I read the lovely Essex Eating review of this ‘gastro pub’ a few weeks ago and we’d mentally bookmarked it as a place to try next time we fancied eating out. I’d sent the review to Matt as well and when he emailed to say that he was free that night and did we fancy a little dinner out and should we try the Star & Dove? We were in the car faster than Flash Gordon after Ming the Merciless!
Knowing the previous managers of this Totterdown pub, we were both amazed and pleased with the changes made to the pub. It has probably changed beyond all belief and is now a friendly (very!), local pub with a huge commitment to the community (we spotted the Totterdown residents association having a meeting in their spare room).
And so, onto the food. Remember that this is a gastro pub – usually a word that makes me spit a little as I survey a menu that is basically slightly ponced-up burgers, steaks and fish and chips. This is a proper gastro pub. But it is not pretentious with it, but more a little bit interesting. The food owes a lot to a rather older style of cooking (I noted that their previous menu was based on some of Mrs Beeton’s recipes!) and instead of a full menu of starters, mains and desserts – there was a large collection of small plates – almost an english tapas if you will.
Background ( squid in beer sauce), foreground beer basted pork ribs. The squid was pretty average – we didn’t enjoy it much, but it was technically very competant – and not overcooked!) but the ribs were pretty much amazing. Falling to bits, soft and tender meat with a delicious sauce.
Duck ham and home made piccalilli – I enjoyed this, Simon said that the strong flavour of the piccalilli overwhelmed the duck. I still liked it.
Mackerel mousse & melba toast – OMG – light, soft and fluffy mousse with some crisp little toasts. The only issue was that the toast is holey and my mousse fell through. This is very picky tho and it was delicious.
Dressed vegetables – light and interesting dressing – this was a good accompaniment to the rich dishes.
Exe river mussels in beer gravy. Again this was delicious. I thoroughly recommend it.
Black pudding croquettes –these were totally overwhelmingly flavoured and Matt & Si adored them but I found them way too rich and intense. This is definitely my issue though as they were delicious.
Crab bisque topped with a quails egg and lovage. I ate all of this – it’s not exactly built for sharing is it? And it was amazing. The bisque was delicious and rich rich rich!
All in all, it was delicious – some amazing bits and some quite average bits.
We then moved onto desserts – they had 3 of them so we had them all.
Treacle bread & butter pudding – ooooooh yeah baby! This is what it’s supposed to be like.
Cherry soup with short bread and plum compote. Or something like that. It was tart and sweet all at the same time and I didn’t like it, but Simon ate it all.
Lemon curd parfait & blossom thing. I forget exactly what it was, but it was freaking awesome and I reckon I could have eaten it twice over.
All in all, I was dead pleased with our evening. The music was superb – early 90s rock and we were all jigging our feet around to it along. The 4 chef / owners appear to do a vast amount of the work – including being behind the bar and taking orders – which is great because they can tell you all about what you’re about to order and where it comes from – i.e. the quails eggs are from 2 streets over and they get their duck eggs from there too.
Oh and the bar snacks looked amazing – scotch eggs, mini pies, home made pork scratching. Mmmmm!