The Black Rat isn’t the sort of name you’d normally associate with a Michelin starred restaurant but I didn’t let that deter me from booking in for a Sunday lunch. It’s based in Winchester in Hampshire and as it’s only a short drive from my parents house I thought it was only appropriate to force my Dad to take me for some “father/son bonding”.
Having been a pub in a former life, the dining room is still very much in that fashion. It’s a quirky place too – like an eccentric antique shop which makes it a rather pleasant place to sit as there’s plenty to look at.
The set lunch menu (which was all that was available) was short and concise. £22.95 for two courses or £25.95 for three with just three options to choose for each course.
A generous stick of sourdough bread kicked things off with two types of butter; slightly salted and beurre noisette. It was some of the finest bread I’ve ever tasted and was totally moreish. A gloriously golden crust with a light fluffy middle. It more than made up for the lack of an amuse bouche.
To start I went for the salt cod scotch egg with watercress soup and charred baby leeks and I thought the presentation was stunning. I wanted to dive in and swim around in that velvety smooth soup – it really was delicious. The salt cod brought a saltiness which was soothed by the gooey yolk; the flavours worked brilliantly together.
My Dad went for the Gressingham duck salad, crispy leg, smoked breast, soy glazed hearts and Chinese cabbage. It had a good balance of textures and flavours but the hearts were a little overcooked thus becoming chewy. My Dad nearly had a stroke when he realised he’d eaten heart – he’s not the most adventurous of souls but he actually enjoyed them!
For main I opted for the Aberdeen Angus onglet, tongue gratin, mixed roasted heritage carrots and land cress. Personally I would have left the cress off – salad with hot food rarely ever works for me but other than that this dish was delish! So much flavour and the onglet was a delight; a seriously blackened crust gave way to the pinkest of centres. The tongue and potato gratin was rich, meaty and buttery. Yum, yum, yum!
My Dad’s Cornish ray wing, potted shrimp butter, Alexanders, salsify and parmentier potatoes was also delicious. The ray wing had an almost meaty texture which was unusual but great and the buttery sauce with salty shrimps was a great pairing with the fish.
For pud, the rum panna cotta, pineapple purée, golden raisins and coconut looked beautiful. It was really light and delicate with the perfect amount of sweetness. The rum was subtle but definitely present and the coconut added texture.
The salted caramel and valrhona chocolate tart, peanut ice cream and praline wasn’t quite as crowd pleasing. The salted caramel smear and peanut ice cream were both delightful but the tart itself lacked any real flavour. There’s nothing more disappointing than a tasteless tart!
Service was a little slow in places; empty plates were left in front of us for long periods of time and we also felt the waiters could have been a little more charming and friendly. It didn’t ruin the meal but it could have made it much more enjoyable.
We had a very pleasant lunch at the Black Rat and the food served was seriously flavoursome. Even though the service didn’t bowl us over we both decided we’d go back again as the food was darn tasty.