Please note! As of August 2016 The Compasses at Pattiswick is no longer classified as a pub, so I’ve now categorised it as a modern English restaurant.
After friends raving about the Compasses, I decided it was time for another visit to take my regular co-diner and co-conspirator, but it took a few weeks. Having once reviewed in glowing terms this fine country gastropub, this is merely a mini-review to update on the first and demonstrate that the Clarks, Jono and Jane, are still on top form.
I started by booking on a Monday, only to find the restaurant was closed on Mondays because of ongoing improvements; so I shifted the booking to a Tuesday – only to receive a very polite and apologetic email telling me that due to unforeseen circumstances the restaurant would be closed on that Tuesday.
All the best treats are worth pursuing, so we hit third time lucky – and thankfully on a beautiful day, unlike most in this alleged summer of 2016. It was a good day to book too, with the car park almost overflowing to sample the wares of a pub with a brilliant local reputation. Turns out it was a party of elderly citizens, who filled one room with a long table and sounded happy as Larry!
Whatever work is ongoing, the dining room looked much the same – simple, stripped back, but a few nice decorative touches like fresh flowers and maps of French wine-growing areas. I could never tire of admiring Beaune, nor yet drinking its wines.
I thought we were late, but it turns out we were early. All the more time to enjoy a well-kept ale and peruse the daily lunch menu. On this occasion we ate and drank the following:
- White onion soup
- Smoked duck and raspberry salad
- Thai green curry with sea bass and prawns
- Lamb cutlets with fondant potatoes and wine jus
- Whole and crushed creamed peas with bacon
- Roasted caramelised vanilla peaches with clotted cream (shared)
- Coffee, beer, wine.
I still don’t recall having a better soup anywhere else, and this example of a freshly made soup from local ingredients provided further evidence with a depth of robust oniony flavour tempered by creamy overtones.
My companion was making equally enthusiastic noises about her smoked duck and raspberry salad, and even allowed me a mouthful to sample the lightly smoked duck mingling to perfection with a sweetened dressing. Do they smoke their own, as does the Anchor at Nayland? I forgot to ask!
My companion was equally thrilled at her Thai green curry, which stood on its head the conventions of Thai cooking by making a fillet of sea bass topped with tiger prawns the centrepiece and reducing the curry in a gentle shade of green to subtle sauce, which sauce, she said, strode a perfect line between stridency of true curry and delicacy to enhance the fish without ever overpowering it.
My lamb was perhaps not quite as pink as I would have chosen it, but succulence and flavour it had in spades, plus sufficient jus to be mopped up by potato in the finest traditions of British Sunday roast. The peas were new season and tasted fresh as a dew-ridden daisy and sumptuously coated in cream. I wish the bacon bits had been sautéed longer to provide more of a seared crunchiness, but you couldn’t quibble – it was delicious.
The roasted caramelised peaches we both enjoyed sufficiently to recreate at home (recipe on a separate page), though these were perhaps not yet ripe enough to take full advantage. A gorgeous summer dish to enrich any menu, one no self-respecting diner could afford to miss.
Finally, coffee that surpassed the feeble efforts I’ve drunk recently at establishments that should know better – it had body, strength and certainly didn’t taste like a muddy field. Why is it so few restaurants do really good coffee? Thank you to the Clarks for doing this (relatively) simple job so well.
Bottom line: The Compasses is, to date, my gastropub of 2016, as it was the last year I visited (2014?) I’ve never been disappointed there and frankly I don’t expect I ever will be. Attention to detail is paramount, ingredients are local, recipes are not stupidly over-complicated by unnecessary ingredients. The Clarks do everything right, and deserve all the good word of mouth they receive. I look forward sometime to an evening visit.