Wilding invited me to try out some of their seasonal offerings with the suggested wine pairings.
Wilding’s menu changes with the season, as well as daily depending on what they can get their hands on. It was great to see such good produce being the star of the show here. To start, we had the house sparkling, Harrow and Hope Cremant, which comes from Marlow. It’s far too easy to sip and my glass was empty within 2 minutes.
Our starters arrived. Foraged mushrooms lightly pickled to perfection, and served on a thin piece of sourdough (from Hamlin Bakery in Cowley). I smothered the toast in a thick layer of salty olive tapenade which balanced beautifully with the vinegary mushrooms.
Thinly sliced venison melted in the mouth. The garnishes of oxtail jelly and porcini panna cotta not just for decoration, but really brought the dish together. This was paired with a glass of Boflan Aromano. An unusual, but remarkable, amber wine from Croatia. Lastly, we were given trout tartare from the Chalk Stream, just south of Oxford. We could taste that it had not travelled far; it was fresh and clean.
For our mains we had the guinea fowl, served with more of those foraged mushrooms and a truffle-mash; game is in season at the moment, and this guinea fowl comes from just outside Reading. The owners know their producers well and have established close relationships with them; something they say is crucial to the foundations and thriving of the business.
The main came with a glass of red ChiChiBio from Italy that my friend gladly finished as she wiped her plate clean. I had the Hispi Cabbage, which had been wonderfully charred to leave the outer leaves crisp, but the centre still al dente.
It felt like a treat, how could this thing on my plate somehow be good for me?
Walnuts had been candied and sprinkled, adding a great crunch and element of sweetness. Rainbow chard and sliced new potatoes were seasoned to perfection. They were sautéed so they retained their integrity, but still soft, breaking with a slight prod of the fork.
A bright orange, spicy muhammara paste rounded it all off. This dish is a perfect example of what Wilding do best; they take impeccable produce and work their magic to make them sing. You will find no meat substitutes here for veggies, just brilliant produce showcased in the best way. They believe that the less you alter something from its natural state the better, and this core value really shines through in this dish.
We are both full, but we made room for our desserts – it’d be rude not to.
Then, a whisky and honeycomb brulee arrived. It was made with Cotswold whisky and confit apple terrine and served with vegan vanilla ice cream. Both cold dishes, but embedded with the warmth and spices of winter. The whisky is smoky and the heat that hits the back of the throat contrasts its coolness. The apples were soft and plump, laden with the spiciness from the cinnamon.
These arrived with dessert wines, far too sweet for my friend, but hit the spot for someone like me and I left with a bottle of Domain L’ancienne from France. We left with bellies full of good food and I can’t wait to see what these guys roll out next season.
We dined as guests of Wilding, all views remain our own.