Dinner at Bertie’s in Romsey
A workhouse back in the Seventeenth Century, then a posthouse and a coaching inn, Bertie’s, as it has been for the last 15 years, has clearly enjoyed a varied history. It is not obvious quite why it was renamed in honour of P. G. Wodehouse’s most famous literary creation – the bubbly waitresses certainly didn’t shimmer in Jeeves-style when my wife and I dined there this week – yet there was little to fault about either the food or service.
Chefs often seek to ‘add a twist to old favourites’ and Berties’ man (or woman) with the skillet knife chose to unite tastes of China and Yorkshire in, of all things, black pudding and spring onion wontons. Although I couldn’t really taste the onions – they could so easily have dominated the flavours – the black pudding combined well with the light and crisp batter, deep-fried to perfection. The mustard sauce contrasted well with both but could have been slightly stronger.
The Simply Berties menu, from which we chose, described their home-made salmon fishcakes as ‘famous’. It would have been churlish not to sample what was obviously a signature dish, so that became my main course. Justly famous? Debatable. Fame is of course relative – and so is culinary ability. With innate ability and years of practice, the team at Berties are in a completely different league to me. Yet I have to report that my fishcake, served with chunky chips – hand-peeled and fried, no doubt – was very good but not truly outstanding. Whilst the flavours – salmon, obviously, with appropriate herbs – were as they should be, the texture was a little dry. The poached egg on top would have combined with it better, had the yolk not hardened (they are, of course, so difficult to cook just right).
Having forgone an hors d’œuvre, my wife opted for baked penne and goats cheese with a tomato and fennel dressing. Had it been the Italian restaurant up the road, a bowl of pasta in tomato sauce topped with cheese would surely have arrived. Whilst the bowl part of her expectations was satisfied, the rest wasn’t: it indeed contained a bed of tomato and fennel but the penne and goats cheese, presumably baked together in a ramekin, was perched on top. It was, again, an interesting twist and my wife enjoyed it.
My raspberry and frangpane tart with tutti frutti ice cream was excellent. As in virtually any establishment with culinary ambitions these days, it arrived with its obligatory, artistic dusting of icing sugar and blobs of sauce. My wife’s white chocolate and banana crême brûlée with rosemary shortbread was suitably crunchy creamy and gooey in all the right places. It trumped my dessert in presentational terms arriving on a triangular platter on which the silhouettte of a spoon had been traced in cocoa powder.
With a glass of white and rosé respectively, our bill came to £35: very good value for an evening meal. And with diners being of a much more mature and discreet nature than habitués of the Drones Club must have been back in the 1920’s, bread rolls at Berties stay firmly in their baskets.