FOOD MONSTER: Macy's Brasserie in Navenby
Navenby is known locally for its artisan bakery and outstanding butcher's shop. It is also home to a gem of an eaterie that villagers will be aware of but perhaps less so the city slickers.
A friend recommended I take the short drive out of town one Friday lunchtime to give Macy's Brasserie a try.
So give it a try I did, with said friend eagerly in tow, keen to share her gastronomic discovery.
Located on the High Street in the village, just past the King's Head pub, you could be forgiven for driving by without paying it too much attention. The exterior is stone-fronted like most of the buildings along the main drag, and has a subtle cream and black signage outside. It whispers 'understated'.
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Walking in off the street, the theme continued. The decor was cosy, muted and neutral, with old maps of the county and unique pieces of art (hand-painted and signed by a certain Macy) adorning the walls.
Contact details and location map for Macy’s Brasserie in Navenby...
But if the overall impression of the interior was low-key, the sights and smells that greeted us were definitely not.
On the counter were cakes, muffins, breads, buns and all manner of sweet treats. Just as we were greeted by our friendly waitress, a lady wearing an apron appeared from the kitchens carrying a plate of warm, freshly made chocolate cookies the size of saucers that smelt fantastic.
When we had finished drooling we were shown to our seats in the sunny window and left to peruse the menu and specials board.
It being noon on a Friday lunchtime, the brasserie was not very busy, the only other diners were two young ladies sat opposite, however, by 1pm, the place was almost full.
With my friend putting aside the set menu in favour of the specials board, I followed suit.
I didn't fancy a starter, having had my head turned by the cakes I planned on saving myself for dessert, but my dining partner had been holding out all week for the trip so she opted for the garlic mushroom bruschetta to start.
When it arrived, I half regretted my decision. The portion size was generous, with two slices of thick-cut bread topped with a creamy garlic sauce and layers of mixed wild mushrooms.
I was offered several mouthfuls, which I could hardly refuse. The flavours were fantastic, rich and complex. Unfortunately, the last mouthful I took had a hard, unidentifiable chunk in it, which our waitress couldn't apologise enough for when she came to clear the plate. She returned from the kitchen moments later, explaining that it was a mushroom stalk but by way of compensation we were both offered complementary coffees at the end of our meal. This was a nice gesture, I thought.
On with the mains and I had ordered the chicken, ham and mushroom pie with seasonal vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes and my fellow diner had gone for one of her favourite dishes – moules mariniere, served with hand cut chips.
My pie and mash was perfectly presented and without even tasting the pastry, I knew it was homemade. The buttery, melt-in-your-mouth crust sat atop large chunks of chicken and nuggets of roasted ham, with a handful of wild mushrooms, all in a white gravy. It was delicious.
It took me back to being a youngster when my grandma, who was a superb pastry maker, would rustle up a pie using the Sunday roast leftovers. In a word, it was rustic. Simple and wholesome, even the accompanying carrots and broccoli were cooked to al dente perfection. Meanwhile, my friend seemed to be in a food-induced trance. She had a steaming bowl of mussels in front of her, with the fattest, fluffiest chips I have seen served in a restaurant.
She was mopping up the liquor from the shellfish with the potato batons and didn't speak until she had finished the lot.
We were too full for a pudding but with nothing to rush home for, we decided to go for bust, literally.
I opted for the apple and raspberry crumble and my partner in crime went for the lighter option of lemon posset with a cinnamon shortbread biscuit.
Again, presentation was good.
My crumble was served in a white china bowl, with a jug of cold, thick cream as accompaniment.
Full of sweet yet tart raspberries and topped with an oaty, light crumb it was heaven in a bowl, in fact it was the highlight of the meal for me.
The lemon posset was served in a glass and presented on a slate with a heart-shaped biscuit.
It was sweet and creamy with more than a tang of real lemons to cleanse the palate. Taking the waitress up on her offer of a free coffee, my friend was full and satisfied.
On reflection, while I was physically full – I couldn't find fault with the chicken and ham pie and I adored my dessert – I think I played it far too safe with my main course.
I could have chosen Mushroom and nut roast Wellington with goat's cheese, celeriac and potato gratin and winter vegetables for roughly the same price.
I settled the bill with the niggling feeling that I hadn't enjoyed the best of what Macy's has to offer. I plan to return and follow my friend's lead by being much more adventurous and to sample those cookies.
THE FOOD: Garlic mushroom bruschetta £6.45, chicken, ham and mushroom pie with creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables £12.50, moules mariniere with hand cut chips £10.75, apple and raspberry crumble with creme Anglais £5, lemon posset with cinnamon biscuit £5, glass of coke £1.75, sparkling pomegranate drink £2.95
FINAL VERDICT: Cosy setting in a village location with a surprising variety of dishes and menus to choose from.
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