I used to cop in Harlem
All of my Dominicanos
Right there up on Broadway
Brought me back to that McDonalds
Took it to my stash spot
5 60 State Street
Catch me in the kitchen like Simmons whipping Pastry
[Mr Shaun "Jay-Z" Carter, Empire State of Mind, from the album Blueprint 3, Atlantic Records, (2009)]
When I was a kid, I used to get very confused by references to Broadway shows. Why would a musical put on by the local amateur dramatics society have so much national (let alone international) press? What was so great about Broadway? To me it was just where some of my friends who went to my (slightly odd) school lived. It’s clear to me now, though, that Jay-Z, for example, isn’t talking about the popular tourist destination in the Cotswolds; no, he’s talking about the Broadway in Manhattan. Of course. Silly me.
That said, Broadway (Worcestershire) is one of those places, like Broadway (Manhattan), that you should probably visit at least once in your life. Wikipedia says (so it must be true) that back in the day, Broadway was home to the best of British – Elgar, John Singer Sargent, J.M.Barrie, Vaughan Williams and the furniture maker Sir Gordon Russell. Now, it’s a great stopping point to explore the Cotswolds (pretty villages, pretty views, antique shops, Antipodeans running after cheese), and a Cotswold highlight in its own right (pretty village, pretty views, antique shops, nice deli).
The ideal place to stop, sleep and eat is at the former workshop of the aforementioned furniture man – Russell’s of Broadway “a restaurant with rooms”.
I’ve never stayed there (as inferred, it’s pretty close to home). But a number of my London friends have, by complete coincidence, spent long weekends with Russell’s as their base. Each of them have said that they enjoyed the chic and very comfortable rooms, reasonable rates and, above all, the super friendly service. More reviews here if you’re in the market for a trip.
I have eaten in the restaurant, though. A number of times. The most recent of which was at some point during the hazy, bloated, post Christmas Day-pre New Year’s Day period. Still took on 3 courses though; because the food is good, high-end bistro stuff.
Bread is made on the premises each morning; the starter options included dishes such as duck, pigeon and fois gras gallantine (terrine) with orange salad and pickled quails eggs (looked good), roast pumpkin & butternut squash soup, and a modern take on a prawn cocktail; mains were things like parsnip, sage and chestnut risotto (v. good and remarkably white), breast of pheasant with the trimmings, whole grilled lemon sole with shrimp butter, t-bone pork steak, anchovy, garlic and rosemary baked ling with slow roasted tomatoes … if anything, I’d say there’s too much choice for my liking (7 starters; 3 cross-over starter/mains; 11 mains). But I hear all of it’s popular, so what do I know?
I ate a salad of cold roast rump of beef with horseradish, beetroot, rocket and parmesan as a first course. Lovely slices of meat, seared on the outside, but rare in the middle. Nothing more than classic combinations, but done nicely. I really liked my main of juicy cutlets of lamb, which were served with a roasted pumpkin, artichoke and white pudding salad.
Others on the table took advantage of the veggie options in the hope that would make them feel healthier: root vegetable soup (from the fixed price menu); celeriac pithivier; that risotto. Again, all good. I also remember someone being difficult and requesting the (what turned out to be an impressively large) corn fed chicken breast with the sides from another dish (I think sweet potato puree and a chilli jam that had otherwise been paired with fillet of gilt-head bream). Absolutely no drama – the waitress was happy to help and it seems the kitchen was too.
As mentioned, we ate desserts too. The best of which was an outstanding sticky toffee pudding (moist and sticky, but not heavy, with plenty of scrummy sauce and good vanilla ice-cream). A dark chocolate terrine with poached prunes was tasty and the right texture, but the vanilla pannacotta had had one (or even two) too many leaves of gellatine in the mix. The balance of vanilla was good so it shouldn’t be overly hard to turn this one around, but it was definitely too firm.
Two other things caught my eye whilst we were looking at menus and later as we ate and drank. The first was that there were 5 wines of each colour marked at the “house” price on the decent length wine list. How refreshing not to have to settle for a pinot grigio or dirt cheap Chillean red if you don’t want to spend too much on booze. The second was the team of youthful, local and utterly competent and amenable waiters and waitresses. All enthusiastic, friendly and clued-in. It’s worth reading this Jay Rayner review for more compliments towards Russell’s staff.
I understand it’s exciting times at Russell’s. The owners have just purchased a brasserie affixed to the back of the main restaurant and are turning it into “the Workshop” – a stylish but rustic place with simple classics on the menu: boiled egg and soldiers; home made beans on toast; open sandwich of smoked trout; mince and mash; poached haddock; rice pudding; and jelly and ice cream. It looks as though it’s going to be fantastic value and I look forward to settling down for a bite or two next time I venture towards home.
But back to Russell’s. In my view, this is a good provincial village/town restaurant. That’s not meant to be patronising; I think it’s fair to say that a restaurant in the Cotswolds has to work a different market to those in London (or at 7th Avenue and Broadway, for that matter). Stay in the rooms and enjoy breakfast and dinner in the restaurant if you’re a townie, or head over anytime if you’re a local. No need to look for a McDonalds for your food (there isn’t one) – they’ll be whipping pastry in the kitchen.
Russell’s in 3 words
Not near Harlem.
Starters range from £6-£10; simple main courses are about £12; more jazzy ones £15-£19; puddings are £6 and your selection of 5 British cheeses £7.95. There’s also a separate and daily changing fixed price menu – 2 courses £17.95, 3 courses £22.95. Cheaper earlier in the evening and at lunch.
Rooms range from £98 mid-week to £300 for the biggest suites on a Friday/Saturday night. Breakfast is included. They regularly have offers.
www.russellsofbroadway.co.uk – 20 High Street Broadway, Worcestershire, WR12 7DT - 01386 853555