Marked with glorious historic features of wooden beams, crooked doorways and antique window frames, stepping into this restaurant at the corner of Market Place in Shipston On Stour is enchanting.
It's the latest charming addition to the small town in Warwickshire, which was named the best place to live in the Midlands by the Sunday Times in its 2017 annual Best Place to Live guide for having "real pubs, great little shops and picnic spots by the river".
Owned by former editor of The Economist Andrew Knight, who has now retired and lives locally near the picturesque town, The Bower House is just a 45 minute drive from south Birmingham and a 10 minute journey from Stratford upon Avon.
The 75-seater eatery has injected a modern feel within the old structure with contemporary paintings hanging on old brick. The lower section is a more informal eating area next to the well-stocked bar that entices diners with flavour of the month cocktails and bottled ales from independent breweries. Meanwhile, the main restaurant features rooms with nooks and crannies for intimate meals or larger groups.
Modern touches within the historic building make the restaurant charming
It's been getting recognition already for a "modern British with a French accent" menu by its head chef Darren Brown. Brown won a Michelin star when he was head chef at West Stoke House.
The menu features both locally sourced in-season produce and also fresh seafood bought in from the coast, particularly oysters that can be enjoyed with champagne. The fresh Colchester No.2 Rock Oysters came served with shallot vinegar, lemon and tabasco at £2.50 each or 12 for £6 and were so popular that they had sold out by early evening.
Before the meal arrives, the efficient and friendly waiting staff bring bread with small bowls of whipped butter and modern day dripping. Interestingly, I'd been offered this kind of light lard in the same way at Birmingham's Michelin star restaurant Adams the week before, so The Bower House seems to be very on trend with latest gastronomy offerings.
Menus are changed regularly and on the evening I dined, there was a choice of just four starters. They ranged from a vegetarian option of Evesham green and purple asparagus with cottage cheese, balsamic and pine nuts (£7) to steak tartare (£8) and fish of pickled mackerel with horseradish and dill oil (£7.50) or Brixham cock crab (£8.50).
Opting for the crab, it looked pretty as a picture on the plate and was deliciously fresh and light with a creamy pea and mint mousse. My guest plumped for the steak tartare that also had a fresh taste and was well accompanied with spiced tomato and very thin slices of toasted multigrain bread.
The crab starter is fresh with a wonderful creamy pea and mint mousse
There's more choice for the main course with seven options. For vegetarians, there's gnocchi with heritage tomato salad (£15) that was presented as tubes rather than the usual shape and on a bed of a mouth-watering crunchy crumb made from black olives. There were also a variety of green and red tomatoes to balance out the dish.
It's a tough choice with offerings including pan fried skate with caper butter sauce, almonds and spring vegetables (£18), roasted quail with kohlrabi, apple and hazelnut (£19) and seared fillet of lamb neck with yoghurt gel and a salad of beans (£20).
Added to those are specials from the grill. A 24oz rack of Tamworth Pork for two people from the local Paddock Farm comes with apple sauce (£40). Then there is an 8oz Angus Sirloin from nearby Gillett's Farm in Little Compton (£24).
The steak is tender and flavoursome at The Bower House
I couldn't resist the 7oz Hereford bavette (£17), which like all The Bower House's steaks had been dry aged for at least 28 days and came with a light and flavoursome watercress salad, crispy fries and the choice of sauce from bearnaise to bone marrow butter, bois boudrin or chimmichurri.
Tender and juicy, the meat was cooked to somewhere between a between medium and rare and went down rather well with a glass of Argentinian Malbec.
The surroundings add to the dining experience at The Bower House and there are some lovely contemporary touches too. Nipping to the loo ahead of dessert, the toilet features an audio story being told in plummy British tones from an in-built speaker that is actually very soothing. There are also five bedrooms currently being finished off on the first floor, which will allow guests to dine and stay over very soon.
Wavering over whether to fit in a pudding or some of the local Cotswold cheeses with fruit bread (three for £10), we were won over by the chocolate and orange dessert and apple option. The other sweet choice was a walnut cake with celery sorbet (all puddings cost £7.50).
The chocolate choice featured a generous slab of thick chocolate mousse that combined beautifully with the orange sorbet and honeycomb pieces.
On the apple side of things, this dessert had a compressed Granny Smith terrine above a sliver of pastry and below a covering of crunchy peanut brittle. This was accompanied by a very refreshing apple sorbet. Both desserts were so delicious that we wiped the plates clean.
The Bower House is a welcome addition to the gastro scene in the wider Midlands that offers a distinctive menu of fine dining dishes in memorable, cosy surroundings.
It feels like a special treat whether it's for a spot of lunch out of the city, a romantic dinner or birthday supper. It may have taken time to renovate this charming old building, but judging by the results, it's well worth the wait.
The Bower House
Market Place, Shipston on Stour, CV36 4AG
Open for lunch, noon to 2.30pm, and dinner, 6pm to 9.30pm, from Tuesday to Saturday.
Also open for lunch, noon to 5pm, on Sunday. Closed Mondays Opening hours will expand once the bedrooms are open in late May.
For reservations, call 01608 663333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the Bower House website for further details.