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Review of The Orange Tree at Thornham: Fresh and creative dishes at pub offering unique dining experience





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As first impressions of pubs or restaurants go, they don’t come much better than that which we got at The Orange Tree at Thornham on Saturday.

Firstly, it is a beautiful building both inside and out. The exterior of the pub was adorned with greenery and lights, with a heated outdoor area.

The interior was also decorated to a brilliant standard, with attractive light fittings and each table having a floral ornament.

The Orange Tree at Thornham
The Orange Tree at Thornham
The Orange Tree at Thornham
The Orange Tree at Thornham
Inside the Orange Tree at Thornham
Inside the Orange Tree at Thornham

My partner Shane and I were also almost immediately greeted by a friendly waitress who showed us to our table – walking through a pretty packed pub considering it was early evening.

This was a sign of things to come as we were really well looked after throughout our visit to The Orange Tree.

As we settled on our table, we noticed there was a brilliant selection of drinks to choose from, including numerous locally-sourced alcoholic options.

My non-alcoholic rose wine
My non-alcoholic rose wine
An outdoor seating area
An outdoor seating area

However, I was driving us home and didn't fancy booze, so opted for a refreshing non-alcoholic rosé (£3.70 for 175ml) and Shane went for a pint of Camden Hells (£6).

Unusually for me, I was eyeing up the vegan starter option and ordered the butternut and beetroot tartrate with carrot, pine nuts and capers (£9.75).

It’s at this point that I should mention that I am far from an expert on fine dining (although The Orange Tree describes itself as a contemporary dining pub), but I was excited to try something new.

And this it was – the tartare was unlike anything I had ever had before. It was adorned with beetroot crisp shards, soft sauces which were full of flavour, on top of layers of beetroot and butternut squash.

My butternut and beetroot tartare
My butternut and beetroot tartare

It was fresh, earthy and creative, with beautiful presentation.

Meanwhile, Shane chose the pork and scallop to start, with apple, butternut squash, kohlrabi salad, almond and buttermilk dressing (£13.25).

He said the pork was “delicious” and the scallop was “well-cooked”, with both complementing each other really well.

Shane's pork and scallop starter with apple, butternut squash, kohlrabi salad and almond and miso dressing
Shane's pork and scallop starter with apple, butternut squash, kohlrabi salad and almond and miso dressing

While he said he enjoyed the dish, with it all being “really tasty”, he found it odd to have something that was hot and cold paired together. Again, the starter was presented beautifully.

On to the mains, I ordered the vegan version of the wild mushroom pappardelle, which is normally made up of pickled wild mushroom, mushroom purée, parmesan, watercress and truffle oil (£19.95).

As I asked for the vegan version, mine came with linguine instead of pappardelle and without parmesan.

My wild mushroom linguine
My wild mushroom linguine

The dish was really well-seasoned and fresh, with a peppery kick. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the mushrooms had a sweet tang.

This type of cuisine can often have a reputation for offering small portions, but this was quite a big portion and I was left pretty full.

Shane went for the smoked haddock and mussel chowder, with pan-fried hake, cod cheeks, clams, saffron potatoes, dashi kombu cream sauce, coastal sea herbs and nasturtium oil (£25).

He said: “The creamy sauce was lovely and delicate. I had been disappointed to not have been given a spoon for the sauce, but this was redeemed by an offer of bread later on.

Shane's smoked haddock and mussel chowder
Shane's smoked haddock and mussel chowder

“The haddock on top was gorgeous. If I had to be critical, a side plate for the shells would have been nice.”

The dish, which was another example of lovely presentation, was also “surprisingly more filling than it looked”.

Although there was a vegan option for dessert – a ginger cake with poached pears, pear and caramel sauce and ginger tuille (£9.50) – we both felt we had no room left for another course, but it left me intrigued to hopefully try it in the future.

Our total bill came to £79.60 (service not included) – £39.80 each, which is more than we would usually want to spend but we felt it was fair considering the quality of food and service we had experienced.

If we do return to The Orange Tree in the future, I think we would have to justify it as being for a special occasion, but we would know that we would be in for a special evening.

Ratings out of five:

Food: Fresh and quality ingredients used in creative ways, with food that is presented in an eye-catching way. ****

Drinks: A huge variety on the menu, with many locally sourced options. *****

Decor: Both the interior and exterior of the pub were decorated in such a lovely, welcoming way. *****

Staff: Faultless service by friendly staff who were always on hand. *****

Price: Definitely at the more expensive end of the scale, but it was justifiable. ****



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