So cheeky….

The Butchers Social

Consider the humble pig cheek.

It spends its time snuffling in mud and muck as the swine scavenges for food in a way we may all get used to after Brexit.

And it has the added misfortune of looking like Boris Johnson’s jowls (though less dishonest, obviously).

Such a thing deserves a bit of luck, even post-mortem.

The pig cheeks that find their way into the kitchen at The Butchers Social enjoy that good fortune, for there they’re treated with respect, imagination and no small amount of skill.

The Butchers Social is a name that will be familiar to the Harbornista, for it was a high street pop-up that specialised in fantastic chicken wings and craft beers.

Now it’s upped sticks and moved to a nice old building in Henley-in-Arden.

There’s a bar at the front that still serves wings and, at the back, a restaurant serving more sophisticated, formal dishes.

It was here that the pig cheeks arrived in all their porcine glory.

They came sweetly glazed and so tender that they fell apart almost before my eating irons touched them.

Blood orange added sharpness against the richness of the meat and there was cabbagey earthiness from pickled kohlrabi and pepper from nasturtium leaves.

Somewhere in the combo there was the gentlest hint of Oriental spices, adding another layer to the dish.

A scattering of crackling fragments gave salt an crunch.

This was a deeply savoury and satisfying starter, ideal for a chilly evening.

Meanwhile, my wife ate a far gentler dish – a generous serving of cauliflower panna cotta with pickled cauli, cous cous, golden raisins and a garnish of herbs.

The Butchers Social

The main course I chose was a playful riff on a curry house standard.

Corn-fed chicken breast had been precisely roasted so that it retained its texture and moistness and it had the flavours of masala spices.

Black lentils retained a degree of firmness so that they provided a bridge between the dhal you’d find in Indian restaurants and the Puy lentils served in classic French cuisine.

Cauliflower came roasted and gently spiced with cumin.

But the plate’s highlight as a tall, slim balti pie made with excellent pastry and filled with chicken. A garnish of something akin to Bombay mix was fun.

There was a good level of chilli heat throughout the dish.

Opposite, my wife again selected more restrained flavours – a chunk of firm but moist chunk of pan-fried with spinach, rosti and a lobster and lemon beurre blanc.

The Butchers Social

The  evening’s only disappointment was the rum baba that I ordered next, for it was wasn’t dense enough and no where near rum-drenched enough for my taste.

But it came with a lovely piece of roasted pineapple and a pleasantly sharp yoghurt sorbet that was an absolute star.

Service throughout was attentive, efficient and friendly and the restaurant had a great buzz – the bar at the front of the joint even more so.

Butchers Social has changed since its Harborne days, but retains its smart cooking, confidence and spark.

The pig cheeks alone make it worth the schlep to Henley.

Need to know

Starters range from £4 to £13.

Main courses are around the £23 mark.

There’s a good range of steaks, too.

Veggie options are available.

There’s a children’s menu.

A nine-course tasting menu is available at £70.

The Butchers Social

95a High Street, Henley-in-Arden B95 5AT. 01564 792135.

https://thebutchers.social

The Butchers Social

I was invited to The Butchers Social as a guest of East Village PR, but, as always, the opinions above are genuine.