Restaurant Review: Kippings of Wheathampstead

Kippings bistro and wine bar in Wheathampstead; chef Jack Blackwell

Kippings bistro and wine bar in Wheathampstead; chef Jack Blackwell - Credit: Photo supplied

REVIEW: Kippings Bistro and Wine Bar, Wheathampstead

BOASTING a new look and a new chef, who has worked in Gordon Ramsay’s London eateries and at Brocket Hall, Kippings in Wheathampstead’s High Street has already made its mark on the restaurant scene, attracting positive reviews on Trip Advisor.

Co-owners Barry and Patricia Hilton’s new bistro and wine bar is located in a landmark building in the charming St Albans village, a Grade II listed cottage which in a previous life was an antiques showroom.

It has an impressive food hygiene rating of five - the top mark possible, which means it is “very good”.

My husband Bevan and I visited last Friday, and on a cold, rainy night, it was the perfect place to unwind after a hard week’s work.

The seating was really comfortable and I liked being able to look out on to Wheathampstead through the multitude of ceiling-to-floor windows.

We browsed through the menu over a glass of Henry Weston 2012 Vintage Oak Aged Herefordshire Cider (Bevan) and Prosecco.

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Starters are priced from a very reasonable £5.50, and the week we were there (the menus change regularly) the selection ranged from smoked ham scrumpets and homemade piccalilli or wild mushroom veloute with truffle oil to caramelised onion, cherry tomato, basil and goat’s cheese tart.

After some deliberation, and a little help from Patricia, Bevan chose smoked duck and beetroot salad while I settled for seared scallops with pea and pancetta.

Both starters were attractively laid out on lovely little olive wood boards.

It is hard to say which was the better dish, but the scallops won out for me as they were perfectly seared and accompanied by the most beautiful pea purée I have ever tasted. Creamy and melt-in-your-mouth texture, this was a perfect complement for the scallops, especially as it was topped with little pieces of tasty pancetta.

The thin slices of smoked duck breast were, according to Bevan, “very tasty and succulent”.

Our next decision was the all-important ‘what to drink with the main meal?’

Patricia again steered us in the right direction - it helps that she and Barry have personally visited and chosen the vineyards they originated from, in Italy, France and even South Africa.

As I pondered, briefly, whether I could swap jobs - how hard can it be checking out vineyards - Patricia recommended a bottle of absolutely delicious French wine, Viognier Domaine Vedilhan.

Over a glass of that, and as it drizzled outside, we then pondered the mains, priced from £11.75. Our choices included port and thyme braised onion tatin with dauphinoise potato, wilted spinach and hazelnut or pan-roasted fillet of pork with braised red cabbage, carrot and poached apple.

Although there was also fresh lobster available I picked the fillet of pork while Bevan went for his customary steak - rare of course.

My main featured the most beautiful pork I have ever had. No fat, no gristle, nothing chewy, just bliss to savour and really tender.

It was accompanied by very flavoursome braised red cabbage - again easily the nicest I have ever eaten.

When I later asked the chef, Jack Blackwell, what the secret was to preparing this meal, he explained it came down to slow roasting the pork and using the leanest cut of meat possible.

On a gloomy day, I really appreciated this colourful dish, as it was served on a bed of tasty carrot purée.

Bevan, a man of few words, described his char grilled beef sirloin as “perfectly cooked and very tender” - high praise from him. His main was served with fried duck egg, triple cooked chips and salad.

Then it was on to desserts. We genuinely struggled to choose as they all sounded naughty but nice, so we both settled for chocolate offerings – a fondant that was crispy on the outside and perfectly melted on the inside, and a ganache which was superb.

If a mark of a good bistro is whether you would return, or recommend it to friends, I would have to say “yes” in both circumstances.

Kippings is located at 54 High Street, Wheathampstead.

Phone 01582 833122

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