Whether it's the type of salt, how far greens have travelled or even how they are grown, restaurant staff are being questioned harder than ever by customers about the origins of their food.
At The Old Vicarage hotel and brasserie in Worfield, near Bridgnorth, everyone from the head chef preparing the meals, to the waiting staff serving them, know all there is to know about the finer details of the ingredients on its menu. Owner David Blakstad's career in hospitality has seen him climb the ranks from young chef, to working with some of Britain's biggest players in the sector including the Savoy Group, Claridge's, Conrad Hilton and Forte before taking over the Old Vicarage with his wife Sarah. He has seen how things have changed in the industry over the years. "Thirty years ago people just trusted what it said on the menu," he said. "Then 15 years ago they started asking questions about where the meat came from and now, particularly with the rise of vegans and vegetarians, there's a whole new level of detail - questions about how we pickle the cabbage or how long the tomatoes have been on the vine."Staff training is vital and while it does slow down the ordering process we do love the questions from diners as it shows they really care about what they're eating."
The Orangery Brasserie's latest menu has been pulled together by head chef Gavin Allan and includes inventive new ingredients such as bacon brioche with its ham hock and gherkin terrine dish, bone marrow dumplings with the oxtail soup, and rocket parmesan and pine nut salad with potted prawns. There's also Clapshot potatoes, super greens, citrus and fennel salad, roast beets and homegrown kale, all of which staff know every single detail of.
They can inform curious diners the complete journey from farm or field to fork. "Chefs have always taken the time to carefully research and prepare ingredients for dishes and we have no problem talking to customers about them," said Gavin. "But it's hard for us to always give customers the attention they deserve as we're cooking all the time, so it's important that if someone wants to know what's in a dish and where it comes from, then whichever member of staff is asked can easily explain."I think it's good for everyone to know this information so that the passion for the food doesn't just come from the kitchen, but from front of house too. It makes for a much better dining experience."
The new menu at The Old Vicarage released this November certainly has an autumnal feel and contains some unusual but succulent sounding dishes with a twist. These include dishes like monkfish scampi coated in the famous Scampi Fries snack, game casserole with apricots soaked in brandy, and pumpkin pie with tarragon.
The Old Vicarage has made sure it also has some of those homely and comforting Great British desserts on its menu which we all know and love, such as steamed jam roly poly, Bakewell tart and of course the classic cheese and biscuits. Other meal offers included on the new menu include fish and chips night every Friday night which can be eaten in for £12 or taken away for £10, and a steak night every Wednesday which includes two flat iron steaks and two glasses of wine for £30.
"We've put a lot of thought into our new menu and think our customers will really enjoy it," said Sarah Blakstad, who trained at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in London.
"The autumn has started and our new menu definitely reflects that. As the weather starts to turn colder people do look towards more comforting meals, and there is plenty of that as part of this menu.
"The Old Vicarage is a cosy place at the best of times but as the nights draw in it's the ideal place to come and enjoy an evening meal."
To make a booking at The Old Vicarage's Orangery Brasserie then please visit www.oldvicarageworfield.com/dining or call 01746 716497.
The 14-room boutique hotel boasts enviable views in the heart of the Shropshire countryside with visitors travelling from all over the Midlands and beyond, whilst offering exclusivity to weddings each year. Working with locally renowned vendors such as Bennett & Dunn, Beaman's Butchers and Rowlands of Shrewsbury, The Old Vicarage aims to bring high-quality produce to its visitors.
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