Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Father's Day Lunch

Sunday Lunch is an institution in England. Although sitting down with your family to share lunch on this day of rest in the busy post-modern age is hardy a weekly event anymore, most people manage it whenever they can. And they almost always manage it on special occasions like Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

It used to be that Sunday lunch was nearly always cooked at home. A roast that took all morning to prepare, served with potatoes, vegetables and a rich dessert was traditional. Today a lot of people are so tired out by the time Sunday comes that cooking something that takes so long to prepare is less than appealing, so many of us choose to eat Sunday lunch in a restaurant instead of cooking it at home.

My family don’t have Sunday lunch every week. In fact, as I come from Canada, I much prefer to have a Sunday dinner later in the afternoon. I find eating so much at lunchtime can make me very sluggish for the rest of the day. But every once in a while I have to give in, and as today was Father’s Day it seemed a good time to treat my British husband to a traditional Sunday lunch.

I did not, however, want to treat my husband to the stress and steams that goes along with cooking said lunch, particularly now the weather is getting warmer. Nor did I want to subject myself to the stress of cooking a heavy meal on a day that was supposed to be a day of rest.

This is why today found us deep in the Berkshire countryside, at the wonderful Boathouse at The Beetle and Wedge in Mouslford. The Boathouse is just that, a converted boathouse. Upstairs the light and airy décor is enhanced by floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Thames. Downstairs is cosier, with the open grill ablaze. You can watch the chef cook all manner of things there, right before your eyes.

I always like it better upstairs, particularly in the warmer weather, and I had asked for a table by the window as it was a special occasion. Although the Thames has a reputation of being an urban river, filthy from the city, it actually flows through miles and miles of countryside and is a river people swim, sail and play outside of London. Sitting where we were we could watch the ducks, Canadian geese, and all manner of wildlife. We also saw gorgeous boats, from tiny traditional launches to yachts that were actually sea going vessels cruising past the window. People were also learning to sail and kayak right before our eyes. It was lovely.

The food is amazing too. The Boathouse specializes in things cooked on its wonderful grill, including some fantastic seafood, but the menu offers a huge array of choices for everyone, from vegetarians to meat eaters alike. From entrees to main courses and desserts, the choices are brilliant. Food is creatively prepared and the combinations of ingredients are fresh and delicious.

I started with a honey roast fig and parma ham salad, served with arugula and parmesan cheese. It was stunning, richly flavored and delicious. Our son always starts with the same thing, shredded duck served on a ginger risotto cake . It is his absolute favourite. And for my husband there are nearly always mussels in a beautiful cream sauce on offer.

For my main course, I tend to have seafood when I go to the Boathouse at The Beetle and Wedge as it is so fresh and cooked so beautifully. Today I enjoyed a roast loin of cod with mango salsa, served alongside a rosti potato cake. My side dish was a multi-colored cherry tomato and shallot salad that was utterly refreshing and delicious. Our son chose steak as always, served this time in a piquant peppercorn sauce, and my husband had beautifully cooked liver and bacon. He often chooses that dish as it is something I refuse to cook at home. Sadly I’m one of those folks who believe that offal is awful.

The desserts at the Boathouse are not to be missed. Our son chose an incredible profiterole dessert, served with chocolate ice cream and flaked almonds. My husband and I had steamed citrus pudding. British steamed puddings are like a heavy cake and are traditionally very stodgy. However, steamed puddings at the Beetle and Wedge are light and delicious. This one was served with an amazing citrus sauce and lovely light vanilla custard.

It’s just as well the Boathouse at The Beetle and Wedge is situated along the Thames path, as after such a wonderful lunch you do need a walk to help it all to settle. It is a fantastic place to while away a Sunday afternoon in the beautiful English countryside.

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