William visits Baraset Barn
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.