1st June 2014

The Bell & Bear

12 High St, Emberton, Olney, MK46 5DH - 01234 711565


The Bell & Bear isn't a place you're going to stumble upon by accident. In the small village of Emberton, a mile south of Olney at the end of a stone terrace, you wouldn't recognise it as a pub without the sign swinging above the door.

It's a small place. The bar on one side serving a number of local beers and ciders is a cosy village hangout. The barmaid seems to know most of the customers by name. You can get some great bread from Gareth of Amazing Grains on a Friday evening if you need an excuse to give it a try. Motor racing buffs can also see one of Dan Wheldon's helmets. He was from the village. But more importantly on the other side is the restaurant area. A small space with stucco and wood beam walls, less than 10 tables, you know you're in an old room that has seen generations of customers.  

While sitting deciding what to drink, we were joined by Jon, the chef/patron who was more than happy to engage us in conversation. And a charming chap he is too. He recommended his favourite white wine of the moment since we were dithering over our choice of aperitif.

The food is modern British in style. With the emphasis on modern. The menus is small, 4 appetisers and 5 mains on this particular evening. This reflects the size of the kitchen. But more importantly it enables some real thought to be given to the construction of each dish. With as much food sourced as locally as possible, the menu is a who's who of the food producers world. Ashdale beef (which a panel of industry experts recently selected as the world’s best beef), Warrington Farm asparagus, Pastures Farm poultry, Woughton Orchard cider, Wodehill blue cheese. (look them up on Google!)

Three of us chose the rump heart of beef. This is one of the constituent muscles separated from a beef rump. Cooked for a few hours sous-vide (vacuum packed and cooked in a low temperature water bath)  and then finished in a pan, leaving it nice and pink in the centre. Topped with asparagus, pommes pailee (match stick chips - I had to look it up!) and Maury wine washed blue cheese. Just marvellous.

My daughter went fishy with roast fillet of cod, samphire, brown shrimp and mushrooms. She works part-time in what is considered the best restaurant in Lincolnshire and felt this dish compared favourably with that of her work place. It certainly looked good.

Other dishes included a roast loin of pork with Iberico chorizo and a guinea fowl take on a Caesar Salad.

All top quality ingredients but served up with a twist. A reflection of the chef's personality and imagination. This is how a chef run restaurant should be. No corporate dictats here.

I won't go through all the desserts but here's the dish I had:

"Pot of "Acarigua" bitter chocolate spiked with Pernod, vanilla ice cream and caramel salted popcorn"

It was as good as it sounds. Enough said.

The menu gives a wine suggestion for each dish. The wine list is well constructed and reasonably priced. Service is friendly and accomplished.

This is a restaurant I've wanted to try for quite a while. I finally went yesterday on the occasion of my *0th birthday, and I wasn't disappointed. An evening well spent.

pub / restaurant

for: nice old pub environment, innovative food, wine list not like all other restaurants in the area, welcoming owners and staff

against: not within MK boundary, needs taxi or grumpy children to drive you there and back to enjoy fully