GFC member review: The Fox & Hounds, Exton
It would be pretty hard to improve on the location of the Fox & Hounds: a handsome 17th century coaching inn, overlooking the village green in a picture-perfect Rutland village. This Exton pub and restaurant surely is the epitome of a bucolic English scene.
Once inside things continue to impress. The rich décor of the bar area is very country lodge meets gentleman’s club – dark drapes, wing-back chairs, candlelight from a low-slung chandelier; it is a space in which I could happily while away an evening or a lazy Sunday afternoon.
We enjoyed drinks in the bar whilst perusing the menu. There are plenty of appealing dishes, with a number of starters and mains we were both very tempted by. The starters included burrata with heritage tomatoes; marinated rainbow beets with whipped goat’s cheese; and foraged nettle and Stilton velouté – all ambitious and delicious-sounding dishes.
Mains were equally engaging – featuring local meat, a couple of fish dishes, cote de beouf to share, although lacking in a vegetarian option.
Although there are a few tables for eating in the bar area we moved through to the restaurant, which was full on a Saturday night. The waiting staff (of two) were perfectly pleasant and capable but could really have done with someone overseeing operations – whilst they were busy getting out dishes for a large group, a couple of tables were left waiting to order other courses or in our case, desperate to order a glass of wine!
No matter – the food made up for the oversights in the service. My starter of pan-seared cold water scallops, roasted butternut, tenderstem, romanesco, scallop salt, lotus root crisps, white cauliflower veloute and truffle oil was fantastic. The scallops were cooked beautifully, the butternut was creamy and the veloute was absolutely delicious.
The beef carpaccio was also spot on – obviously not much cooking involved but great meat, perfectly offset by a zesty lemony dressing on the salad.
Mains were knockout too…
Lincolnshire pork loin, maple and rosemary marinade, apple puree, woodland mushroom and tenderstem salad, pork air, cider and wholegrain mustard jus: the pork air was delicious pork crackling ‘popcorn’, the rich jus was cut through with the cider and the meat was really well cooked. My only criticisms would be that it was possibly over salted and I’m not sure the tenderstem brought much to the party.
Rutland lamb, white onion puree, fondant potato, olive tapenade, foraged wild garlic, basil, sherry jus. The stand-out element was the meat – beautiful and excellently cooked. The rest was all very good, although the fondant potato was not the most creamy I’ve ever tasted.
The dessert menu didn’t feel quite as appealing as the other courses – perhaps not as wide a choice as there could have been – but both options we chose were still pretty good. The chocolate and amaretti bunet Peimontese, crème anglaise, poached blueberries with salted caramel ice cream didn’t have a huge depth of flavour and the crème anglaise was a little watery, but I still managed to eat it all!
Pistachio and polenta slice, macerated raisins and manderin gel was back to the same standards as the starters and mains – really great. The raisins and manderin gel were great fruity foils to the light cake.
We’ve also eaten a weekend lunch here with our children (and dog!) and felt just as welcome with our various small fry in tow as we did on a evening out just the two of us. With the gorgeous open paddock at the back, and lovely outdoor seating area perfect for the summer, we will definitely be back here regularly. Whether coming for a cosy evening meal, or a relaxing G&T in the afternoon sun, the Fox & Hounds certainly has a lot to offer.
This is really great cooking, in a great pub, in a great location – given time to iron out the few service issues, the Fox & Hounds will be a serious player on the Rutland dining scene and deservedly so.