Restaurant review: Le Moulin, Wheathampstead

Seared salmon supreme with beurre blanc sauce, Le Moulin, Wheathampstead

Seared salmon supreme with beurre blanc sauce - Credit: Brian Arnopp Images

Small but mighty, this French restaurant in Wheathampstead is a tribute to the continuing passion of the couple who began it 20 years ago, discovers Richard Cawthorne

The emphasis just now might be toward the glam and exotic but sometimes there is a useful reminder that there is another, possibly more enduring side to the food business, with talented chefs pursuing the dream of running their own restaurants and just getting on with it. Herts has several examples and one of them is Jeremy Edwards.

With a CV that includes award winning hotels, restaurants and fine dining in France and London, he and his partner Paula have run the picturesque Le Moulin in Wheathampstead for 20 years, supporting the restaurant business during lockdown with a thriving takeaway operation. 

For the tiny restaurant, the word that crops up most often in reviews is ‘charming’, not surprising as it occupies a 1,000 year old Grade II listed building that once housed the town's watermill and features in the Domesday Book. The mill race and the river that feeds it are still much in evidence just outside the front door. 

Today, it is the French influence that is most obvious in the menus, although since these change every month featuring all home made dishes using produce from Jeremy’s allotment, there is plenty of variety. It also means what we had is not necessarily on the menu now. Some will be, but it’s always wise to check. Food is cooked from scratch with the kitchen in full view, heightening the impression you are taking part in a family celebration among friends. 

Sole mousse with prawns and spinach at Le Moulin, Wheathampstead

Sole mousse with prawns and spinach - Credit: Brian Arnopp Images

Offers among the eight starters for our visit included sole mousse with spinach and prawns; Piedmonte risotto, or cassoulet with Toulouse sausage, beans and ham. The eight main course choices included chicken breast sauté a la crème with tarragon and vin blanc; baked and layered seasonal vegetables en cocotte, or beef Bourguignon with onions, mushrooms, bacon and red wine jus.

All main courses are served with seasonal vegetables and potatoes. The dessert list offered among others St Emilions au chocolat, fig and toffee pudding with toffee sauce, plus a cheese plate. 

Seeking as ever something different, our first choice for a starter was Gascon cabbage soup (£7), not your average Herts restaurant dish but thoroughly French and on this showing worthy of greater fame, delivering an unexpected depth of flavour. A country style terrine (£8) with onion jam was an equal partner, satisfying like the soup but not overdoing things while getting the tastebuds to attention for what was to follow.  

Among the mains, the confit de canard au poivre (£23), served pink and complete with sauce a l’orange, seemed an appropriate choice given chef Jeremy’s background and proved the star of the show, leading my other half to declare it the best of its kind she had yet had. Sea bass (£21) in a tomato and olive crust with sauce vierge, chosen for its lightness on an unexpectedly warm evening, was a good second choice, the delicate flesh set off by the piquant coating. A shared classic apple tarte tatin (£7), authentically moist and sweet, was a perfect send-off for the meal. 

Interior of Le Moulin restaurant, Wheathampstead

The 20-seat restaurant is housed in an ancient mill - Credit: Brian Arnopp Images

As noted above, Le Moulin is tiny, but cosy and welcoming. There is time-mellowed wooden flooring, a rustic ceiling and enough ancient beams to make any history fan happy. Seating is for about 20, although the whole place can be booked for parties of up to 24 and a few extra seats can be provided outside for warmer weather.

Taking the words out of my mouth, one online reviewer said Le Moulin feels like ‘one of those little gems you find tucked away in villages in France’. There’s even a Caroline Burnett painting of the Moulin Rouge in Paris to help the atmosphere along. Can’t argue with that. 

However, lest you think it all sounds a bit twee and old fashioned, I was stirred if not shaken to spot on the drinks menu the Vesper martini. James Bond fans who know the book Casino Royale and more particularly the Daniel Craig film version will appreciate that any restaurant that offers one of those has a lot going for it. I passed because I was in the car but I might well return with a designated driver.  

Dinner for two at Le Moulin with two starters, two mains and a shared dessert plus two drinks cost £84.56 including service.  

Le Moulin 
3 Mill Walk, Wheathampstead AL4 8DT 
07419 833324