Visit: 19 November 2023, lunch for three people
The Boat Inn in Lichfield has transformed into The Boat, a restaurant and micro-farm. This isn’t just a name change. The food has always been very good, but now it really is very, very good! The meat was meatier, and the vegetables were fresher and vibrant. Everything was packed with flavour. We had a very memorable Sunday lunch.
Chef patron Liam Dillon started his culinary career in London with Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, Five Fields (1 star) in Chelsea, and Story (2 stars) by Tom Sellers in Bermondsey. He has worked at Quay in Sydney, Noma in Copenhagen, and at Eleven Madison Park (3 stars), and Gilt (2 stars) in New York, before returning to his hometown of Lichfield and opening The Boat Inn in 2017. The Boat now boasts a micro-farm with pigs, hens, micro tunnels, vegetable beds, and bee hives.
The three-course Choice menu costs £45 per head, with side dishes at £4 each and an optional cheese course at £15. There is also a seven-course lunch tasting menu at £70 and an optional wine pairing at £50 per head. You can also splash out and order Sturia Oscietra caviar or Porthilly rock oysters if you want to. We chose the three-course Choice menu.
We started with an amuse bouche of a celery salt aerated waffle topped with Lichfield cheddar cheese custard, house made pork coppa charcuterie and a sherry glaze. We were served some excellent beer-soaked spelt loaf with whipped chicken butter, topped with a crispy chicken skin crumb, and a cheddar cheese custard with honey-soaked oats and chives.
Starters included Staffordshire pheasant tortellini with a cep sauce and chestnuts, and Cornish monkfish with a scallop brandade (an emulsion usually made from salt cod, olive oil, and potatoes), served with broccoli and bisque. Both were excellent. The tortellini pasta was perfectly thin with good texture, and the pheasant stuffing had very good flavour. The monkfish was nicely “meaty” and was precisely cooked. I’m not usually a fan of broccoli, but Liam has really got this right! It tasted remarkably fresh and vibrant.
The main courses included roast Hereford beef fillet served with a Roscoff onion stuffed with ox cheek, a glazed baby artichoke, with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and a rich beef jus. The beef was very tender and had excellent flavour for a fillet. The artichoke and the stuffed onion were both sensational. Roast dinners are often a disappointment, but for me this was the star course today, and one of the best roasts I have eaten in a long time.
Our other main was the barbecued Cornish sole, with mussel butter, home-made chorizo, and broccoli tempura. Again, the fish was perfectly cooked, and the broccoli tempura was sensational. To accompany our main courses, we ordered the side dishes of cauliflower with Black Bomber cheese, and roasted pumpkin with black garlic and The Boat honey. Both side dishes were very enjoyable.
We tried the dessert of carrot cake with cream cheese mousse, soaked golden raisins, and brown butter ice cream which was good. Our other dessert was the Valrhona chocolate parfait, with white chocolate aero, a milk crisp, and malt ice cream. Again, this was good. I think that the savoury courses are now so good that they overshadow the dessert courses slightly, but this is a very minor quibble!
The selection of five British cheeses included Rosary Ash goats cheese from Wiltshire, Tunworth from Hampshire (similar to a Camembert, but better), Oxford Isis, a creamy full fat soft cheese from Oxfordshire, Rachel goats cheese from Somerset, and Burt’s Blue from Cheshire. All the cheeses were in very good condition. These were served with a plum preserve, a very nicely laminated roll with Branston pickle, and wholemeal crackers.
We finished with rum soaked babas, that were coated in beeswax and topped with honey gel and bee pollen, to accompany Nespresso coffee.
Service was very friendly as always. Our sommelier was particularly helpful with choosing a suitable red wine to accompany the roast beef.
The Boat has long been a top dining experiences in the Lichfield area. Liam has definitely made significant improvements recently and the cooking has moved up another notch.