Saturday, 17 December 2016
REVIEW: The Knife and Cleaver, Bedfordshire
You know what we don't talk about enough? PUBS WITH BEDROOMS. It's my new favourite thing, and let me tell you why. I love having a weekend away, but often it ends up costing the earth, between expensive hotel rooms and over the top dinners and activities and whatnot. Super fun, but it's nice to know that getting away for the night and having a nice meal doesn't actually have to cost the earth. And that's where pubs with rooms come in. Or inns. Do we call them inns? Who knows. But the facts are that the rooms are usually reasonably priced, the food tastes good and you can have a few drinks and then totter off happily to your room before heading home the next day.
I was invited to The Knife & Cleaver to review their food, and because it's up Bedford way, which is around an hour's drive from here, they offered us a room. It was such a great weekend. The pub itself has new owners - Epic Pubs - who've put together an incredible menu of gastro fare, and the rooms are very cosy, tastefully decorated in grey and white (totally my jam) with nice bathrooms (ours had a dreamy rolltop bath) and incredibly comfortable beds. Also, they're around £100 a night (between £99 and £109, in fact) which I think is really good value, considering the cost of some grotty chain hotels I've stayed in before. Plus I genuinely loved this place.
Onto the food though, which was why we were there after all. Oooh, it's a good menu, full of delicious things. For my starter I chose forest mushrooms on toast, topped with a crispy hen's egg and parmesan. The mushrooms were rich and creamy and incredible (and Matt doesn't like them so I totally didn't need to share) and the egg had a perfect dribbly yolk, and the whole lot was topped with a sheet of crispy parmesan. DREAM. It was incredible.
Matt had the duck liver parfait which poached pear and port jelly. He did swap his brioche for normal toast, as he finds brioche a bit too rich with the rich pate, which the restaurant were happy to do. He said it was delicious, and worked really well with the pear jelly, which cut through the rich duck without being overly sweet.
We had a serious debate over our mains, because actually both of us wanted steak, but we always try and order different main courses when we review a restaurant. We realised if one of us had steak, the other would just have steak envy, so eventually we made a deal that neither of us could have it.
So Matt chose the curried monkfish loin, which came with Bombay potatoes, spiced cauliflower, mango salsa and raita. He loved it - he hadn't actually had monkfish in a curried form before, and found it delicious.
I did what I never do and ordered a salad - I KNOW - but it genuinely sounded delicious and I couldn't think of anything I wanted more. Also, I tend to overeat when I go out for dinner, and I thought this might save me from feeling like exploding later. And it did!
The salad was confit wild rabbit with black pudding croquettes, cured celeriac and pickled shallots, and it was exactly what I fancied. It was a huge plate, and the black pudding croquettes went really well with the fresh, lightly flavoured salad - the strong meaty flavour of the black pudding complemented the rest of the dish perfectly.
Pudding was so hard to choose that I had to ask the waitress what she recommended - she said the chocolate brownie, so I went for that and wasn't disappointed. Gooey and warm and rich and perfect, it completely undid any pretense of healthiness I'd incurred from ordering the salad, and it was amazing. Went down a treat with my red wine, too.
Matt had one of the specials - banoffee baked Alaska. He described it as one of the best desserts he'd ever had, so I think he was a fan. We finished with a couple of cocktails - my amaretto fizz was amazing - before going to bed very very full and very very content.
We also stopped in for brunch the next day - I had Eggs Benny, and Matt had the full English. Both were, again, incredibly good.
I really, really loved our weekend at the Knife and Cleaver. The rooms were comfortable and nicely decorated, and although being on the ground floor meant they weren't in the quietest spot, they were ultra cosy and we slept really well, even if the bells from the church opposite did wake us up a little early.
But the food was where they really excelled, with a fabulous menu of gastro classics that I absolutely couldn't fault. The service was impeccable, the atmosphere friendly and welcoming, and the prices were good too considering the quality of the food (starters around £5/£7 and mains around £14/£15). We'll definitely be back. I really think you should try it too.
The Knife & Cleaver is at The Grove, Houghton Conquest, Bedford, MK45 3LA. The restaurant kindly covered our food and accommodation in exchange for this honest review.
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