Shortly after reviewing Tony Casey at The Chequers in Bath he announced that he was leaving for The Redan Inn near Radstock, sister of The Pump House in Bristol where he was once head chef. A culinary loss for both the Bath Pub Company and the city itself, fortunately he hasn’t decamped far enough away to mean that we won’t still be able to sample his glorious food, although I recommend booking a room for the night if you’re going to do the vast selection of gins behind the bar justice.
If I thought The Chequers an unlikely place to find such a talented chef, then The Redan certainly is; for the village of Chilcompton isn’t one that has had much of a culinary reputation (until now), and serious diners might be a little daunted at having to enter through the main pub and squeeze past the boisterous locals in order to reach the dining room; a rustic yet smart space with wooden tables and quirky old tin signs. I was not deceived by the informality, however, for knowing Casey’s food as I do, I remained confident that the experience would be a special one.
Newly refurbished, including all seven boutique bedrooms and the public spaces, Casey will be equally important when it comes to putting The Redan on the map as they seek to gain customers from well beyond their local environ. Tapping into the trend for gourmet pubs, the menu features elegant signature dishes alongside hearty pub classics; in themselves skilful enough to encourage regular diners to pre-book a tasting menu for a special treat. I say encourage, for I saw the majority of customers order burgers and fish and chips when I was there, and whilst they looked extremely tempting, it doesn’t strike me as the type of food this chef is destined to devote his life to. Can The Redan’s punters be converted to modern fine dining? I certainly hope so.
Our six-course tasting menu got under-way with a tribute to the seaside in amuse bouche form; a small bowl filled with uncooked grain representing shingle, topped with breaded crispy mussels, and mussels encased in a bloody Mary jelly. We then swooned over a pretty-in-pink appetiser of creamy ewe’s curd, sweet pickled beetroot and kohlrabi, crushed hazelnuts and a coriander seed tuile which lent the dish a subtle hint of the exotic, while a thin slice of beetroot also adorned the ingenious pairing of Diplome gin; a brand that was relaunched a few years back using the same recipe that became popular during WWII, and featuring an array of spices macerated in pure beetroot alcohol. The heavy metal music only added to the excitement of being given gin as a pairing.
Nor was the fish course any ordinary fish course; perfectly seared scallops resting on the silkiest of Jerusalem artichoke purée, while crispy chicken skin and soft chicken confit proved a perfect texture/flavour combination and the Domaine Delas Viognier enhanced both the sweetness of the seafood and the savoury notes of the chicken. It was also great to see Casey showcasing pigeon with some seriously deft cooking and creativity in the first of the two main courses; ensuring the bird remained the star of the show whilst celeriac and Girolles evoked the autumn woodland. The creamed sweetcorn meanwhile added richness and the light Austrian Zero-G Zweigelt balanced everything out with clean flavours of red fruit and subtle spice.
But perhaps the highlight of the evening was the roasted haunch of venison – all the more impressive when you know that the kitchen has no gas and the entire kitchen brigade have had to adapt to both the sous vide method and BBQ – artistically presented so as to draw attention to the sensationally rare deer, which was all the sweeter for the bitter charred white chicory, sharp cranberry, glossy game-rich jus and the punchy Bodega Norton Malbec with its bold dark fruit and tobacco qualities.
It’s always obvious when a chef puts all their energies into the savoury dishes and simply doesn’t enjoy creating desserts, and no-one could be more delighted than I that this is never so with Casey who surprised with an Asian-style bowl of Miso custard and gloriously pink rhubarb (who knew?); an extremely refreshing dish ahead of the decadent dark chocolate delice finale, the richness of which was cleverly restrained with a vibrant blood orange sorbet and orange segments, while the Domaine Rotier Loin de l’oeil helped to pull both components together. Once again I was left astounded by the quality of Casey’s food, nor would it be the sort of experience I would expect to find in a pub in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Frankly you’re not likely to be passing through, so just punch the address into your Sat Nav and go hither. Pack an overnight bag too, that way you get to enjoy breakfast.
The Redan Inn, Fry’s Well, Chilcompton, BA3 4HA. For more information and to book telephone 01761 258560 or visit the website.