Food & Drink
Dining Out: The Marquess of Exeter
Among the questions you’ll find answers to, at Lyddington’s Marquess of Exeter, is where to find one of the best dining experiences in the area, with great quality pub restaurant food, a lovely atmosphere and a very warm welcome…
Words & Images: Rob Davis.
What is monophobia? What insect can jump 200 times its own height? And what is nutty slack? Not the usual pre-dining posers, I’ll grant you.
However, since our last visit to Lyddington’s Marquess of Exeter, its chef patron Brian Baker has come over all quizmaster on us and has left upon each of his pub restaurant’s tables several well-thumbed question cards from his old Trivial Pursuit board game.Why? Why not?
It’s a pleasant diversion and a quirky one, which in our opinion rather suits the old boozer turned gastropub.The questions are just one of a few changes since my last visit to the place.
My colleague Tilly visited to write the pub’s last dining out feature, which I must admit I was really rather jealous about, because I always rather like paying a return visit to the Marquess whenever the opportunity arises. And though I’ve written a couple of articles about the place in my time, I never seem short of new words… perhaps because Brian and his team never seem short of new ideas for their menus.
She’s a grand old girl, is the ironstone pub restaurant. Built in the 16th century and carrying a Grade II listing it had seen better days until, in 2009, she was treated to a full refurbishment and was transformed into a restaurant with an 80 seater dining room, and a lovely bar area in the old thatched bit of the building.
There are also 17 en-suite bedrooms if you get a bit carried away enjoying Brian’s skilfully curated wine menu, or rather most respectably, if you’ve friends or family in the area and need somewhere smart to put them up for the night.
Brian absolutely loathes anyone making mention of his celebrity past, serving as personal chef in a previous life to fashion designer Valentino, and Elton John, so we definitely won’t be mentioning that.
Instead, we’ll point out that before joining London’s Criterion, Brian worked at Hambleton Hall, building up the reputation of one of Rutland’s other must-visit dining destinations.Upon his return to the area, the chef set up the Fox & Hounds in Knossington, then moved on to the Marquess.
Other more recent changes, aside from the opportunity to enjoy an en-spec game of ‘Triv include a newly refurbished dining room with rough-sawn dining chairs upholstered in ticking fabric, plus some new dividers, to make the large restaurant cosier, painted in a brinjal hue. In recent years the chef has also created a second lounge at the front of the pub too, allowing guests to linger a bit longer, before or after their meal.
Changes aside though, it’s business as usual in terms of the menu. A set lunch menu with three options per course weighs in at a reasonable £14.50 or £17.50 for two or three courses respectively. Sunday lunch is £21 or £26/head, and there’s a daytime menu with the ubiquitous gourmet burger plus a couple of super salads with healthy ingredients if you’re seeking something lighter and a bit more summery this month.
Rejoice, though, at the innovative à la carte main menu, available during both daytime and during service. Its seven starters, nine main courses and three sharing dishes will delight, whilst four desserts, homemade ice creams & sorbets and a selection of cheeses will round off a quality dining experience nicely.
Our recommendations? Well, our roasted cod was lovely, but the meat and grill options are a particular highlight of the Marquess and we’ve yet to see anything emerging from the kitchen which failed to arouse our delight. The place has achieved that holiest of grails for any restaurant; consistency, and has always proved formidable in terms of the flavours and presentation of its dishes.
Anything else? Umm, well there’s Fish & Chip Fridays, and steak night on Sunday. Ah, yes, and before I dab my mouth with a napkin and sign off, monophobia is an acute fear of being alone; the flea can jump 200 times its own height (probably more, if you surprise it by jumping out and shouting ‘boo’) whilst nutty slack is a cheap fuel made of coal nuts and dust. So there you go… The Marquess of Exeter: feeding the belly, and the mind, too.