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The Cross, Kenilworth is a Michelin starred pub restaurant serving 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.
The Cross At Kenilworth,
16 New Street,
Telephone: 01926 853 840
In my experience, high hopes are often a precursor to disappointment - Coventry City’s recent demise after topping League One before Christmas being the latest case in point - but it’s hard not to have positive preconceptions when you’re visiting Warwickshire’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.
The Cross has held that accolade for the past two years, ever since being taken over by Andreas Antona, whose other restaurants include the similarly Michelin-approved Simpsons (which began life in Kenilworth but is now in Edgbaston). The eatery is a testament to the skills of head chef - and fellow Sky Blues fan - Adam Bennett (who last year made the finals of the prestigious Bocuse d’Or chef’s Olympics) and his staff, which includes manager Giuseppe Longobardi, who placed third in the 2015 UK Restaurant Manager Of The Year competition.
The converted pub is a mix of new and old, featuring a contemporary bar area and dining section with views of the open kitchen, as well as a traditional wood-panelled restaurant that has the look and feel of a Scottish hunting lodge (but without any associated stuffiness).
The service is a million miles from stuffy too. Our waitress was friendly, efficient and without a hint of pretence, even when ‘introducing’ the courses as they were served. Speaking of which (and not before time), we debated long and hard before making our difficult choices. So much sounded so good from the imaginative starters menu. We eventually plumped for Cornish crab soup and scallop ravioli. The former came with saffron rouille and utterly divine crab on toast - somehow smooth, creamy and meaty all at once. The latter was a stupendous mix of perfect ravioli, sea vegetables and a wonderful smoked fish cream sauce. Two fish-inspired dishes in, and we were hooked.
After we devoured an unordered bonus dish of chicken liver parfait with pickled vegetables and sourdough toast - for which the expression ‘melt in the mouth’ might have been invented - we tackled our mains. My partner chose the best cod I’ve ever tasted, beautifully presented with (and augmented by) mussel risotto and fennel fondant. Meanwhile, I opted to maintain the room’s Highland theme with venison fillet, served with haggis, potato terrine, parsnips, lingonberries, kale, and a Laphroaig sauce. And if that sounds a mouthful, well it was - and an incredible zinging one at that. The variety of flavours and textures crashed into each other but instantly became lifelong friends at the perfect dinner party.
Our evening was rounded off with two fabulous desserts. My praline soufflé beautifully combined the lightest of textures with a nutty praline sauce and rich chocolate sorbet. My partner’s caramel poached pear, speared with a miniature cone of ginger ice cream, was as tasty as it was inspired, the stem ginger in the ice cream an extraordinarily wonderful touch.
From its relaxed atmosphere and genuinely friendly service to undeniably superb food - easily some of the best I’ve ever tasted - a meal at The Cross is laced with wonderful touches. And while the prices certainly reflect it (main dishes range from £24 to £32), this is one occasion where the hype is more than justified.