Guildford is a strange place. Overrun by Thai restaurants, I've found many a place where I quite like to eat in the town (village?), but none yet that I love. However, since I'm going to be spending a considerable amount of my time here over the coming year, I've decided I need to fix this particular problem. I visited Britten's as part of this mission - a restaurant I've often walked or driven past. Some quick research revealed the chef and owner to be a past Masterchef contestant, so earlier this week we dropped by for an early evening dinner with the expectation of some fancy food.
|Roasted root vegetable press, basil, truffle emulsion|
And I can say fancy food is indeed what we were served. We normally dine early on weekdays, so we arrived for a pre-7pm table with the intention of ordering from the pre-theatre menu. The restaurant was unsurprisingly all but empty when we entered, though it filled up somewhat over the course of the evening. A waiter took us to our table, from where we had a good view of the ground floor as seen from the first photo in this post. The décor is minimal and clean, and I imagine this is the kind of space that works well both during the day and at night. We were handed menus before orders for drinks were taken, followed by orders for food. Decisions weren't difficult to make given pre-theatre menus are usually short, though I should mention Britten's offers a relatively generous selection of 4 starters and 4 mains despite this trend.
|Chicken & pistachio ballotine,|
piccalilli and toast
Our orders taken, we were offered a slice of bread each and some butter to pass the time as we waited. When our starters arrived, my expectations shot up from the beautiful plating, but my taste buds were then immediately confused by the food itself. My chicken and pistachio ballotine was nearly tasteless, and while the pickled vegetables did alleviate this somewhat the tiny dollop served wasn't nearly enough. My partner's vegetable press told a similar story. Obviously a dish made with considerable skill and fresh ingredients, the vegetables themselves were mostly tasteless, and barely saved by the small portions of truffle emulsion on the side. I could see what the intention was with both dishes - a simple body with a bolder flavour for the garnish, but I just don't feel it was done very well.
|Braised beef shin, bone marrow crumb, brown butter cauliflower|
The wait that followed our starters was short, and so I didn't have too much time to worry about the food. However, I needn't have worried as the food that did arrive at our table was a very pleasant surprise. It may not be obvious from the photo above, but my portion of beef shin was rather generous and very nicely cooked. The meat was properly seasoned, left slightly crispy outside but still moist inside. It was complemented beautifully by the bone marrow crumble and the brown butter cauliflower, with portions proportioned appropriately. I picked the meat apart and ate it slowly, enjoying each mouthful while I wondered why there were no carbs to accompany it. My partner's slow roasted pork shoulder with celeriac and Indian slaw was similarly carb free, but he was highly complimentary of the dish itself. I didn't mind the lack of carbs or sides for a light weekday dinner, but it would have been a strange thing to omit if I was looking to have a proper meal. The pre-theatre menu doesn't list any sides, and funnily enough neither does the a la carte, though the dishes there do come with seasonal vegetables.
|Tarte tatin and vanilla ice cream|
Our mains polished off, we felt justified in opting for dessert given the lack of carbs. There are only two choices for dessert on the pre-theatre menu, but both are perfectly respectable as far as I'm concerned. My partner had the brownie with chocolate ice cream - the safe option if you're a fan of chocolate. The brownie was was pleasantly nutty and I could taste the quality of the ingredients, particularly the chocolate. However, it was too dry for me to really love, and the result was a rather average dessert. I fared better with my own selection - the tarte tatin, which admittedly is a particular favourite of mine. The portion that arrived at the table was quite generous, nicely caramelised and made for a very good end to my meal. I hadn't found a restaurant in Guildford where I'd genuinely enjoyed dessert, so this is definite a win in my book.
Our three courses cost us £24.50 per head, plus some additional for drinks and service. Two courses would have cost £21.50, though I cannot see myself skipping a course with the pre-theatre menu given the lack of carbs. But this begs the question, would I come back here? The short answer is yes - the service was very good, and I enjoyed my main and dessert very much. However, given our underwhelming starters, I would be reluctant to risk paying for the a la carte menu, where a main dish hovers between £18 to £20. This is the main driver behind the low value score below, as the pre-theatre menu is actually priced rather well. As it currently stands, Britten's is a great option for light weekday dinners, but I'm still looking for a restaurant to love in Guildford.
Final Score: 7/10
A: 1C Sydenham Rd, Guildford, Surrey GU1 3RT
T: 01483 302888
T: 01483 302888
NB. The final score, while influenced by the sub-scores, is a qualitative reflection of my overall impression the establishment.