It’s a fair old hike up Adams Hill to The Four Stones but the effort is certainly worth it, and not just for the incredible views
If you measure the success of a restaurant by how high people are prepared to climb to get to it, The Four Stones must be doing very well indeed.
At the foot of the glorious Clent Hills it might be, but it is still a fair hike if you are forced to park at the bottom of Adams Hill, which you might be at busy times.
The Four Stones takes its name from the folly at the top of the Clent Hills built by Lord Lyttelton, the owner of Hagley Hall during the 1700s.
We were greeted on arrival by charming, silver-haired Italian man, and invited to take a table in the oak-panelled bar while we ordered drinks and perused the menu. The drinks list was impressive, and I liked the fact that as well as ordering wine by the glass or the bottle, you could also order house wine by the carafe, just like you can in Italy, with either 500ml or litre jugs available.
We settled on a bottle of Italian pinot grigio, a light refreshing tipple which seemed perfect for this moderately warm evening. My only real criticism was that there was no locally produced ale on tap, which is a shame given that there are so many good microbreweries in this neck of the woods.
It was quite a busy evening, and I liked the personal attention given to each group as they were led to the dining room, with staff carrying all drinks and laying them out on the table.
It has been a few years since I last came here, and the decor seems to have changed quite a bit. Last time I visited, it was very traditional, with thick white table cloths and table lamps with heavy shades. This time it was much more modern, with a continental minimalist look; parquet floor, trendy light fittings, pastel green walls. I like both looks in their way, and I don't think anybody will have any complaints – particularly if they have a table by the window. The way the room is divided into small rooms, also gives it quite a warm, intimate feel.
At a guess, I would imagine that the majority of the people who come here are locals who dine here quite regularly, and many of the guests seemed to be known to the staff.
The dapper, tanned mature gentleman in a rather fetching tweed jacket looked every inch the country squire, and the large group celebrating the 70th birthday party on the table next to us certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. By some margin the liveliest lot in the restaurant, there was plenty of mirth coming from their table, and they were in good voice for a sing song when a cake was delivered to the their table.
The service was impeccable. Sometimes it is just the little things that make all the difference and there was no faulting the attention to detail here.
From remembering customers' names, to removing the napkins from the table and dropping them into our laps, everything was spot on. A free jug of tap water was poured for us, the waiters offered to replenish our wine when it ran low, but in a subtle understated way – as opposed to that old trick of getting you go guzzle it down and then order another bottle.
And not only was it courteous, but efficient too. The meals arrived within around 20 minutes, as promptly as you can prepare a proper home-cooked meal, giving us just enough time to enjoy the complimentary bread – and I thought the large basket of different bread types was a nice touch too.
Michelle went for a fillet steak in garlic sauce, while I selected a pork medallion layered with black pudding on potato mash, finished with a garlic and red wine sauce, which is said to be one of the chef’s ‘signature dishes’. Call me immature if you like, but that there’s something about that term which always makes me want to ask why the chef hasn’t written his name in the sauce.
Signature or no signature, it was very special. The presentation of the dish, which also included baby corn, carrots and beans, was a sight to behold, to the point where it almost felt a little churlish messing it up to eat it.
The cooking of the pork had been beautifully judged, and the black pudding provided the perfect counterbalance to the flavouring. The mash had a wonderful buttery taste with a smooth, creamy texture, and the red wine and garlic sauce subtly went about its work, gently adding to the range of flavours without shouting too loudly about it.
The steak was also first rate, beautifully cooked with a thick, creamy sauce, offering something a little different from the usual. Between us, we also polished off a large bowl of thick, hand-cut chips; a bit naughty, but it’s just got to be done, hasn’t it?
For afters, we had the thick and creamy cheesecake and a banoffee pie. The cheesecake, drizzled with a tastefully understated caramel sauce and served with raspberry and fruit coulis, was very pleasant indeed. To be honest, I'm not mad on raspberry, but still, I’m sure it counts as one of my five a day. The banoffee pie also got a firm thumbs up.
The total bill came to £76.95, so it is hardly what you would call a budget experience. Had we gone for starters and a few extra drinks, cost would have nudged closer to the £100 mark. Yet, despite that, I would have no hesitation in recommending it, and was more than happy to leave a decent tip for such a polished performance.
As we headed back down the hill afterwards we were debating whether or not it should be given four or five stars. In the end, we decided to sit on the fence, and go for four-and-a-half – with a fudge like that, we ought to be politicians, hadn’t we?
But that is probably a pretty fair reflection. Excellent food, faultless service and a wonderful setting.
Four stones, four-and-a-half stars. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?