The Cross at Kenilwoth is a Michelin starred pub from renowned chef and restaurateur Andreas Antona. He also owns the Michelin starred Simpsons in Birmingham. Heading up the kitchen, is Chef Adam Bennet. A talented guy, Adam and his team represented the UK at this year’s finals of prestigious Bocuse d’Or .
Arriving early for my lunch reservation, I headed up the hill to check out the ruins of Kenilworth Castle. The castle has some impressive history -I remember the bits that involved food… in 1266 it was under siege for six months (the longest siege in English history) which only ended because the folk inside run out of stuff to eat. Also, some bloke who was trying to get into Elizabeth I’s knickers spent £1000 a day putting on lavish banquets and fireworks displays; she was having none of it and he didn’t get any.
After that unexpected bit of culture, it was time for lunch.
What they say: ‘The Cross, Kenilworth is a Michelin starred pub restaurant serving excellent food, cooked by award winning chefs. The Cross started out as an inn back in the 19th century and was recently refurbished to reveal its original features. Expect a warm welcome, friendly service and stunning dishes, cooked using the very best local ingredients.’
What Michelin say: ‘Smartly furnished pub with eager, welcoming staff. Skilfully executed, classical cooking uses prime seasonal ingredients, and dishes not only look impressive but taste good too. Sit in the back room to watch the kitchen in action. The bright and airy room next door used to be a classroom.’
In addition to the a la carte, The Cross offer a tasting menu for £65 and an excellent value lunch menu, 2 courses £20, 3 for £25. I went for the 2 courses from the lunch menu (ravioli and duck) but added a starter and dessert from the a la carte.
Crispy duck egg with white asparagus, potato & garlic mousse, parsley & truffle poultry jus – white asparagus is one of my favourite ingredients. If it’s on the menu it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll order it. This dish did it wonderful justice; just what you’d expect from Michelin starred cooking… sound techniques, prime ingredients and clarity of flavour, especially from that truffled chicken jus. Delightful stuff.
Beef tartar with wasabi, radish salad & quinoa – artfully presented, the tartar was another triumph. The wasabi cream was nicely balanced with the heat from the diaphanous sliced radish and the acidity from the pickled. Going through the tartar more pickled radish in a tiny dice and the toasted quinoa topping added a particularly gratifying texture to another excellent dish.
Ravioli of ox cheek with carrots, mushrooms, pine kernels & red wine – I asked my twitter followers if it would be too pretentious to use diaphanous to describe a thinly sliced radish, the general consensus was yes. I know that following up by describing ravioli pasta in the same way is taking things to a whole new level but it really was the thinnest most delicate pasta I’ve ever encountered; the pasta may have been delicate but the flavours sure did pack a punch.
Duck breast with curly kale, cereals, cranberry & verjus – a little more bold, the duck dish was another joyous dish. I loved the sharp acidy of the verjus and cranberries. Against the crisp, salty skin, the duck meat itself was some of the most tender I’ve eaten.
Orange and gingerbread soufflé & dark chocolate ice cream – there’s nothing I need to write here… a perfect end to a most enjoyable lunch.