Friday, 24 August 2018

Dining out at the Four Alls

Newly refurbished Four Alls

Getting the opportunity of writing a restaurant review is one of the perks of the job! And we were very pleased to be invited to go along to the Four Alls at Welford on Avon recently. The restaurant has recently had £1.9 million refurbishment, which also brought new career opportunities into the area.

Plenty of outdoor seating
The Four Alls is an Oakman Inn, their 22nd throughout the UK and their 2nd in Warwickshire; the other one being The Globe in Warwick. The refurbishment has provided an elegant extension with giant glazed, bi-fold doors facing the river creating a new light-filled restaurant for up to 80 guests. This features Oakman Inns’ hallmark theatre-style open kitchen where guests can watch the chefs  cooking over the Josper charcoal grill or the wood-fired pizza oven. The front of the kitchen is clad with patina zinc fish-scale tiles.

Oakman Inns' hallmark theatre-style open kitchen.

The adjacent restored barn, dating back to 1869, provides additional seating and a separate room for private events by sliding the large replica boathouse doors on rollers. The original bar area now has an inglenook fireplace with a reclaimed hearth to recreate the cosy feel of a traditional pub.

Friendly staff
 While outside there’s lots of additional seating and an opportunity for some al fresco dining in the landscaped garden and patio area overlooking the River Avon. There’s also a ‘horsebox bar’ and lots of additional car parking space in the extended car park.

The horsebox bar in the garden
Being situated right by the river, the reclaimed Avon riverbank has become a series of terraces to help with flood defences. Also, for flood defence, the entire ground floor is tiled; a bespoke crocodile flood defence system is in place which can be locked down to protect the kitchen and bar equipment and seal off the area.

L-R: Deputy Manager Damian Urbanik, Head Chef Luke Chetwynd,
Deputy Manager Alex Papapetros, Sous Chef Fahima Khimoan and
General Manager Claudia Reiter.
The new General manager of The Four Alls is Claudia Reiter who worked with Raymond Blanc for over 16 years. She, and her fiancĂ© Damian Urbanik, are delighted with how things are going. Claudia said: “Welford is a beautiful village and my fiancĂ© and I have been welcomed with open arms. I’ve already met and made so many new friends, and not just from Welford but also from Stratford and Alcester - we’re getting so many compliments that I have to keep pinching myself.”

Hand-crafted authentic Italian pizza
The food at the Four Alls is Mediterranean-inspired. Food and drink are served from 8am throughout the day and evening covering breakfast, lunch and brunch, starters, nibbles, sharers, pizzas, salads, pasta, burgers and sides, mains and Sunday roasts, desserts and a fantastic children’s menu.

What was particularly great to see, was their attention to allergies. Dishes on the menu and specials showed whether it was gluten free (GF), if there’s a gluten free alternative available on request (GFA), vegetarian (V) or vegan (VE). And there was lots of information on the menu as to the sourcing of ingredients.

Teamwork in the kitchen

General Manager Claudia added, “The chefs have a lot of creativity. Although we are part of a chain our chefs can create their own special dishes and that instils the true passion of a chef rather than following a recipe down to a T which has been dictated to you.”

The Origin of the name – The Four Alls
The curious name of the Four Alls goes way back in history. Traditionally a pub had a pictorial representation, and the inn sign named ‘Five Alls’ showed five representative figures. There are variations, but may include a monarch with the motto ‘I rule (for) all’ or ‘I govern all’; a minister saying ‘I pray for all’; a soldier saying ‘I fight for all’; a farmer saying ‘I pay for all’; and a lawyer saying ‘I plead for all’.

Four Alls stained-glass window
Ladies visiting the Four Alls at Welford will find a beautiful stained-glass window in the ladies toilets depicting these figures.

As for us – we ate for all.

We did our best to sample a range of starters, mains and desserts. Prices were very competitive and there was lots of choice. We began with Spiced Chicken Wings with Citrus Yoghurt Sauce.  Tastily presented making you just want to dive in, we found that the chicken was succulent, the spices nicely balanced and the citrus yoghurt worked very nicely.

Next came Saltimbocco Scotch Egg which was a soft-boiled free-range egg, sage, prosciutto, sausagemeat and hollandaise. This was very appetising to look at, and, according to photographer Rob, the best Scotch egg he’d ever tasted!

Burrata Involtini (GF) with Prosciutto, dressed rocket and peas. This is a semi-soft white Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. With the Burrata wrapped in the Proscuitto – an Italian dry-cured ham, it was beautifully presented and if you’re a fan of mozzarella then you will love this. And I have to say the peas were the best I’ve ever tasted – fresh, sweet and delicious!

Asparagus Tortelloni (V) with peas, chilli, lemon and parsley butter. My favourite starter! Perfectly made pasta, a light, lovely texture to the filling and quite a kick from the fresh chili – and those lovely fresh peas. And Rob’s favourite starter - Smoked Salmon and soft-boiled egg involtini. Served with capers and rocket salad, kale and pumpkin seed pesto. Light and delicious!

We then had Fahima’s Spiced Slow cooked Lamb Shank with Arabic tahini cous cous. This was a special mains dish created by sous chef Fahima Khimoun. It looked and smelled wonderful and we couldn’t wait to taste it. But first Fahima told us all about it.

Fahima and her spiced lamb dish
“I was inspired by my mum and family with this dish. Mum is Algerian and my dad is French. So, this has completely different Arabic spices, steamed couscous, the lamb is slow cooked for four and a half hours, it has prunes and dried apricots which gives it that sweetness.”  The lamb did indeed melt in the mouth, the sauce was wonderfully spices and worked perfectly with the couscous. A mouth-watering dish! 

The Four Alls do a fantastic range of authentic Italian pizzas, cooked in the wood fired oven. Build your own or trust these experienced chefs to prepare one of their special pizzas from the menu. They ranged in price from £6 to £12.50.  Their Josper Grilled steaks, lamb, chicken and seabass prices range from £16 to £27. Check their website and menus for all the details and prices.

Desserts! Everyone knows that the Italians are famous for their ice cream and their flavours include Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla, Black Treacle, Ginger Caramel, Roasted Strawberry, which are all GF and V, Chocolate and Orange Blossom (VE), Sicilian Lemon Sorbet (VE). These also accompany all the traditional puddings that we know and love: chocolate brownie (GF) (V), summer pudding(V), apple and berry crumble (V), banoffee sundae (GF) (V), passionfruit and lemon curd meringue mess (GF) (V) and more.
Garah masala cake and ginger ice cream
We felt it only right to try one or two of these, and another of Fahima’s specials. This was a Garam Masala Cake with citrus yoghurt frosting with ginger caramel ice cream. To be honest I was expecting this to be a but heavy but discovered the cake was delicious and very light. The frosting worked well and the ginger ice cream just wonderful.