Summer 2019 saw HRH Princess Alexandra open new eatery The Furnace Kitchen at the Ironbridge Gorge Museums site in Coalbrookdale.

Offering a new and relaxed dining experience and making use of fresh and locally sourced food, The Furnace Kitchen serves brunch, lunch, main meals, cakes and coffee & tea.

The venue itself is stunning. Located within the former Long Warehouse of the historic Coalbrookdale Company, where railway wagons would once have been loaded, it features open brickwork, exposed concrete & wood and blends the contemporary with the historic. Floor-to-ceiling windows also feature, as do tiles from the nearby Jackfield Tile Museum, filament bulb pendant lights aplenty and a navy-and-gold theme.

The menu showcases a mix of modern British cuisine and European classics, all hand-made in the state-of-the-art kitchen by a talented team overseen by celebrity chef Marcus Bean. Best known for winning Channel Four’s Iron Chef UK, as well as for numerous BBC Good Food Show and TV appearances, Marcus has worked alongside the Ironbridge Trust to create and launch this stylish new eatery.

Daily menu options include brunch (light and fluffy blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, and The Furnace Full English), small plates (pork belly, honey, soy & sesame and smoked ham hock & mustard terrine with house piccalilli), starters (gnocchi, Shropshire coppa, Montano cheese & sage butter), mains (Hobson beer battered hake & chips with tartar sauce) and a range of salads, sandwiches and desserts.

My partner and I visited The Furnace Kitchen on a Friday evening to experience the restaurant’s weekly pizza & cocktails night. All the pizzas are cooked fresh to order in the gas-fired Gozney pizza oven.

We kicked off proceedings with a Miners Board, which featured cured meats, two Shropshire cheeses - a blue and a medium - and freshly baked bread and  garlic bread. Out of habit I automatically ordered a local beer, so unfortunately can’t comment on the cocktail element, but we were certainly off to a good start. The salty parma ham nicely complemented the creamy cheese, and the bread was well baked. We liked that you could order a single portion, whereas most restaurants only offer sharing boards.

After a short wait, during which we admired the decor, our pizzas arrived. There are six gourmet pizzas to choose from, reasonably priced at between £10 & £12, as well as three children’s pizzas, all priced at £6. Gluten-free bases are available on request. We were instantly set on the Strawberry Fields lamb, chimichurri, pomegranate and mint yogurt dressing pizza. However, we struggled to choose between the other three gourmet pizza topping options: slow-cooked pork belly, red onion jam, Appleby smoked cheese and mustard dressing; wild mushroom, Shropshire salumi cured pork, garlic & chive butter; and courgette, black pepper chicken curry, fresh coriander, fennel seeds and pickled chilli. They all sounded equally delicious. In the end we opted for the pork.

Both pizzas featured a beautiful medley of high-quality and complementary topping ingredients -  but it was the dough that was the real star of the show. It was an absolute triumph. Perfection, in fact. Soft in the middle but crisp on the outside, it couldn’t have been cooked any better. Both pizzas showcased just the right amount of topping and were of a decent size. I genuinely couldn’t pick a favourite - they were both superb.

Our side order of house chips was thoroughly enjoyable too. Fluffy on the inside but with a satisfying outer-layer crunch, they were perfectly cooked and seasoned. No sauce was required, which in my book is the key to a successful chip.

I applaud Marcus’ menu choices. Being a family-friendly establishment, there are options available for everyone to enjoy, no matter what their age. For example, the dessert menu features more          sophisticated options such as lemon posset with ginger nut   biscuit, alongside white chocolate cookie ice cream s’mores - an option which one would imagine would be more appealing to the younger generation. We ordered the latter and the house chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream. We felt like a couple of big kids - but in a good way, of course! The brownie was exemplary and ticked all the boxes - warm, rich, gooey, moreish and downright delicious. The s’mores were equally as naughty. We left feeling completely satisfied and found ourselves recommending The Furnace Kitchen to everyone in the pub the following evening, as well as to friends and family alike.

Current opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 8.30am to 5pm and Sunday 9am to 5pm, with the pizza & cocktails night running every Friday evening from 6pm to 9pm. There’s a plan to   introduce more evening dining in the future. The venue has also announced that it will be launching ‘soon-to-be-famous Sunday lunches’ - which I for one can’t wait to try, if the quality of the pizzas is anything to go by!

Marcus and the Trust have done a fantastic job with The Furnace Kitchen. The decor, the quality of the produce, the ambience, the welcoming and friendly staff, even the toilets, are all of the highest quality. Everything is spot-on. Pay it a visit - you won't be disappointed.

**** Lauren Foster