An industrial estate isn’t the first place we’d look for fine dining. But as our Andrew finds out, there are hidden gems where you least expect
On the whole, the average British industrial estate is not associated with good food.
Other than a Pizza Hut or KFC, the best you can probably hope for is a theme restaurant with a desperately-trying-too-hard American-style name – the sort of place that offers ‘authentic’ ‘Noo Yoik’ pizza, or pasta, and a bar and booths like you see in crime films set in the ‘50s.
The idea is that if you shut your eyes, just for a moment, you can pretend that your reheated meatballs are actually from a recipe passed down by the chef’s grandmother, who brought it with her when she emigrated from Sicily to America before the First World War, and you’re really not in gloomy 2014 Britain but have actually stepped back in time into the world of Chinatown, or LA Confidential.
However, the moment you open your eyes again you’re still on an industrial estate. In Dudley. Next door to an MOT testing centre.
Then again, there may well be an all-you-can-eat Indian or Chinese buffet restaurant, which will always be busy, and if you turn up on the average lunchtime I dare say there’ll be a burger van parked in a layby. And as far as food goes, that’s about it.
So, bearing that in mind, you can probably imagine I wasn’t altogether hopeful as I drove towards the Hadley Park House Hotel one dark Saturday evening.
Although it’s not actually in the middle of a Telford industrial estate, the hotel and restaurant is right on the edge of one, surrounded to one side by offices and factories. You pass by them as you make your way off the roundabout from the main road and into the driveway.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. Hadley Park House Hotel can trace its history back to the 18th century, when it was a manor house surrounded by fields.
Although the surroundings have changed beyond recognition over the past 200 years, the property is probably much the same as it was back then.
However, its interior was converted into a hotel years ago, and current owners, Mark and Geraldine Lewis, took over the business in 2003.
Over the past 11 years they’ve spent £1.5million restoring and expanding the site, adding a separate hotel wing and a conservatory.
The latter has been christened Dorrells restaurant, and I had booked a table for two for 8pm.
We arrived around half-an-hour earlier, driving in from the Trench Lock interchange and past the factories and businesses of Hortonwood, and although there were a number of cars in the main car park, it’s so big that I had no problem finding a space.
Thanks to the weather, and the time of year, there wasn’t really any time to admire the front of the house. Instead we dashed the short distance to the front door and stepped inside.
We took a couple of seats in the bar while waiting for our table. A waitress brought over two menus and took our drinks orders, and then left us in peace while we decided what to choose.
According to the menu, Dorrells seeks to “create an unpretentious changing menu that reflects the seasons, made from the very best locally sourced ingredients”.
There was a range of nibbles available for £1.50 a throw while we made up our minds, and we ordered a selection of breads and dips.
Our order soon arrived – a small loaf of warm bread with herbs cut into chunks, breadsticks, and a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The waitress appeared again to tell us that the kitchen was running 15 minutes late because of an earlier problem with one of the ovens.
There also appeared to be a slight problem with the menu. My friend is vegetarian and while Dorrells offers plenty of choices involving meat, it does seem to be lacking alternatives for those who don’t eat it.
For example, there is a beef burger with emmental cheese, a barbecue pork shoulder and an Indian-spiced lamb burger with tomato chilli pickle – but there’s no veggie alternative. Now there are plenty of recipes for meat-free burgers out there, so why can’t Dorrells look at including at least one on its menu?
Instead, and after consulting a member of staff, the choice appeared to be one of two types of salad, or a wild mushroom and crème fraîche pitivier. And that was it.
“I’m not going to order a salad,” my friend told me. “I can get one of those at home.”
So, wild mushroom pitivier it was, with a starter of goat’s cheese cake, beetroot carpaccio, toasted hazelnuts and red wine syrup.
Me? No such problems. I’d seen a waiter walk past carrying a black pudding Scotch egg, served with pancetta crisps and mushroom ketchup, and that looked like a good starter. And sticking with the meat theme, I decided to follow it with a 6oz fillet steak served with hand-cut chips, braised field mushrooms, roast cherry tomatoes, rocket and parmesan salad.
The prices seemed very reasonable for a quality restaurant.
Starters are around the £6 mark, rising to £9 for pan-seared scallops and honey roast parsnip puree, while the majority of main meals are roughly £12. My steakwas the most expensive option at £18.95.
There was also an extensive wine menu, but as I was driving I had to settle for cola instead. We were soon taken through into the adjoining conservatory, a big airy room beneath a glass pyramid roof, with wooden floorboards and tasteful decor. There was plenty of space, too; no danger of bumping your chair into the diner seated behind.
And while the restaurant wasn’t packed, there was a steady flow of customers throughout the evening to keep the staff occupied.
Speaking of the staff, they were a credit to the restaurant – attentive, polite and enthusiastic. Courses were delivered swiftly, and each was worth our initial wait. I was very impressed with my Scotch egg. Put aside any thoughts about supermarkets, petrol stations and battery hen’s eggs encased in pale, slimy, mechanically-recovered meat and covered in breadcrumbs. This egg was still warm, with a very slightly runny yolk, its casing was delicious, and the presentation faultless.
The goat’s cheese also got the thumbs up (although not literally. That would have looked ridiculous in front of the other diners.)
The main courses were also impressive. I didn’t make any requests for how my steak should be cooked, preferring to leave that to the chef’s expertise. I wasn’t disappointed. It was satisfyingly firm on the outside, while juicy and melting inside.
The chips were fat and tasty, and the cherry tomatoes were warm and full of flavour.
The only vegetarian option available – other than salad – went down well. The mushroom pitivier – a sort of puff pastry parcel – arrived in the centre of the plate, surrounded by a sauce and accompanied by a salad.
And there was still room left for dessert, and there were plenty of options, including sticky toffee pudding, treacle tart with lemon curd, and orange and almond sponge cake.
However, dark chocolate truffle with toffee popcorn ice cream leapt out at me, while my friend – who eats somewhat less than I do – opted for a trio of ice creams. Both came in at just over £5 each, and did not disappoint.
We’d finished our meal by about 9.45pm, and there was time for a leisurely glass of port in the bar before heading home.
All in all our meal for two came in at just under £80, including drinks. Not cheap, but not expensive compared to other restaurants. The food is a cut above, and the restaurant a delight.
I’d happily recommend Hadley Park House Hotel. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t be put off by a place because of doubts about its location.
That said, I did manage to get a bit lost on the industrial estate as I drove home.
Dorrells, Hadley Park House Hotel, Telford, TF1 6QJ