My Mum’s Kitchen
No reservations available – invitation only
Dinner for 1, including drinks, service, bed and breakfast – one ‘thank you’ card and a Cath Kidston Blackberry cover
I have been eating at My Mum’s, on and off, for over 37 years now. When I say at, I suppose strictly speaking you could say, in order; in, on, at and with. But we won’t dwell on these natural facts and inevitabilities that we have almost one and all been through.
For over 30 years, the original eatery was based in the sleepy Hertfordshire village of Chorleywood, nestling in the middle-class bosom of commuter land, at the far end of the Metropolitan line. I ate there regularly for the first 15 years of my life, until head-chef Annie decided that she needed to be able to express herself more freely. This was a decision that my brother – a consistent and very regular dining partner of mine – and I were not altogether sure about, as our collective dining recollections were not filled with glowing reviews. Mince and rice seemed a mainstay of the menu. This, of course, is grossly unfair and as such should be struck from the records.
When I was growing up within the guidance of My Mum’s, I had a difficult relationship with food; as a younger child, I could be described as a ‘fussy eater’, (especially when within earshot of my father, who to this day I am sure had a stronger description for me than that when without earshot) and to this day I still can’t stand baked beans – yes, I know, I can hear you blowing your FREAK! horns from here – but heating them for my own children has the potential to provoke a boke, akin to spooning out stale dog food from a can, with a hangover, for someone else’s farting dog, before treading in the turd it has left on the kitchen floor. In bare feet.
During my teenage years, the food affair didn’t improve a great deal. Food was for energy – it was a means to an end. It was not necessarily the pleasure, or moments and tastes to be enjoyed, that I find it today. The relationship itself wasn’t bad, as such, its just that my relationship with Miss Marlboro was a lot more fun – she was thinner, sexier, undoubtedly filthier, and frankly I had a much better chance of being able to remain intoxicated by her scent for hours, which was all encompassing. And who ever got on the cover of an album or the poster of a bedroom wall eating a jacket potato?
Annie’s next location, whilst still in Chorleywood, was considerably smaller, and when populated by more than one diner, was hardly spacious enough to swing a church mouse, let alone the cat that might hasten its whiskered demise. It would be considered ’boutique’ or ‘pop-up’ at best. The cat was called Molly, by the way, and was not particularly customer friendly. As the potential consumer base started to grow, the need for larger premises for more covers was inevitable. Also, the opening of the first Indian restaurant, Sathi, and the first fish and chip shop the village had ever been allowed to open (in 1996 for heaven’s sake), signaled the need to relocate to a different region. Chorleywood was now sullied and compromised.
The newest incarnation is by far the most ambitious to date, and was established in 2006. Located in the sleepy market town of Ledbury, in the shadow of the Malvern hills, and surrounded by amazing local produce, the food being served matched the scenery in its earthy beauty and nature. Sat at the exclusive chef’s table, housed within the confines of the kitchen, there was no menu. Traditionally, there has been a consultative period between chef and diner that used to be somewhat frustrating for both parties when in fussier times, but now is an enjoyable element of the dining process.
I was treated to a steak and mushroom pie – the filling constructed of melt-in-the-mouth Herefordshire steak, braised in rich and soothing madeira and onion gravy that virtually crooned and Brylcreemed its hair back before winking at your grandmother, it was so smooth. The pastry, so often a disappointment and difficult to perfect, was hand-crafted and as hot, crunchy and uneven on top as a Kuwaiti pavement in high summer, yet crumbled and dissolved on the tongue.
Accompanying this was an equally hearty celeriac and potato mash, of which the bitterness sat counterpoint to the sweet richness of the gravy. The broccoli was the chef’s suggestion, and given the circumstances and the proximity to so many knives, this diner was not in a position to decline the portion provided. Washed down with a strong Australian Merlot, ably poured by the chief sommelier David, there genuinely was no desire or hunger for the pudding which the chef was almost insisting was taken.
As is tradition, if sat at the chef’s table, helping with the washing up is polite thank you before retiring. Bed and breakfast is included in the price, and given the quality of all aspects, I am looking forward to returning soon. I hope you can all find a Mum’s Kitchen near you. I’m sure she’d love to see you.
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