Read our expert restaurant review of the Blackbird in Bagnor, a cosy rural pub delivering elegant plates of food
The Blackbird in a nutshell
Classical finesse, local seasonal ingredients and a cosy, welcoming setting make this rural gastro pub a must visit.
The Blackbird restaurant review
At first glance, there’s nothing especially notable about The Blackbird. Squirrelled away in rural Berkshire, in the village of Bagnor, it looks like the kind of traditional country pub found all over the country – the sort of place to go to for a leisurely Sunday lunch.
The interior – rustic wooden furniture, vintage china and a palette of muted autumn tones – continues the cosy rural vibe, but the kitchen tells a different, more intriguing story; delivering elegant, assured, ingredient-led dishes that, we predict, will make the Blackbird a must-visit destination in Berkshire.
Chef-owner Dom Robinson comes to his first restaurant after working with the likes of Adam Byatt, Anthony Demetre and Tom Aikens, and his menu is a pared-back affair, full of dishes that showcase seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and classical techniques; from tortellini of Kennet crayfish to taglioni of wild mushrooms and Wiltshire truffles, or Lydney Park wild boar with choucroute and russet apple.
We start with the crayfish; the silky, well-made pasta and delicate crustacean served with buttered leeks – refined yet comforting. A venison tartare was expertly executed; the finely chopped game given an autumnal twist with hazelnuts and Jerusalem artichokes.
Our mains displayed the Blackbird’s ability to deliver both hearty, crowd-pleasing dishes and more finessed food. A Sunday when we visited, a roast of Charolais beef rib was cooked perfectly rare and tender, and came with spot-on trimmings including golden, crispy spuds, an enormous yorkie and a satisfyingly creamy cauliflower cheese.
A second main of roast brill came with salsify, trompettes de mort and whole cloves of garlic, the latter roasted to a sweet mildness. An intense, full-bodied jus Ventoux finished off a study in earthy, rich autumnal flavours.
Dessert was nicely judged; a perfectly made chocolate fondant with just the right amount of molten ooze, paired with soft mulled quince and a pastel-coloured scoop of ultra-creamy pistachio ice cream.
Drinks-wise, the wine list offers a mix of classic grape varieties and lesser-known ones, and there were plenty of local ales on offer, too.
The Blackbird menu must-order
The venison tartare was an interesting take on a classic dish; the iron-rich, gaminess of the meat tempered by the crunch of hazelnuts and the earthiness of raw, chopped Jerusalem artichoke and shavings of truffle.
Special mention should also go to the excellent (and very popular, according to our waiter) wheaten bread that came with our meal. Made with buttermilk and treacle, it had lovely, rounded flavours of caramel and smoke.
The Blackbird misfire
None at all!
Price range: Mid range.
Written by Hannah Guinness
Photographs by Rosalind Atkinson; RJA Photography