The Old Bridge Hotel - Review by NICK MARKWELL

EVERY time I walk wearily back from the daily commute towards home, my heart leaps a little when I see the ivy front of Huntingdon’s finest hotel.

EVERY time I walk wearily back from the daily commute towards home my heart leaps a little when I see the ivy front of Huntingdon’s finest hotel.

It has a classical charm and a very inviting look to it. We’ve been for drinks once or twice but never eaten in the Terrace Restaurant.

So, as a treat for my girlfriend Paula’s birthday, we went for dinner.

The taxi dropped us in the car park and we went in through the lovely terrace at the rear; cosily lit and very stylish. You could have been walking into a dapper country house hotel; it’s only the hum from the adjacent A14 that stops it being a truly special venue.

As we passed the Old Bridge Wine Shop, which is inside the hotel, I thought how lucky Huntingdon is to have such a well stocked and well thought out place. The wines are labelled in easily understandable types and tell you exactly what flavours you’re getting in your bottle; a far nicer and easier experience than Tesco!

The Terrace Restaurant itself is a nice room, with flowery murals on the walls; they are slightly chintzy, but it does create a calm, summery feel to the restaurant.

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The a la carte menu is eclectic, with a mainly British slant, alongside some additions from France and Italy.

I started with the foie gras and guinea fowl terrine. It was a generous slab of luxurious meatiness with the velvet of foie gras running through it. I enjoyed its flavours and the toasted brioche gave a satisfying crunch against the smooth texture of the pate.

Paula had the smoked salmon, which was served with capers and lemon juice. Simplicity like that is great if you have the flavours right. Paula liked the dish but we both found the salmon a little overpowering. I think the addition of something with a neutral flavour would have taken the edge off the smokiness.

For main course I went for the Toulouse sausages with braised pork cheek and mash. This promised much but delivered little. The sausages were rubbery and the mash was grainy and dry and the braised lentils flavourless. It all unfortunately smacked of a blast in the microwave; the plate it was on was hotter than the sun!

I have to say that the pork cheek that came with it was lovely, although it was such a small piece that it was gone in a minute! I think that a hunk of that, along with more butter in the mash and it would have been a good dish!

The wine list is well judged and all very drinkable, with lots by the glass and house bottles from �14. We had a bottle of Argentinean white which certainly fitted the bill.

Paula had the poached chicken breast with crushed new potatoes and bay leaf cream sauce. It was a good idea, but a bit too polite for my liking. The chicken was cooked perfectly, but to me the sauce and the chicken were underpowered. A few turns of the salt and pepper would have lifted it to another level.

Puddings were nice but nothing to trouble Delia! A decent sticky toffee and a good banoffee were followed by a nicely made coffee.

There is a robust feel to the menu, and some good cooking going on, but a bit more balance to the flavours and you’d have a great restaurant.

You can eat from a pared down version of the menu for lunch, coming in at �15.50 for two courses, which looks like good value to me.

It’s not that we paid mega bucks for the food from the dinner menu, but �17 should buy you better than the chicken dish we had.

You can’t go wrong with the location and the sense of occasion at the Old Bridge, but at �95 for two, the food should be that bit better.

Bill:

2 Rhubarb Bellini’s

2 Starters

2 Mains

2 Puddings

1 Bottle of Wine

1 Coffee

�95 including service

Verdict: Great venue and service, but the food needs a tweak.