A night of independence
It was Friday night and we were going out to play. Well, to eat and drink mainly, but in our eyes, what better fun is there? My husband Tommy and I, Tommy’s sister Mrs RB and Mr RB himself. We left the gorgeous Baby RB at home with Granny RB, and headed up the Hanover Hill to the Independent.
Myself, I had only ever been to the Independent once, and that was for Fish and Chips and a glass of vino on the patio on a hot summers afternoon. Tonight was a proper feed on a cold, crisp, wintery November evening. The four of us arrived and were warmly welcomed by the barman/waiter. He pointed us to the best table of the house – the cozy round one underneath the beautiful front bay window.
The lighting was soft and low like the music and combined with the hum of happy diners chatting it gave a really relaxed and welcoming feel. I felt instantly comfortable and at home.
A demanding week deserves a good drinks menu
After a long, busy week, we were all looking forward to a cold, alcoholic beverage. If you’re big on beer, the Independent offers an exciting choice which changes weekly. Tommy and the RB’s went for a schooner of the German wheat lager, Paulaner. I’d been dreaming of a cold glass of white all week and as I was driving, I wanted to savour it. I ordered a glass of a lovely, full bodied French Viogner.
Happily sipping our chosen drinks, we perused the menu in content silence. I loved the balance of simplicity and the exotic. The starters had quite a European influence ranging from a simple but enticing bread board with a harissa dip & a sicilian planeta extra virgin olive oil to the more exotic: Arancini of coconut lime & chili, miso, honey & ginger dressing. Tommy, Mr RB and myself all went for a seafood dish whilst Mrs RB decided on the much loved, fail safe Chicken Liver & Bacon Pate with ciabatta and chutney.
Presentation that delivers on taste
All dishes were beautifully presented, so much so it was almost difficult to tuck in. Thankfully we managed. Mr RB’s moules was a huge portion and came steaming with a couple of slices of warm ciabatta. They tasted so fresh and clean, it was like eating them straight from the sea. A good size, they were juicy and succulent just as a ‘moule’ should be. A lovely start to any meal.
Not a fan of ‘food sharing’ my husband polished off his Crispy Fried Squid before anyone got a look in. By the look on his face, they were nothing but delicious. He told us that the chilli vinaigrette, combined with the squid ink and chorizo was a beautiful balance of flavours.
Mrs RB was also over the moon with her choice. She said the pate was smooth and the chutney was packed with juicy raisins which added a lovely sweetness to balance out any bitterness that a chicken pate can sometimes bring.
Finally, my Cornish Line Caught Sardines. I love fresh sardines. Normally content with tinned on toast on a Sunday evening, to have the real thing feels like a real treat. These were super crisp and golden and combined with the flavours of hot chili, garlic and pineapple salsa. Genius. The bold flavours really complemented the rich, oily flavours of the fish.
All extremely happy, relaxed and our appetites whetted, we sat back, swapped stories from our week and waited for our mains. Whenever I’m in any pub or restaurant, I love just having a bit of a look round.
The Independent has struck a really good balance of homely and modern I thought. Simple paintings on the wall, teal green painted wooden panelled walls, a white painted staircase and a full bookshelf in the middle of the room.
A diverse and exciting menu
In keeping with the starters, we all chose a different main but in contrast this time we ordered three meat, and one fish. Mr RB fancied the good old classic Beef Burger. Pink and juicy, it was housed in a soft and bouncy brioche and sat next to a generous side of hand cut chips.
For someone who gets to try A LOT of food, he was particularly enamoured with the chips – ‘first class chips… in fact, the best chips I’ve had in a long time.’
Simple pleasures. Though to be fair, they did look pretty damned good.
Tommy went for the ‘Pressed belly of pork with corn puree, crushed potato, chicory, heritage carrots, stout & honey sauce.’ Beautifully presented, it looked like an array of produce from the farm. Again, Tommy’s face said it all.
Mrs RB fancied something warm and comforting so ordered the confit duck leg
Jerusalem artichoke & potato puree, savoy & port jus. The duck was beautifully tender, the mash creamy and the savoy crunchy. A lovely blend of textures. All drizzled with a smooth intense port jus which helped to soften the gaminess of the duck.
I had gone for the fish: Local bream fillet, sautéed potato & silverskin onions, tenderstem, toasted almond & shrimp butter. Any fish dish served with potato and any kind of butter does it for me every time. I was also intrigued by the unusual addition of silverskin onions.
The bream was ridiculously soft in stark contrast to the skin which was crispy and salty. A forkful of bream, golden sautéed potato and a silky silverskin onion made a marvellous mouthful. And I enjoyed every last one.
The Independent obviously wanted to ensure they had something for every palate. Both the starters and mains included at least a couple of veggie options as well as varieties of fish and meat dishes. There was also a good balance of something different for those a bit more adventurous and the classics for those who were a bit more ‘creature of habit.’
Something sweet to end the week
All suitably full and satisfied, we decided to finish our evening ‘out to play’ with something sweet. I only had eyes for one: the quintessential British Bakewell tart with the added twist of a scoop of Honeycomb Ice-Cream. Not a pair I would have thought of myself, but oh my did it work. Yes, indeed. Mr RB wholeheartedly agreed.
Mrs RB went for the rich and decadent Peanut Butter and Chocolate Tart with cinnamon popcorn.
She admitted to being a bit dubious but the waiter convinced her it was a risk worth taking. He was right, it was absolutely delicious.
The warmth and crunch of the cinnamon popcorn was a perfect pairing with the smooth, rich tart filling. The only thing that could have been tweaked was the portion size. Due to how rich and intense it was, half the size would have been more than ample.
Tommy chose a classic favourite: White Chocolate Cheesecake with a dark berry compote. It was as creamy and delicious as cheesecakes go.
As we finished off, and contemplated walking (or more like rolling) back down the hill to relieve Granny RB from baby duties, we all took a few moments to savour the flavours of the evening and that beautiful feeling that the weekend was finally here.