In A Word
English Middle Ages architecture & history buffs
People taking a retreat, people escaping London for a day or so &/or people escaping Stevenage (sorry Stevenage)
People who like going rural but not too rural. The location is still quite convenient, though for natural splendour it’s hardly Northumbria, Cumbria or Cornwall…
People looking for some pretty exciting food in a spot slightly off the beaten track [as oppose to making a pilgrimage to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons or somewhere similar]
Keeping it in the family…
Halfway between Hitchin (bitchin’ Hitchin) and Stevenage lies Redcoat Green and the Redcoats Farmhouse. Around 20 minutes from Finnsbury Park (Funnsbury Park), it’s actually both quick, convenient and relatively cheap to get to (I’m in Croydon, which means a natural distrust of travelling anywhere further North than King’s Cross)
The Butterfields have owned the site since the early 1900s, and is the ancestral home of Peter, the man in charge, and the chap who’ll likely be looking after you. He’s a well spoken, tall man, with curly white hair, an easygoing attitude and something of a noble bent, and will happily give you a guided tour and explanation of the farmhouse’s distinguished history, if you ask nicely. He seems like the kind of guy who’d be quite comfortable presenting a BBC series on Elizabethan history…
Service feels intimate, and everything very transparent and open. This is hard to describe exactly, but the level of formality at some places that you feel really divides you from staff and environment doesn’t exist here. You do feel like you’re staying with a family, which is, I suppose what you’re doing.
It’s a place full of history, artefacts and little curiosities that have been acquired over decades of inhabitancy. The building itself, like many old buildings, is an organic thing that spans many centuries, with older parts, much older parts and some more recent additions ‘bolted on’.
Outside is spacious and green, during the summer the grounds open up to events such as marquees, big ostentatious weddings and the like. Alternatively, if it’s not so busy you can simply sit out there and enjoy a beverage in the sun as you listen to the sites sounds of the countryside – which I imagine includes birdsong and swearing farmers…or whatever goes on in the countryside if you stop to listen.
Inside is cosier I suppose, the bar area was once the maid’s sitting room. The dining room was the house’s original drawing room. Each area has a story, and portraits of family members hanging on the walls.
These days, Redcoats is certainly a destination for memorable events and good times, you can see this in the remnants of long used champagne and wine Jeroboams dotted about. If you’re a drinks historian, you’ll probably appreciate it, and Peter can recall a story for many of them.
Here’s a fun fact – Jeroboams of bubbly are more expensive than you might think, as they need to be constructed differently to a regular bottle, due to the increased pressure of the drink within. I learnt this from Peter. I also feel like my life and house is incomplete without one now.
Initially, the clientele are mainly older looking retired businesspeople in suits, though as evening comes, and people arrive for dinner and drinks, the crowd gets a little younger and less formal. We were not around long enough to see a fullscale event in action, but the place can apparently get very busy on such days.
The food & drink might not be what you expect and I mean this in a good way. In a rural setting you might expect more rustic, less sophisticated ‘farmhouse’ food, but the menu here is quite modern – I guess it wouldn’t be out of place in a hotel restaurant in a more… cosmopolitan area.
We had a drink in the bar, which is small, quaint and somewhere I’d liked to have spent some more time in the evening in, drinking tea or something…
After moving to the conservatory to eat, we took a look at the drinks selection. There’s a particularly ample selection of wines, including a few I’d not heard of. We ended up settling with a 2008 Barolo – which was rich and musty, going nicely with various meaty dishes.
They also bake their own bread onsite. I passed, but Cat picked a piece which she described as ‘like eating rosemary cake’. Truly a beautiful looking lump of simple carbs, it had olives embedded within. Alas, no picture.
Anyway, here’s what else happened on our plates…
Pan seared scallops with chorizo and balsamic glazed shallots, romano pepper, macadamia nuts, sherry and caper dressed roquet leaves
Impressive. The chorizo had an epic, thick meaty richness that doesn’t so much melt in your mouth as sit there and fight off your digestive enzymes.
The scallops were of a very respectable size, very subtle taste and very soft texture, contrasting with the chorizo mouth grenades of joy. We both ordered this one, and I’m glad we did. Could have done with more greenery, however…
7oz Riverside fillet steak ‘Rossini’ – mushroom and duck liver pâté, focaccia crouton, red wine sauce, cep dauphinoise potato, mixed vegetables
Not impressive. The centrepiece of this dish was a disappointment. I asked for it blue and unfortunately, it was very not blue. It appeared medium to well done. In a review situation, I’m loathed to cause the inconvenience of asking to send it back, but if I weren’t I would have asked them to do it again, ’til I could see the blood in the middle…
The potatoes were served in a thick, rich and creamy mushroom reduction. This turned your regular boring spud into some kind of depraved, creamy mushroom potato, which I strongly feel is many times better. I’ve never had pate on top of a steak, but it did help enrich the dryness of the steak a little.
Finnebrogue venison on a bed of apple and shallot purée with blackcurrant and cassis sauce Salardaise potato (with onion and bacon), buttered savoy cabbage with pine-nuts
I only tried a little of the venison, but it was how I would like it – perhaps it could have been a little rarer?
Green leaf salad, vinaigrette dressing
The mouth wasn’t too keen on the odd bit of celery in here (this is more a personal preference than anything). But the little squashy bits of avocado were an excellent touch.
Broccoli, Beans & Asparagus. I needed some more green stuff on my plate and they didn’t undercook the veggies – which is good for me! Nothing else really to say here.
Unable to decide about what to do for dessert, Peter suggested that we let the chef create a mini tasting menu. We agreed, not sure what we were expecting and were treated to a veritable pre diabetic feast of sugary delicious treats, artfully arranged in a decorative circle, which lasted perhaps all of 30 seconds.
Particular & recommended highlights from the post dinner mouth party include…
Dark chocolate, peanut butter and white chocolate terrine, lime and salted caramel sauce
Lemon and blueberry cheesecake, biscuit base, grape and mint syrup
Rhubarb and custard’ crème brûlée, rhubarb and clotted cream ice cream
We smashed and melted it all into a homogenised lake of destroyed things. This was strangely gratifying. I probably should have photographed the aftermath.
I don’t usually eat breakfast, but for Redcoats I made the effort…
..and by effort, I mean that I opted for a whole kipper. That’s it. Nothing else. I love that this is on the menu.
That said, it was the best kipper I’ve ever had (and I’ve spent a respectable amount of time eating kippers in smokehouses in North East and Douglas on the Isle of Mann). I’m not sure as to how exactly they made it, or what kind of kipper they used, so I emailed them to find out. Apparently this is down to lightly poaching them. I refuse to believe this, I think there was voodoo magic involved.
Redcoats is quite a happy surprise and an opportunity I’m pleased to have said yes to. The food is more intricate than you might think, the reception is warm, and the place, with all it’s size, history and crowded events schedule is quite a lot more than just a dining experience.
I would return – preferably in the height of summer, or winter, and see what a more extreme version of the Redcoats experience was like. And how the menu changes (I assume it does).
I’d’ imagine sitting by one of their fireplaces in a driving snowstorm, eating and drinking warming things would be quite an experience. As would basking outside in their beautiful grounds in the height of summer.
A: Redcoats Green, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG4 7JR
P: 01438 729500