Ta­ble talk

Wil­liam visits Baraset Barn

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

THE PA­TRONS OF BARASET BARN – a restaurant and small ho­tel in the War­wick­shire coun­try­side – are two jovial mid­dle-aged boys who dress like they’re pop­ping to the tav­erna in Corfu. When we vis­ited for Sun­day lunch, the pair – one in shorts and blue shirt, the other in pale trousers and jazzy shirt – were do­ing their meet­ing-and-greet­ing thing and tak­ing the odd or­der along with an­other grown-up who wasn’t dressed for a beach cock­tail. Wait­ing staff, mean­while, were in black T-shirts and small leather aprons – which made the wait­ing boys in shorts look like they were wear­ing short leather skirts.

Baraset Barn has tall ceil­ings and a mix of dark wood and black steel, with ta­bles spread around the room, on a mez­za­nine level, out on a court­yard and in a snazzy pri­vate-room din­ing area. There are taste­ful mir­rors, botan­i­cal art and comfy, stylishly up­hol­stered chairs. It used to house an Ital­ian restaurant but a few years back it ceased trad­ing, and then our boys, who own some pubs, bought it.

They moved the bar, paved an area for out­side din­ing, and – now they’ve got a small ho­tel that sleeps 16 built in an op­po­site barn that was once a garage – they are hop­ing for a lit­tle at­ten­tion.

In at­tempt­ing to get a ta­ble at 1pm, I was told the ear­li­est one avail­able was at 3pm. Af­ter some per­sua­sion, we were then given one at 2pm. We were 30 min­utes late (don’t worry, we rang and apol­o­gised) but on ar­rival there were a great num­ber of spare ta­bles, which made me think there would prob­a­bly have been space at 1pm; the kitchen

likes to spread the load, which is an­noy­ing – but when you see the menu, it’s un­der­stand­able.

It reads like there’s been a com­mit­tee meet­ing in which every­one – the Corfu boys, their wives, chil­dren, friends and strangers pass­ing in the street – has of­fered up an idea and, rather than have a row, they’ve agreed to shove it on there. Some­one said, ‘We should have shar­ing plates as starters,’ so they have four such plates, from one with rus­tic bread, smashed avo­cado and squishy roasted gar­lic, to a mezze board with hum­mus and hal­loumi and feta and ev­ery­thing else they can re­mem­ber from their hol­i­day in Greece (or was it Tur­key?).

An­other per­son said, ‘No, we need loads of starters,’ so there they are, in­clud­ing to­mato soup, tan­doori chicken skewers, bub­ble and squeak, Bloody Mary-cured salmon, gnocchi, ham-hock ter­rine, noo­dles, salt-and­pep­per squid, jerk baby ribs... Yup, ev­ery starter that per­son (and every­one else) had ever eaten. Main cour­ses are sim­i­larly mul­ti­tudi­nous: burg­ers, steaks, curry, fish dishes in­clud­ing fish pie and fish stew, and sal­ads, and Sun­day roasts…

‘Get­ting staff is a night­mare,’ the Corfu boy in shorts told us be­fore do­ing a weird thing of watch­ing our dessert ar­rive (a pas­sion-fruit crème brûlée), and then not leav­ing, and watch­ing us eat, and ask­ing us if we were en­joy­ing it.

I would have thought get­ting a chef who could pro­duce all of that food would in­deed be a night­mare. I’m amazed they even have a menu. They could just act like those ex­clu­sive Mayfair night­clubs where the high-rollers or­der any food they wish at any time of day, and the chefs – a dex­trous mix­ture of In­dian, European, Ja­panese and more – some­how man­age.

The Baraset Barn challenge would be for cus­tomers to or­der any­thing and then see if the chef can cope. Which he or she, sort of, can! Our Baltic board fea­tured what was promised as salt-and­pep­per squid but was ac­tu­ally pale squid rings with lit­tle chunks of mango, prawns on skewers, and lit­tle fish­cakes (ad­ver­tised as Thai-spiced but with no ac­tual ev­i­dence of it). These av­er­age good­ies were res­cued, how­ever, by a won­der­ful sauce of soy and miso.

I then had the Goan curry with sweet potato and chick­peas. It came in an au­then­tic-feel­ing large clay pot and was tasty, but could have been wet­ter, and although I would have pre­ferred the thick, green sam­bal sauce to have been hot and spicy, it was nev­er­the­less a lovely mix of co­rian­der and coconut. Emily’s tan­doori chicken Cae­sar was sim­i­larly too mod­est on the tan­doori flavour front (pos­si­bly un­de­tectable in a blind taste test) but com­pe­tently good.

And now that the crème brûlée in­vig­i­la­tion is just a mem­ory, I can re­veal that it was per­fectly sweet and creamy but, apart from a tiny layer un­der the torched top, a lit­tle too cold.

The Baraset Barn is a very de­cent coun­try gaff that beams with pos­i­tiv­ity. Some­one just needs to tell the Corfu boys to go and chill in their villa and trust the chef to slim down the menu and give it some fo­cus.

Av­er­age good­ies were res­cued, how­ever, by a won­der­ful sauce of soy and miso

Be­low Goan curry with sweet potato and chick­peas

Above The Baltic board shar­ing plate.

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