An impressive makeover of this imposing building has resulted in a truly stunning venue, both inside and out. If the weather is good, enjoy the gardens which overlook the racecourse (one of the reasons this place is a crush on racedays...) and if you have a small child with you, this will give you an excuse to play on the old tractor which is sunk into the grounds. During the summer there is an exterior catering tent which makes burgers, kebabs and so on.
Inside there is a commitment to real ales, and a genuine interest in gin. There are always ten real ales available, and thirty one varieties of gin. Keep the bar staff interested by asking for advice and recommendations....
The food here is good, though it is not as good as it thinks it is.
The Architect is part of the Brunning & Price group (hence the amusing Bee & Pea spill mats on the bar etc) which has a reputation for stylish makeovers, and atmospheric, dog-friendly pubs.
The Buffalo Mozzarella salad with pea & mint mousse was a stunning opener. The pigeon breast salad was reportedly tasty though the meat was "a little under cooked". that may be a personal taste issue.
The main courses can be pricey: A large steak here was around £22; you can eat one at a local Michelin-starred restaurant for £24.
I ate herby-crust coated hake with mussels and crushed potatoes. This was utterly sublime. Amongst my co-diners one had a roast beef dinner, which was HUGE but she coped. Another had a mixed roast dinner which was completely ridiculous. Both roasts arrived with enormous Yorkshire puddings. These are dramatic but when put on top of an already massive dinner, a little OTT, and getting the balance of crispy edges and squidgy centres is almost impossible with puddings the size of goldfish bowls. Although the mixed roast dinner ended up being shared amongst us all, there was still enough beef (delicious and roasted to melt-in-the-mouth consistency) left for me to take home and feed three family members the next day (plus a sliver or two for the dogs)
This left us to face the puddings, and here I feel The Architect really does not do itself justice: There are "trendy standards" like Crème Brulee, which I adore but do not wish to eat everywhere I go. I saw a slice of chocolate tart go past to another diner, and to my eyes it looked pale and unappetising, and not home-made. A chocolate tart, especially after a heavy meal, should be sleek and packed with very dark chocolate. It should slide luxuriously off the spoon onto the tongue in a glaze of bittersweetness. This one looked pale and foamy.
Bread and butter pudding seemed like a good choice. Although it was august the weather was cold and windy and this nursery offering is one which can usually be relied on to give old fashioned snuggly and effortless comfort. It was offered with clotted cream which feels like overkill after a rich dinner so we asked for custard. In fact the custard was the best thing about this pudding: it was proper egg-custard with that fabulous unmistakeable not-quite-smooth consistency.
The pudding itself was very heavy going: My own preference with this dessert is that it should need to be served in a bowl, a wibbly-wobbly, silky, vanilla-infused baby of a dessert. The sort of thing which used to be recommended for invalids because it slipped down so easily. This one was chewy and heavy-going, with a consistency akin to a steamed pudding badly made by an inexperienced cook. I managed to chew only about half of it, when really I shouldn't be chewing any.
Bring your family and dogs to The Architect; all will be welcome. make sure you try the real ales and/or gins (we went through four between us during the meal) but look around you and order very carefully from the menu. Ask the waiting staff - some are very knowledgeable.
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