menu but our waiter told us they can offer smaller portions for children of any of the dishes; sounds a simple concept, didn't quite turn out like that, but more on that later.
The wine list isn't massive but more than sufficient; myself and my sisters partner enjoyed a modest bottle of Le Sauvage de la Brie Sauvignon Blanc with our meal. After a little G&T to start and some olives and nuts, lunch began with some little potato waffle and goats curd nibbles; pleasant enough if not particularly memorable. The little roll of warm bread with cultured butter that followed was a very decent effort however. The starters didn't take too long to arrive after this; my cured sea trout with douglas fir emulsion and a crystal clear dashi was a nice fresh dish, but a tad dull if I'm brutally honest. I'd really wanted the pork belly to start but as I was having pork for the main course, I'd opted not to go "double pork". Fortunately, my wife let me try hers and it was delicious, complete with a lovely deep-flavoured lovage veloute. Never again will I turn down double pork; lesson learnt.
Next up was... a wait. It must have been getting on for an hour before the mains were delivered (we were there for nearly three hours overall) and there was no update at any point from the staff during this period. When they did eventually arrive though, the mains were worth the wait. My BBQ Mangalitza pork was an excellent plate; it came complete with some nicely charred Roscoff onions and a white shallot puree, amongst other things. The BBQ flavour was maybe slightly too subtle on the first couple of pork slices I tried, but the final pieces were absolutely delicious; I really enjoyed that dish. My wife also made positive noises about her lovely dish of roast cod with see vegetables and cauliflower; I tried some from my daughters' plate and it was another excellent bit of cooking.
Desserts were impressive too; my chocolate delice had a quality deep flavour and the accompanying peanut parfait and lime caramel worked really well. The milk tuile added a little bit of a texture contrast, but didn't add a great deal of positivity flavour wise. That's a minor complaint though; overall it was still an excellent dessert. My wife opted for the rhubarb dessert and told me it was equally delicious too. Petit fours came before we ordered coffee in the form of a little rhubarb and cream choux style balls, and after a decent cappuccino, a very enjoyable lunch came to an end. The food throughout was excellent, in truth the only issue I had with the place was the service.
Whilst the service throughout was perfectly professional (and child friendly) there were a number of issues for me with how it's structured. The front of the restaurant is a nice spot but we did feel quite abandoned at times; I couldn't describe the service as attentive in any way. In an effort I suppose to remove formality, we were left to pour our own wine and water too, I think (or at least I hope) that applies to every table and wasn't just the case for us, but for a restaurant at this level, it was a little unexpected. As I alluded to earlier, there was quite a problem with the children's portions too for my daughter, in that there weren't any. For every course I clearly asked for a children's portion for her, for every course they brought her a plate that looked identical to the adult plates, and then in the end they charged her the full carte price. I mean, that's what she was served so I've no issue with the cost, but why on earth did our waiter offer a child's portion and then accept my clear request for every single course, only to then serve the full dish? It just makes no sense, all that can be achieved by doing that is to infuriate the customer.
In truth, I didn't notice the above when the bill came as the total looked about right; I also realised when I got home they'd not charged for our bottle of wine (don't worry, it's not another Hawksmoor, the wine was only around £25 from memory) so perhaps they just removed the right amount but the wrong line from the bill. In fairness, the vegetarian carte price for my sister was reduced to £27.50 versus £40 for the rest of us, so at least that's something. And there was no automatically added service charge either. In isolation, each of my individual niggles with the service is quite small, but when you tot them all up and combine with the very long wait between courses, I did walk out of there with a bit of a negative impression of service overall which I really didn't expect.
But look, overall the food was excellent (which is the main thing) and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here. I have no problem proclaiming that Salt is a top rate restaurant and one I'd happily revisit in future; I'm sure the place will continue to go from strength to strength.
|Ratings||Michelin Guide||AA Guide||Good Food Guide|
|At time of review||6|