Intrigued by the activity in a local corner shop, previously a deli and an Indian takeaway, I vowed that when it flung open its doors I would be among the first to book a table.
Which explains why A and I chose Birch to celebrate his upcoming birthday.
The restaurant is very simply decorated and furnished - clean white walls, square cafe style tables, mismatched chairs, a high bottle lined shelf, with colour provided by the teal paintwork on the windows and a bright geometric design on the bar. It was full when we arrived at 8:30 pm but we were quickly shown to a table by one of the large windows that form two sides of the room. We were presented with a plainly typed menu and offered a choice of still or sparkling house water. A nice touch.
The menu is divided into six courses; snacks, starters, mains, ices, puddings and cheese. We skipped the snacks and headed straight for the starters. I chose the asparagus; four long spears resting in a pool of cider butter, sprinkled with chopped toasted hazelnuts. A went for the smoked trout, its fillets nestled between Jersey royals, daubed with pea green puree and scattered with watercress. Just as I was thinking that a bit of bread wouldn't go amiss we were served two crusty slices with a pat of the yellowest butter.
For the main course I would have ordered the woodland pork but sadly it was sold out. No problem when we discovered that it had been replaced by hogget, a year old sheep, something both of us were keen to try. It arrived, delicately pink, accompanied by the creamiest mash, a mound of fresh green spring greens and a rich gravy. The meat was so tender we hardly needed the steak knives provided.
The list of puddings featured one of A's favourites, treacle tart with a jug of cream, so that was him sorted. I went for the lighter option, a perfectly clear, delightfully wobbly elderflower jelly alongside a quenelle of thick cream and a pile of poached gooseberries, whose piquancy was the perfect balance to the clean taste of the jelly and the lusciouness of the cream.
We drank half a bottle of a Cotes du Rhone.
We didn't spot an espresso machine, which was my only regret, as I like a small cup of strong sweet coffee to round off a meal. Hopefully one's in the pipeline.
The service was attentive and helpful and the atmosphere relaxed and friendly. Beccy took good care of us front of house while Sam worked his magic in the kitchen. It made for a pleasant change to be seated looking out over a peaceful residential street rather than a bustling high road. Very European I thought.
The bill was calculated on the back of an old menu which appealed to my passion for recycling. At £60 it represented great value for three courses of fine food, expertly cooked and tastefully presented.
With a constantly changing menu to reflect ingredients in their season I feel sure there will always be something to tempt us back to Birch for future celebrations.