27th December 2022
Louise and Neil Hitchen’s acclaimed restaurant on Oakham’s Burley Road is the perfect spot for a family lunch, writes Clare Rudd-Jones
On a recent cold December day, I was lucky enough to take time out with my lovely dad for lunch at Hitchen’s Barn in Oakham. It’s a restaurant with a sterling reputation and a string of awards to its name, including 2AA rosettes and Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, so dad and I were thoroughly looking forward to catching up over lunch there.
What a warm welcome we received from owner Louise Hitchen and her team – the bright, cosy interior of the historic barn so inviting on a chilly winter’s day. We were taken to our seats, where we perused the menu; the set lunch, at £22.95 for two courses per person, with a third course for an extra £5, offers fabulous value.
The first arrival was a board of Hambleton Bakery bread with two butters, including the most delectable marmite butter – a genius creation! Then, for dad, a glass of the house red, a Rioja, and a glass of house white, a Viognier, for me. Everything comes to the table seemingly effortlessly – Louise and her team regularly checking that we had all we wanted, making us feel so welcome.
Before we knew it, it was time for starters. We both enjoyed a beautifully presented pressed terrine of duck leg confit, served with beetroot, orange and pine nut salad. Packed with zingy mini gherkins and tiny onions, the terrine had superb texture and tasted delicious, its heartiness beautifully offset by the freshness of the salad.
For mains, dad chose the braised local Launde Farm lamb shank, which he said was flavoursome and really tender – soft, juicy and just falling off the bone, with a rich gravy that melted into the accompanying mash. I had the fillet of Cornish black bream, on a pesto mash, with chorizo and fennel – the flavour combinations were absolute winners and this dish was just oh so pretty. A fabulous reflection of chef Neil Hitchen’s culinary skill.
Then it was on to pudding… For dad, the iced amaretto parfait with poached pear. Again, its presentation was gorgeous and the taste was fully in line with this. ‘Delicious,’ dad declared, in between mouthfuls, before awarding it ‘full marks’! On Louise’s recommendation, I tried the Bramley apple fritters, with plum sauce and vanilla ice cream. Real comfort food, the fritters certainly lived up to their billing; cinammon was a key feature, which meant that their aroma was amazing. Perfect for a pre-Christmas meal!
We finished with coffee before heading out into the cold, making a mental note to repeat the experience very soon.
What a delightful place to go for lunch – it’s amazing value, it offers highly accomplished menus using local produce and the vibe is wonderful. The service, which is always attentive but never invasive, hits the spot exactly. It really was no surprise that the restaurant was completely full on the day we went. In January, Hitchen’s Barn are offering the ever-enticing ‘Lunch for Even Less’, so do make sure you book well ahead if you want to take advantage of that excellent deal. Find out more about this on our ‘Food & drink bites’ feature on p90.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that there is room upstairs in the Barn for small groups – Louise advised that the space is typically used for family groups, friends getting together, wedding parties and also for groups with young children. Just call and ask the team for more details.
Hitchen’s Barn, 12 Burley Road, Oakham, Rutland LE15 6DH
Open for lunch and dinner Tues–Sat, closed Sun and Mon
01572 722255, www.hitchensbarn.co.uk