Eat out: The Bailiwick, Englefield Green
What do you get when you combine a gorgeous location, top draw chefs and amazing local produce? Answer: a pub worth going out of your way for.
When Oxford Blue, Old Windsor’s fine dining pub-restaurant closed its doors after a mere couple of years a collective sadness settled over foodies in Berkshire and Surrey. Steven Ellis’s pub had attracted much plaudits and praise. It was a sad day indeed. But tongues were immediately set wagging about the next venture of Chef Ellis.
Well, Berkshire’s loss was Surrey’s gain – and in May this year, after a snazzy refurb, the doors to the The Bailiwick Freehouse were flung open to much anticipation and excitement – with Steven Ellis as head chef and his wife Ami as head pastry chef. A dynamic duo indeed.
If you’re not yet acquainted with Steven Ellis – allow me to make the introductions. He’s a top chef sprinkled in stardust having trained at the 3-Michelin-star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay under top chef, Clare Smyth. He’s also worked at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred The Star Inn at Harome in North Yorkshire. Yes, it’s safe to say he knows his way around the kitchen.
Tucked down country lanes just off the London Road (A30), nestled by the gates of Windsor Gate Park, The Bailiwick is a classic country pub in a picture perfect location. And it makes the most of it. A pretty terrace looks out over ancient woodland, making this a great spot for Sunday lunch for walkers and cyclists – especially given there is a gate leading into the park right next to the pub. Furry four-legged friends are also welcome.
Steven and Ami, and their business partner the restauranteur Ratnesh Bagdai, have created a wonderfully informal and relaxed vibe at The Bailiwick keeping true to the pub’s Victorian history, whilst injecting a little gentlemen’s club glamour to proceedings. It’s set over split levels, with the main bar at the front – this is where you’ll find vintage leather Chesterfield armchairs and sofas, exposed brick fireplaces and a cool oak-panelled bar. There are nooks, crannies, alcoves and corners aplenty.
The bar leads through to the Dining Room down a small set of steps at the back. And here the cosy country vibe continues. Walls are clad in timber dado daubed in a cool sea green (or is it teal green, I can’t be sure!) and throughout there are accents of green in the covered banquette-style benches and seating. But the real eye-catcher here is a stunning and huge oil painting of the nearby Virginia Water lake by Surrey artist Beth Kirby. Her work is a real talking point in the dining room, and every piece apart from the Virginia Water show-stopper which was especially commissioned by Steven, Ami and their team, is for sale.
SCOFF & QUAFF
But let’s face it, we are here for the food. And ** spoiler alert ** it totally lives up to the hype. We’re shown to our table by the manager, Liam, a charming chap who’s come to the Bailiwick alongside Steven from Oxford Blue. But it’s Liz, who will be looking after us tonight. She, too, has come with Steven from Oxford Blue. And her charm, passion, and enthusiasm for the food and drink are infectious. This lady knows her stuff.
I start with a glass of Windsor Great Park Sparkling Wine, produced from a vineyard planted during the reign of Henry 2nd, and apparently Her Maj’s favourite tipple. Mr M went for the Bailiwick Ale, which is made using wild hops that have been foraged in the surrounding countryside. Well, when produce is this local it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it. And what a great start. Soon after our drinks arrived, Liz returned with two sourdough rolls, freshly baked by Ami and just out of the oven. Crunchy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside and smothered in fresh butter they were nothing short of divine.
The provenance of the food and drink here is important – and Steven’s great relationship with the head gamekeeper at the Royal Farm and Windsor Great park means that The Bailiwick benefits from gorgeous local ingredients throughout the seasons – think Windsor Great Park Roe Deer, wild mushrooms and wild garlic.
The menu is described as one ‘offering a sophisticated twist on familiar dishes’. Lots of gastropubs boast the classics with a twist line, but Ellis takes the concept to a whole new level.
To start, I went for the Ploughman’s Paté en Croute with pickled vegetables and Piccalilli; Mr M plumped for the Smoked Haddock Scotch Egg with confit lemon and watercress velouté. Both great choices, according to Liz, who’s a particular fan of the Ploughman’s Pate.
Liz was right. The taste was sensational – it’s the sort of food that makes you slow right down so you can savour every bite. But it also looked amazing on the plate. Attention to detail is excellent.
For mains, I went for the Seabass with capers, lemon, prawns, mussels and a caviar butter sauce. If I could concoct my ideal dish – let’s just pretend I have the actual imagination and creativity to do it – it would look something like this. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to and Steven has pulled together some of my favourite foods and flavours into one delightful dish. No, Mr Muddy, you can’t try some.
Oh, hang on. Maybe you can – but only if I can try a small bite of your Windsor Great Park Roe deer with braised leg croquette, mushrooms, peas, asparagus and wild garlic. God, it looked good. And, I can confirm, it’s excellent. Tender, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.
We ordered a side of charred Charlotte potatoes with garlic butter to go with them. I was all set to order the broccoli with garlic and chilli dressing too, until Liz’s frown stopped me.
Too much? I asked.
You can have broccoli at home anytime, she said. But you can’t have Ami’s Lemon Parfait or Chocolate Delice. And you HAVE to save room for that.
Liz was right. I was developing quite a fondness for this woman.
For puddings, we ummed and ahhhed for a while. The choices are all tempting… and I know from stalking Ami’s instagram they’re all quite the works of art. I mean, check out the lemon parfait?
In the end though, the chocaholic across the table plumped for the chocolate delice and I went for a raspberry and lychee trifle with rose jelly and white chocolate custard – one of Ami’s daily specials. Both were ah-maze-zing. Seriously amazing, people. The chocolate delice was without doubt the best Mr M has ever had, and the trifle was sublime. A delicate combination of flavours, but playful and fun too, with a small sprinkling of popping candy on top.
I will be back to try that Lemon Parfait though, Liz.
The drinks menu offers wine by the glass, carafe and bottle. I like the carafe option – the pub is one you’ll have to drive to – and a bottle can sometimes be too much. Having said that, I handed Mr M the car keys and ordered a bottle of white anyway! I’m a lush like that.
And while I finished off the last of the wine, my new best friend Liz arrives with a wooden box containing a slab of Ami’s own salted caramel chocolate and a hammer. I’m in indulgence heaven.
There’s a grown up vibe here in the evenings, but it’s also a super friendly and relaxed vibe so I’d bring older kids if they’re adventurous eaters. During the day, particularly on a Sunday, it’s like a honey trap to bees for families who love the Sunday roast.
OUT & ABOUT
Winsdor Great Park is literally a step away, and Virginia Water and the Savil Gardens are also right on your doorstep. But, honestly people, The Bailiwick is a destination itself – and I’d return here in a heartbeat just for that.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: This is a pub for foodies – it definitely has the wow factor. Special occasions, romantic dates, girly lunches and dinners, family get-togethers, private diners and informal business lunches.
Not for: Game, fish and meat feature heavily – although there are also vegetarian options – but vegans and veggies may prefer somewhere else.
The damage: The a la carte menu is priced by the course – two courses are £35, three are £45 with a £5 supplement for the 48-day dry aged steak, sides all around £4.50. The bar menu £7-£12.
The Bailiwick Freehouse, Wick Road, Englefield Green, Surrey, TW20 0HN. Tel: 01784682888