Restaurant Review: The Cabinet, Reed

Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne heads deep into the countryside to explore a restaurant with a past


The Cabinet at ReedHigh Street, Reed, near Royston SG8 8AH01763 848366

THE Cabinet at Reed sounds intriguing and it is. When you analyse the name, it breaks down simply into a pub-restaurant called the Cabinet in a deep-country village called Reed, but it does lose something in translation.The building and its surroundings are instantly likable. While the origins of the name are obscure, the Cabinet is known to date from the 16th century and, in a 21st century refurbished sort of way, it looks it, with a white wood exterior and beamed ceilings inside setting off a general air of comfort and relaxation.In tune with the times, the motivator of the place is swinging towards the food, but this was and is the Reed village pub and it has made conscious effort to maintain it. There has been general approval for keeping the drinking area pub-like and, in the best village tradition, you walk straight into it as you enter the building. The restaurant is off to the right in a light and airy extension complete with more beams to add to the historic atmosphere.As a restaurant, the Cabinet sprang to prominence as the domain of chef Paul Bloxham, who has now moved on to the Tilbury at Datchworth. The Cabinet has changed hands twice since and on the day I arrived had been in the hands of Angus Martin and his business partner Tracey Hale for all of 10 weeks. The adjustment is taking time - on a Thursday evening, we and one other couple are the only customers, though Angus tells me Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday lunchtimes are already in profit.He is keen to correct the Cabinet's reputation for being seen as expensive and is cutting down on what he believes are unnecessary flourishes in the interests of putting the value into the food.On that front, there are treats in store. Among the starters, the eyes light upon mussels cooked in cider, parsley and cream (�7), or duck ham with artichoke and endive salad caponata (�9), the latter being a mix of salsa, baby capers, tomatoes, balsamic and olive oil.Other highlights include crayfish and spinach risotto with chilli oil (�9), and scallops in sweet chilli sauce with crme fraiche (�11), which are our choices. Both are perfectly acceptable, the crayfish dish slightly too stodgy but lifted by the oil, while the smooth and meaty scallops are praised lavishly by my companion.Among the mains is an old favourite, blackened fish, in this case salmon (�13). It comes with another risotto but I go for it anyway, while my partner chooses asparagus with poached egg endive salad and parmesan (�14). Angus plays it safe with the fish and the crust is not as spicy as blackening normally suggests, but the meat is fresh and sweet, set off nicely by the accompaniment. The healthy choice of the asparagus dish gets a major thumbs-up, except for the egg, which is hopelessly overcooked. We mention it to the waitress, who dashes off to tell Angus, who appears at table to apologise profusely. The offer of a glass of wine would have been a good touch here, but the chance is missed. It's the only jarring note in an otherwise pleasant evening, but the Cabinet is so friendly that I'm hardly going to hold a grudge.USEFUL TO KNOWThe total cost of dinner for two was �69.25, including two glasses of wine, one coffee and tip, which is optional. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

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