Restaurant review: Fine dining in Bishop's Stortford is a hit
- Credit: Brian Arnopp Images
Stalled by the pandemic, Bishop's Stortford's new fine dining restaurant Roni's is now showing just what it can do, writes Richard Cawthorne.
Roni’s is a relative newcomer to the Bishop’s Stortford scene.
The venue opened with a flourish last October in the former Carluccio’s premises in North Street offering a 'modern European' menu.
It managed eight weeks’ trading before the Covid onslaught, reopening partially in May and fully from last month.
It popped up in one of my searches for likely candidates for these pages, another reminder of the value of a good website, which this one is - bright, modern and well designed, just like the place itself.
Fine dining to me is not just about the food, though that clearly is boss.
The surroundings count too, and the standard of service. No problems there.
The restaurant looks brand new with a lot of thought invested in the layout, relaxing colours and comfortable seating.
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During the Covid restrictions, capacity was limited to 150 covers.
The norm is 200 but Roni’s, under manager Yuksel Tiryaki, copes with small ‘islands’ of tables.
Service for us was exemplified by our waiter Vasili, who made sure throughout our meal all was well and proved entertaining without being intrusive.
He is already a hit among online reviewers.
Notable too was the speed with which a basket of bread arrived at table, followed by a jug of water before we had even ordered.
First impressions were also heightened by an air of professionalism, explained by further research revealing Roni’s is owned by the Kabayed brothers, Mehmet and Ahmed.
Their portfolio also includes Pircio, a 500-cover Turkish/Italian restaurant reviewed here in October 2018 in Bishop Stortford’s former Drill Hall, as well as the town’s Rindo coffee shop and deli and the Dinnio Mediterranean Kitchen in Hertford.
Their ambition for Roni’s is explained on the website – ‘Roni's is the result of a lifelong passion for food and family’ they say. ‘Our intentions are to create a restaurant which we can enjoy; an environment that is not only a considered choice for both its food and design, but one that has a personality and identity.’
High hopes, which the venue’s evident popularity seems well on the way to making possible.
The menu so far is fairly straightforward with the occasional flourish such as lobster (at £40 a time – this is not a cheap restaurant) and an inventive use of herbs and spices.
Yuksel says the lobsters are a popular choice, which says a lot about Roni’s place in the market.
My interest was drawn elsewhere, to another special, magret de canard, duck being one of my favourite dishes.
Knowing what was to come, I began with a simple but flavourful quinoa salad (£9) with the high protein grain supported by strawberries, pomegranate seeds and glaze, plus red radish and leaves.
My companion meanwhile had spotted the seared scallops (£13.50), making her choice of starter a foregone conclusion.
These came with crispy pancetta, pea purée and ciabatta crumbs, tasty enough though true scallop fans might prefer them plainer.
With the duck (£22), Vasili explained the chef normally served the dish medium rare.
I was given a choice and picked medium well. It was perfectly good but I should have known better.
Sampling the dish again on a subsequent visit, I went with the chef’s recommendation and it was even better.
Whichever version you choose, it comes with dauphinoise potatoes, correctly creamy and garlicky, plus roasted chicory and a tangy orange cranberry sauce.
Our second main was lamb beğendi (£24), a Turkish dish whose traditional name, hünkar beğendi, translates roughly as sultan’s delight in reference to its origins and fame in the royal kitchens of the Ottoman empire.
It is basically a rich stew, but to call it that demeans the dish.
What you get is lamb fillets braised in tomato sauce for two-and-a-half hours and served in a herby smoked aubergine purée combined with creamy béchamel sauce with Cheddar cheese.
With sides of potatoes and buttered mixed veg (£5 each), it was an experience of a dish, satisfying without being filling and full of flavour.
The tempting dessert menu turned up another treat aside from the house special, which is listed as ‘flaky pastry filled with pistachio and honey’.
That’s baklava by another name, but not called that here. Instead, we spotted stuffed apricots with molasses, almonds and cream, every bit as good as it sounds and a fair equal to Tabure’s crème brûlée.
The meal ended with two complimentary glasses of limoncello, an excellent but rare gesture which other restaurants out to impress their customers might consider.
The cost of this meal for two was £120.32 including two glasses of wine and a 12.5 per cent service charge. This is an independent review by the Hertfordshire Life food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
North Street, Bishop’s Stortford, CM23 2LQ
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 12pm-10pm