The Brownlow Arms at Hough on the Hill
Caroline Bingham visited The Brownlow Arms at Hough on the Hill
The Brownlow Arms occupies a commanding position, even within a settlement built on a prominent rise, at a corner of the square at the heart of the village. You may wonder where the winding roads into Hough on the Hill are leading you but you will not be disappointed. Equidistant between Newark, Grantham and Sleaford, the Grade II listed building dates from 1852 and is built of mellow ironstone and limestone, as are many houses in this very picturesque Lincolnshire village.
The building has quite a grandeur but the welcome from Paul and Lorraine Willoughby and their staff was friendly and warm.
The Willoughbys are long established owners here and have built a well trained and efficient team. Paul and Lorraine are not arms-length proprietors though and were sharing front of house duties, meeting guests in the bar and leading them through to the dining rooms. This is an establishment which caters for grown-ups and a polite notice on the door does stipulate that only children aged ten and over are admitted, when accompanied by adults.
The ambiance and the menus offered are for more sophisticated tastes too.
We visited on a Saturday evening and already there were locals drinking in the bar and plenty of diners looking through the menus. This is a selfassured establishment which is more a restaurant than most village inns, but it has no pretence or affectation.
There was a choice of two menus: the à la carte, which is changed every couple of months in response to the season, and the daily specials menu.
Both menus offer a similar number of choices and we selected dishes from each. We started with some very delicious olive and herb bread which was still warm from the oven.
Two of us shared a starter of smoked haddock risotto, served with a poached hen’s egg. This was delightfully satisfying comfort food with a perfectly cooked, runny yolk. A great flavour combination.
There were too many other choices to list them all but we could have chosen equally enticing French onion soup with Gruyère croûte, crispy breaded Taleggio, with red wine pear and pistachio dressing, or confit duck and five spice pasty served with red cabbage, honey and mint salad and aged balsamic vinegar.
For main courses we chose a pan-fried rib eye steak with black peppercorn, shallot and brandy cream sauce; a supreme of chicken wrapped in Parma ham and served with creamed spinach and potatoes with pan jus and I opted for panache of salmon, Arctic char and scallops, with purple sprouting broccoli in a beurré blanc.
The steak, I was told, was perfectly aged, trimmed and succulent – one of the best pieces of meat my companion had eaten for a long time. The chicken was plump, full of flavour and moist.
The soft squares of potato and spinach in the sauce when down well too. It seemed a shame to disturb my beautifully presented plate. The beurré blanc was skilfully made and tied the whole dish together. Perfectly cooked salmon and especially the scallops were excellent. A side dish of hand cut chips, new potatoes, a salad and a selection of cooked seasonal vegetables completed the main courses.
Again, too many to include them all but I was equally tempted by the sound of saddle of venison, Annise mash, baby leaf spinach and orange jus or fillet of sea bream and pan seared scallops, fennel puree, English asparagus and
There were seriously good puddings to consider afterwards; could any of us manage steamed Yorkshire rhubarb and ginger sponge with crème Anglaise or pistachio and Griottines cherry tart with dark chocolate sorbet? I’m afraid we had to admit defeat on these and I opted instead for a coconut panna cotta with passion fruit sorbet while my companions chose from the ice cream and sorbet menu. Made for the most part on the premises, there was a choice of thirteen ice creams and ten sorbets. The really sophisticated choice was the dark chocolate sorbet; deep and rich without the cloying palate of cream. Finally, we had a sweet, pink rhubarb sorbet that had all the freshness of the spring crop. Our coffees arrived with a plate of dainty, crunchy yet chewy, chocolate and ganache macaroons.
We all agreed we had enjoyed great food and service and will go back to experience a Sunday lunch or the chance to sit out on the terrace in better weather. There is also accommodation available at The Brownlow Arms. I am sure in some situations this would be referred to as a boutique hotel but what you will find are all the comforts, amenities, quality of food and service, without the same anticipated cost. Leave the children at home and treat yourself to a quality country break.