REVIEW: The Vintage Rooms

On their website it states that ‘The Plough Group are very proud of their new addition … The Vintage Rooms!’ And their pride is not ill placed, for the Vintage Rooms are an excellent social experience focusing on great food and service.

Derek Patterson and his staff are exceptional, seldom do you come across so passionate and knowledgeable a ‘foodie’ as Derek. The skill in which he offers up the best produce in the country is only matched by his knowledge of how and when to use it.

The atmosphere in Hillsborough’s first gin house is wonderful. Miriam, my wife, and I could feel the week slip off us as we walked in. Beautifully designed and decorated, the Vintage Rooms are a destination for all occasions. Small family gatherings, intimate couple encounters or large groups, they can cater for all.

The menu was as stunning as you would expect from the Plough Group. These guys know food. In fact I can say without fear of contradiction that you could go to the Vintage rooms and leave yourself in the chefs hands and not be disappointed by anything that comes out of the kitchen.

I started with a wonderful Risotto served with two Wood Pigeon Breasts. Miriam had Chilli Beef Strips in a sticky Asian sauce on a bed of seasonal leaves.

Earthy rich risotto rice cooked just to the bite in a stock that brought the smell of the forest floor to the palate. Mushroom and heady herbs filled the plate which supported the Wood Pigeon like the branch it was taken from. The woody flavours of the risotto only intensified the game flavour from the wood pigeon. I found myself taking small bites from the breast of wood pigeon for fear it would all end too soon. Naturally intoxicating. Naturally transporting. This was by far my dish of the year.

The Beef strip, and I say strip as that was all I was allowed, was sharp in spice with a wisp of sesame seed. Sticky and with all the markers of a person who understands Asian cuisine. Salty, spicy, sweet and sour, perfectly produced and greedily received.

On recommendation of Derek we both took the main course of Monkfish, tempura prawn with Asparagus and Courgette, Coriander and Jalapeños served with a creamy broth which again brought Asian flavours to the plate. The Monkfish was regal in preparation and flavour. Surely Monkfish stands as King of all locally caught sea fare. On this occasion it was crowned with sweet prawn veiled in tempura. The Asian flavours and tones where well carried by the monkfish and neither was overpowered or underplayed; but like a circus performer walked the high rope of perfection, in perfect balance, only to be punctuated by the sharp intake of breath with each bite of asparagus or chilli. And may I say what a move to place the hooligan ingredient of a jalapeño with the regal monkfish. This plate is not always available, but with the skill to cook this well comes the understanding of seasonal produce. All I can say is if you see this on their menu, order it. You will be amazed at the blend of flavours and technique used to serve it.

We finished the evening with a crème brulee, plum compote and shaved white chocolate. The creamy brulee was rich and moreish. I lingered over every spoonful, slowly pulling the spoon from my mouth. Much to her annoyance. But I didn’t care, it was the remedy for my week. It was what I needed. The plum compote brought a sharpness and satisfaction equal and opposite to the set brulee. The chocolate was there adding what only chocolate can, eye-rolling joy.

An evening is not enough at the Vintage Rooms, you will find yourself as I have lingering over the experience and plotting your return. What a perfect night. If you have the time, set a night aside for the Vintage Rooms. If you don’t have time cancel whatever you are doing and get down to Hillsborough, tell them I sent you, thank me later.

By way of completion I must give a shout out to the Tannery, part of the Plough Group who bring us the Vintage Rooms. Since my evening at the Vintage rooms and writing this I was at the carvery at the Tannery. I was made to feel so welcome as were my family. Thanks guys. Well worth the visit on a Sunday.

Paul McMath

The Vintage Rooms can be found at the Square in Hillborough. For more information, including their menu and contact details, go to Published in TBL 302.

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