Before I begin, I am apologizing in advance for not having any photos. Too dim in the restaurant and I didn't want to do the food any injustice.
We took a drive out to White Lake for dinner last month. Castlegarth is all about local produce and the care taken in presenting these offerings is evident.
The building outside is quaint - inside on the right is a small store selling preserves and a few prepared foods. On the left is seating for about 24 patrons. We arrived a few minutes early and were promptly seated at our table - the last in the room - good thing I made a reservation. It would have been a long drive to be disappointed by poor planning. (There is additional seating available upstairs - this room is also sometimes booked for special events).
Our hostess for the evening was Jennifer Brearley (wife and partner of the chef, Matt Brearley). The menu here is the way I like it - simple. However, one should not confuse simple with unimaginative. On the contrary. A choice of four starters and five mains (if I remember correctly). If you cannot find something that looks good to you, then perhaps you are not as adventurous an eater as you think you are. All of the selections were thoughtful and well composed.
My starter for the evening was the Castlegarth Charcuterie Board. All in-house made, delicious, delectable. Head cheese, Tuscan sausage, chicken liver pate, pickled cabbage and a preserved crab apple - served with crispy toasts. The texture of the head cheese reminded me more of rillettes than a formed terrine that is typically served sliced. Nonetheless, tasty, meaty and rich. The crab apple was a nice accompaniment. Apples and pork - how could it not be a winner? The sausage was mouth-watering and delicately spiced. The pate was smooth and wonderful. Each toast point I built with pate and pickled cabbage tickled the taste buds delightfully. (Why am I not making pickled cabbage at home? I love cabbage...weekend project on the horizon!) My husband's starter was the Fish Board - which included periwinkle fritters, cod brandade, perch roe taramasalata, and smoked sea angel oysters. (Periwinkles are a small snails). The petite fritters had a great taste of the sea (flavour and texture reminiscent of conch, but a touch more subtle) without a lot of binder/batter to mask the subtle flavour. Cod brandade is a creamy French spread made from salt cod, olive oil and potatoes. Taramasalata is a Greek spread made from salted roe and olive oil. The flavours of these are delicate and tasted to me like what they should be. Creamy, slightly fishy (in the best way) and moreish. Both spreads were served on crispy toasts.
For my main I chose the duck breast served with swiss chard, brussel sprout leaves, ricotta & beet ravioli. The ravioli were drizzled with a lovely brown butter sauce. The greens were just wilted, which was nice and the ravioli were scrumptious. However, the star of the plate was the duck breast. Crispy skin, fat rendered to a delicious seasoned layer of goodness to add the perfect flavour to the meat - delicately salted. I wrapped each mouth watering slice in some greens, a corner of ravioli, slid it through the jus/sauce on my plate, and enjoyed. I have to say it is some of the best duck that I have ever had in a restaurant (ever) - kudos to the Chef. My husband enjoyed the roast goat. I had a taste (well a couple actually) and will have to get it next time (if it's still on the menu!). The goat meat was very mild tasting, tender and roasted to a lovely medium. The accompanying legumes were wonderfully heady with cumin and spices. The pea sprouts as garnish while sweet and delicious, a little tricky to wrangle onto the fork. Great flavours all around.
While I didn't have room for dessert (the pre-dinner bread and butter took care of that notion), my husband enjoyed the donuts and ice cream. Three homemade donuts and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.
We lingered at our table, wanting to delay the suberb flavours leaving our mouths as we would eventually head out into the cold evening. Nicely done, worthy of a return visit. The Brearley's are doing wonderful things here - deserving of your patronage. Congratulations on 10 years!
Note: You can see some lovely photos of Matt's creations if you check him out on Twitter @Castlegarth