Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Green Cafe, Ludlow

The review below has been published on James Day's fantastic website I'm not going to post many reviews here, as there are plenty of restaurant critic bloggers around. I just think the Green Cafe is well worthy of a mention.

The Green Café

If during the soggy summer of 2008 you blinked, you may well have missed it. On a nondescript Ludlow street, in a nondescript Ludlow tearoom, something rather wonderful was going about its business, diligently and splendidly.

In this tearoom, during that drear summer, a certain Clive Davis plied his trade, and people that knew (and fortunately I was one of them) would flock there and enjoy some of the soundest and most honest cooking that Ludlow has ever known. We would flock there cautiously; for this tearoom was and indeed still is, situated in the part of Ludlow where on weekend nights (and that was when Clive was open) twee and tweed give way to vice and VD. But it was worth flocking – by heaven was it worth it – and when Clive’s residency came to an end how we missed the guy.

But, oh frabjous day! Clive is back in business, and this time he’s here to stay, at the Green Café in Ludlow’s twee ‘n’ tweedy Dinham.

Now, as an aside I would like to make it clear that Ludlow is not the gastronomic Mecca that hacks on the national press (and dreadfully, some in the local press) would still have us believe. Yes, there are some excellent butchers, bakers, and cheese shops. There are also two fantastic restaurants (Mr Underhill’s and La Becasse), but if you want to go out to eat, once a week, without feeling like your wallet has been violated, or that you’ve been to the pub, then there is nowhere in Ludlow apart from the Green Café that is worth bothering about. And that stinks. And it will make me unpopular. But it’s true, and anyone in these parts who cares about food ought to agree with me.

What Clive has done is simple – so, so simple: He has found a pretty place; put some pretty staff in it; got himself a talented (and pretty) sous chef; sourced the best ingredients he can get his clever paws on; not buggered the ingredients about; and created simple, good value, brilliant food. Consistently.

On my most recent visit I took Mr Pernickety. The menu is sexy, short and sensible, and changes every day. Two starters, four mains, one pud (a superb vanilla pannacotta with poached rhubarb on the day we went), and something for the sprogs. Nothing costs more than a tenner. Ingredients are seasonal, and mainly sourced locally. Clive doesn’t source his fish locally, because he used to be a fishmonger* and he isn’t stupid, so he gets a thrice-weekly delivery from day boats that fish out of Brixham.

On the day we went there was mackerel, which he filleted and fried, and he served it with some lightly pickled cucumber and a dollop of perky horseradish crème fraiche. And I had it for lunch, and it was staggering. The perfect dish for a sunny day. I can’t really say much more than that because it was what it was, just cooked with that lightness of touch and understanding of balance that Clive has. Each ingredient tasted proudly of itself but the spanking fresh mackerel still played the protagonist.

The veal in Mr P’s sandwich comes from happy baby cows reared just over the river on Earl Plymouth’s estate. Cooked to tender pinky loveliness, with a dollop of wobbly lemon and caper mayonnaise and a sprightly salad, this was probably the proudest sarnie in Shropshire. Oh, and it was seven quid. They make proper pasta at the Green Café too, and the ladies wot lunch on an adjacent table were making borderline When Harry Met Sally noises over their pappardelle with asparagus, parmesan and crème fraiche.

There are four good Italian wines - a lemony Sicilian white is cracking value at £16.00 – and plenty of local beers and cider. This is also the only place in Ludlow serving properly good coffee. Again, sad but true.

Service is smiley and knowledgeable but can become a trifle chaotic on particularly busy weekends. They get away with it, because it’s that kind of place.

At the moment the Green Café is only open during the day, but by the end of the summer Clive will be doing weekend nights. This is very exciting news indeed.

The Green Café at the Mill on the Green
Dinham Bridge

01584 879872

*The great Simon Hopkinson, in his book Week in Week Out writes; “Do talk to Clive. He will sell you the best fish you will ever eat.” When it comes to Clive’s fishy credentials, that’s enough said.

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