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“All flavour, no pomp. Pomp - overbearing, pretentious and self-important” is the leading line on Larder’s website.
Located on the bustling Bore Street, less than 10 minutes’ walk away from some of the city’s most popular locations - the Cathedral, Garrick Theatre and the Guildhall, to name but three - Larder offers a relaxed, honest and ingredient-led fine dining experience in the heart of Lichfield.
The restaurant has just celebrated its first birthday and has become well known for its commitment to local ingredients and bold flavours. Diners can enjoy two courses for £30, three for £40 or a five or a seven-course tasting menu. Vegetarian options are also available.
Larder’s welcoming and attentive manager, Alec, made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the door. We perused the menu options in the bar area whilst admiring the modern and contemporary decor. Exposed brick, dark wood, and grey, teal, navy and mustard notes run throughout the building. As well as its bar area and main restaurant, Larder also boasts a chef’s table, located next to the kitchen, which can accommodate up to 10 people.
I had heard nothing but glowing reports about the venue prior to my visit, so my partner and I thought it best to opt for the seven-course tasting menu, to ensure we sampled as much of Larder’s delectable cuisine as possible.
First up was the best bread course that has ever touched my lips - a black truffle crumpet with cultured butter. Due to the way in which it’s made, cultured butter is the more sophisticated and deeper-flavoured version of your average butter, boasting a tangier taste. A generous helping of that, spread all over (and melting into) a warm, doughy, black truffle crumpet is one of the most comforting food experiences you could possibly have. From the word go, we were beyond impressed!
Next up was the first dish on the tasting menu - torched mackerel. As well as being aesthetically stunning, it was the nicest-tasting mackerel I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Beautifully fresh and incredibly soft, its skin was torched to perfection. The fish was complemented by a welcome crunch from a sesame seed cracker, bursts of Japanese-inspired flavours from a soy & ginger gel, and yet more freshness from the little cubes of compressed kohlrabi (German turnip). It was the most vibrant of dishes in both presentation and flavour, and definitely one of my highlights of the evening.
The Creedy Carver chicken terrine that was presented to us next was my partner’s Larder highlight. The dish featured a precisely formed, soft and succulent chicken terrine, alongside a piece of salty chicken skin, cep powder, a pickled cep mushroom and a strong-flavoured green tarragon emulsion. The classic chicken & mushroom flavour combination is commonplace for a reason - because it’s downright delicious - and Larder’s take on it was exceptional.
I thoroughly enjoy a scallop and find myself being drawn to them if they’re on a menu. My partner, however, is usually left disappointed by them. Not at Larder, though! Hand dived scallop with compressed apple, crispy parsnip, pickled shallots and curry oil was the next dish we tried. The scallop, large in size, was absolute perfection. Sealed nicely on the outside yet soft on the inside, the meaty delight was accompanied by a combination of sweet flavours from the compressed apple and pickled shallots. The curry oil helped bring the dish together without being overpowering, while the crispy parsnip added another dimension to the experience with its crunchy texture. Simply divine.
Next up was a meaty and perfectly cooked piece of monkfish, presented on a bed of salty chorizo jam and accompanied by a creamy sweetcorn sauce and a buttery piece of baby gem. A colourful dish, it married together contrasting and complementary flavours in a way that was nothing short of delicious. Another highlight.
The main meat course of the evening came in the form of a high quality and beautifully cooked fillet of beef, served atop the most exquisite truffle mash, a tasty little ox cheek croquette, an ale shallot, beef jus and watercress emulsion. The knife glided through the meat as if it were butter, the emulsion added a sense of freshness to the dish, and the mash was worlds apart from any I'd previously tasted. The portions were of an impressive size for a tasting menu, too.
The first of two desserts was Larder’s take on a crumble - the most luxurious crumble you’re ever likely to try, in fact! It comprised compressed apple, sharp pickled blackberries, a sweet blackberry puree and a verbena shortbread crumb, all enclosed in a light and airy apple foam. It was a concept I’d never come across in a restaurant before, but one that I’d definitely be drawn towards again.
The finale of chocolate crémeux served with Baileys ice cream, candid hazelnuts and salted caramel was as rich and naughty as it sounds. The caramel sauce was the nicest I’ve ever tasted, and the candid hazelnuts boasted an almost sweet popcorn taste and texture. It was the perfect end to a perfect evening.
The food at Larder was the equal of any I’ve tasted in a Michelin-star restaurant. The flavours were exceptional and every course showcased a combination of culinary precision and excellent technical ability. Everything here is faultless - service and atmosphere included - and now that I’ve paid this gem of a restaurant a visit, I can indeed confirm the accuracy of that opening line on its website: ‘All flavour [and then some!] no pomp’ sums up Larder nicely.
***** Lauren Foster
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