Restaurant Review: Doughtys, Hitchin
Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne finds a warm welcome in an historic part of Hitchin...
COSY is the word that springs to mind as you enter Doughty's Brasserie in Hitchin. It happens to be a wintry evening as we arrive, so the contrast between outside and inside is all the greater, but from all accounts the warmth of the welcome seems to be the same whenever you go.
This is reinforced by the restaurant area, which is generously furnished with ancient beams set off by a restful colour scheme and sparkling tableware. Having taken in the downstairs area, we are led upstairs. On the staircase, a section of ancient wattle and daub construction is displayed behind a plastic screen, further evidence of the history behind the listed building we are in.
Suitably impressed by our surroundings, we start on the menu, where more surprises await. It is huge - 13 starters, 13 mains and seven puddings, plus two cheese choices. There are 59 entries on the wine list. All told, it's not a bad offering for a small family-run place. And there is quality as well as quantity. Among the starters are pan fried pigeon breast with hash brown, black pudding and mustard dressing at �6.50 and crispy duck spring rolls with hoi sin sauce and cucumber salad at �6.75, while the mains list boasts roasted breast of duck, sweet potato puree, truffled savoy cabbage and chestnut sauce (�15.95) and char grilled 21-day hung sirloin steak with hand cut chips, vine tomato, flat mushroom, onion rings and green peppercorn sauce (�17.50).
We go simple with tempura tiger king prawn (�9.50) and beetroot salad (�4.95) as starters, followed by slow-braised haunch of venison, apricots, dauphinoise potato, buttered broccoli and port sauce (�15.50) for one main and seared fillets of red mullet with spring onion and tomato potato, glazed carrots and tarragon sauce (�14.25) for the other. The venison is excellent, while the mullet has just the right consistency, fishiness and colour. For the wine, I spot an Argentinian Malbec, usually a reliable choice even if I am having fish. This one is a 2006 Malbec Altosur from Finca Sophenia and proves good value at �17.95.
We're full, but purely in the interests of research we share a pudding - spiced apple spring rolls with vanilla ice cream and toffee dipping sauce (�5.25) - which simply sets the seal on an excellent meal.Doughty's own website says the restaurant offers a 'sophisticated and relaxed dining experience'. Who am I to argue?
Doughty's Brasserie, Hitchin87 BancroftHitchin, SG5 1NQ01462 456 363www.doughtysbrasserie.com
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