There is a great British institution – the Sunday lunch. It’s a rare chance for families to reconnect, for children to have the option of ‘adult’ meals and to indulge in favourites like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
Sadly, it appears such a weekly privilege is in decline with a leading foodie magazine and the ‘red-top’ news rags telling us the day of this kind of ‘roast’ is dead and buried, surpassed by quick-to-cook gastro burgers and other less demanding griddle options.
But I want to share a secret: It’s simply not true – well at least at Halfpenny Green Wine Estate in Bobbington.
Their Sunday lunch menu is hugely popular and when I arrived for my 12.30pm booking people were already queuing to be seated.
Mums, dads, kids, grandparents, young women with babies, the frail and fit were already seated along with a couple of wheelchair users. The tables are well spaced and with easy car parking and level access, the restaurant clearly embraces ‘wheelchair-friendly’ in a big way.
I first discovered the delights of this place that can tempt the taste buds with great home-cooked food and fine wines produced on the premises from its own vineyards in 2015.
A third generation family business run by Clive Vickers and wife, Lisa, it continues to impress.
After more than 30 years of wine production, the winery is now a serious contender with its labels at Marks & Spencer – a national endorsement of which the owners are fiercely proud.
And the food is good too – the meal deals menu for Sundays offering the classics of roast beef and chicken with fish options and a vegetarian take on paella.
Sunday lunch, for me is the ultimate comfort blanket. It evokes fond memories of my mother-in-law returning from church and donning her obligatory apron to deliver the weekly family feast. She was ahead of her generation and realised neither beef or veggies had to be cooked to death. Bless . . . her cooking and so many other things about Iris are still unforgotten years on.
With a three-course option for £21.95 eating out on Sunday really need not be that expensive and the relaxed ambience combined with flexible seating/table arrangements lends itself to larger parties. And like the spacing between tables, the portions are generous too.
The rustic appeal of the place with its beams, log burners, random furnishings and staff who are attentive but not invasive, ticks all the boxes for something that’s distinctly different to a pub grub outing.
And quite apart from the food, this re-born farm, with its unique English charm, offers plenty other customer experiences. The Wine Loft is a must do, along with the shop adjoining the restaurant and please don’t miss visiting the deli.
For starters I ordered grilled mackerel with pickled radish, roasted radish, beetroot puree and mixed leaves (£5.95).
I confess to being a bit of a fish junkie and the secret of all fish cooking is getting the timing just right. The mackerel, a large plump double fillet did not disappoint. It was succulent, well presented – congratulations to the chef on the pin boning – and in particular, the beetroot puree offered a lovely accompaniment.
My guest, Gill, favoured the ham hock and whole grain mustard terrine, dished up with crostini, apple and piccalilli (£5.95). I simply couldn’t resist stealing a mouthful of the terrine. Simply excellent: Good texture and full of taste.
For mains I ordered the roasted chicken breast, with lemon and thyme stuffing, roasts potatoes, Penny Red jus and a mix of vegetables (£12.95).
Gill selected the roast beef with Yorkshire pudding (same price) – an excellent choice.
My chicken was pleasantly sweet, well cooked and served piping hot. The roasts were crispy and fluffy inside – just like they should be.
Gill, not a great red meat fan, was gushing over the “perfect beef” declaring we needed to book again soon so she could repeat the experience.
The veg selection included carrots, broad beans, spring cabbage and French beans.
I rounded off my meal with an ice cream sundae (£5.95) – you get to choose from a selection of flavours including rum and raisin, double chocolate chip, Morello cherry and lemon meringue – and Gill, favoured the vanilla panna cotta with summer berries (£5.95).
Both desserts were light and had our taste buds singing. A splendid afternoon’s indulgence washed down with a bottle of Wine Estate’s own Penny Black. A medium dry white, it’s satisfyingly refreshing, oozing the essence of summer.
The traditions of Sunday lunch are indeed evolving and not always for the better, but as long as places like Halfpenny Green Wine Estate deliver these excellent meals at a price that won’t break the bank, this stereotypical British custom is well worth preserving – albeit in a converted barn rather than the table at home.