There can be few places which are as individual as the Fen House. David and Gaynor Warne man the whole operation, making virtually everything on your plate, from the canapés, the breads and cheese biscuits to the ice cream. Only on busy nights do they bring in a waitress.. They have worked it this way for over twenty years, and judging by our experience, understand how to provide a delightful
The moment you step into the white-washed Georgian building you are greeted and put at ease
The moment you step into the white-washed Georgian building you are greeted and put at ease. With a drink in your hand, a wee dish of canapés in front of you and an open fire at your back, you can study the modern English menu and take in the atmosphere of the place. The bar area is more like a sitting room, with sofas, and interesting old documents and photos on the walls. The heavy curtains fold onto the floor, the huge linen table cloths brush onto the floor too, the cutlery and an array of glasses sparkle on the tables.
The wine list was not very long, and not at all confined geographically - it took in Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, France, California, Portugal and so on. It was also carefully chosen and quite eclectic, offering a wide variety of styles. It made rather a good read, and also offered some wines by the glass.
From our corner table we had a good view of other diners, and could take in the convivial atmosphere. It was clear that some of the diners were deeply familiar with the menu. Short with five starters, five main courses and three desserts, we found it genuinely difficult to choose. Taking mouthfuls of each others choices to start we sampled the baked goats' cheese with walnuts and an apple and celeriac salad, and the chicken livers and sweet red pepper tart. Although it was very good the cheese was perhaps eclipsed by the tart. The pastry was crisp, the livers tender, and the red pepper and the creamy curry sauce sauce gave the whole thing delicate flavours you couldn't quite put your finger on, but you just wanted more and more of.
The main course saddle of lamb was very good too - small, thick, pink, tender, tasty slices of lamb with a lovely juniper gravy. Side vegetables were not assertive, in the sense of challenging the main course but they were pleasingly varied: potatoes baked in a nutmeggy sauce, broccoli, sugar snap peas, turnip with honey, buttered courgette and baby boiled potatoes. Our other main course was fillet of beef with asparagus and leeks, and a ginger and soy sauce. This was less exciting, perhaps because the combination of flavours was much more familiar.
French-style, the cheeses came next, rather than the desserts. We enjoyed the three English cheeses - organic Red Leicester, a Cheshire goats' cheese and a blue Wensleydale, served with oatcakes, celery and red grapes. The desserts were a great pleasure. The crisp-pastried almond frangipane tart with fresh pear was dense and gorgeous, and needed the moisture of the Poire William laced custard. On the other hand, the chocolate pannacotta did more than just look the part - it was deeply chocolatey, and very much complemented in flavour by the Calvados soaked prunes. Then there was the lemongrass ice cream parfait, rich and subtle and refreshing. It has to be said that at every stage of the evening, actually choosing from the menu was quite difficult. But we struggled on, and it all seemed to work out very satisfactorily.
To summarise - at Fen House the atmosphere, the service and the food had altogether created a splendid evening. One which we intend to repeat.