The King’s Head: a pub that was good enough for Shakespeare’s parents

Being perfect, seldom am I victim to the poisonous emotion that is envy.

But, sitting in the smart, light dining room at the King’s Head in Aston Cantlow in the depths of rural Warwickshire, my eyes turned a shade of green unknown since I watched the young Trevor Francis play and realised he was a bit better at football than I would ever be.

For I looked at my three dining companions’ plates and wished that I could have eaten their food as well as my own.

This is a pub with a menu that ticks plenty of boxes without being over-long.

More than that, it is an establishment with a kitchen that possesses a great deal of skill, knowledge and pride.

Which isn’t surprising since the chef-patron is Brett Sandland, who for 18 years was head chef at the Hyatt Hotel in Birmingham and whose food always impressed me when I ate there.

The place

This is the sort of inn that American tourists would dream of finding during a visit to Shakespeare country – a listed 15th century establishment with beams and open fires.

There’s a bar and a more formal dining area.

It’s next to the church where Shakespeare’s parents married and they’re said to have had their wedding breakfast in the King’s Head.

There’s a beer garden which would be a pleasant place to sit and eat during the summer months.

The food

There are plenty of pub classics on the menu for those seeking simple pleasures.

Or, for the more adventurous, ambitious and contemporary dishes.

All dishes – from whichever section of the menu – are hearty.

My starter of tender, gently smoked duck breast came with a crisp nugget of darker duck meat, tangy marinated blackberries and a fruity blob of two of cider gel.

This was a well-judged combination of textures and flavours presented beautifully and prepared with craft.

Opposite bowls of rustic tomato soup with good crusty bread and a proper prawn cocktail were received with equal enthusiasm.

My main course reached similar heights – flavoursome pink lamb rump with shepherd’s pie bon bon.

Smooth buttery mash, peas, pea puree and pea shoots were pleasant accompaniments.

Shallot ash added sweet and smoky notes.

But the star of the show was a jus with a hefty savoury depth.

I cast covetous eyes towards a duck mixed grill that seemed to use every part of the bird other than its quack.

And at a dish of stonebass with a shellfish bisque, langoustines and samphire.

But most of all at a hefty bowl of venison stew with herb dumplings that was the epitome of sophisticated comfort food.

Bambi’s life was not squandered in vain to provide the meat for such a feast.

 

After which came a salt chocolate and pistachio tart with white chocolate panna cotta and pistachio ice cream that was a triumph of pastry-making and good taste.

Need to know

Starters range from £4.75 to £7.50.

Expect to pay between £10 and £23.75 for main courses.

There are vegetarian options.

The place is child-friendly.

Well-behaved dogs are welcome in the bar.

The King’s Head

21 Bearley Road, Aston Canlow, Warwickshire B95 6HY. 01789 488242.

http://www.thekh.co.uk

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