Restaurant Review: The Lemon Tree, Bishop's Stortford

Lunch with Luke and Sue Fishpool at The Lemon Tree

STEPPING inside The Lemon Tree, co-owner Sue Fishpool is already busy at reception checking through the days bookings. After greetings she suggests a drink in the bar before lunch and on the way we stop by the kitchen so she can introduce me to husband and head chef Luke who will also be joining us. The kitchen is a hive of industry with preparation well underway, enticing aromas filling the air.

With our drinks Sue is keen to show me the courtyard at the rear, which runs off the bar. New this season, the dismal start to the summer has not enabled its full potential. With a nod to the sky Sue explains, 'We're hoping for an Indian summer. It's a relaxed outside area, where children are safe and you can hopefully enjoy the weather. We've opened The Courtyard from noon to 4pm to test it out and we've also applied for an outside licence.'

The menu is similar to the Lemon Tree's faster lunch menu, named 7lt. Sue tells me the '7' refers to the number of dishes, while the 'lt' translates more flexibly as either Lemon Tree, lunchtime or even lite. Its success over the past three years is down to a combination of quality and value, with the deal including bread on the table, a main course, a glass of wine and coffee too, all for �7.50.

Luke joins us from the kitchen to tell us our table is ready. He quickly picks up the conversation as we head through to the restaurant: 'The dishes on the 7lt menu are typical of my cooking. I describe it as modern British, which includes a few Mediterranean and even Far Eastern influences,' he tells me. The 7lt menu features dishes such as seared salmon with a tagine of new potatoes, aubergine and olives to a more traditional Broad Oak Farm ham, free-range egg and chips.

Our starters are served. My grilled black pudding with a swirl of red wine sauce, topped with a free range poached egg couldn't be more British. The deep, complex flavours of the pudding are delicious with the soft egg yolk.

Our main courses are served. I have chosen fillets of John Dory, seared scallops and creamed chicory. The fish is firm and tasty, the texture a good contrast to the yielding scallops. Luke tells me he finishes the chicory with a little lemon juice.

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We continue chatting for quite some time and it becomes clear just how enterprising Luke and Sue are. For example Sue's previous career background in wine enables the couple to put together their own wine list, while Luke is mainly self-taught, citing Alastair Little and Simon Hopkinson as early influences.

We finish lunch with another British classic, bread and butter pudding, but this is cooked with panettone, giving it a decadent twist.


The Lemon Tree14 Water LaneBishop's Stortford, CM23 2JZ07889 366 577

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