GOOD MOOD FOOD

PUBLISHED: 13:19 21 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:18 20 February 2013

The Moody Cow at Upton Bishop is no longer just an odd-sounding but attractive pub in the middle of a pretty Herefordshire village.

Now, it has serious aspirations to develop a culinary pedigree. The meal I ate there recently had class and breeding. The man behind the new menu is Jon Rix who has an impressive culinary history himself and has worked with some of the most respected chefs in the country, including Michael Caines and John Burton Race. With Jon's commitment to use the very best local ingredients and a passion for flavours his

menu represents a love of classic, unpretentious taste combinations. The bar is still an open mix of bar stools and soft old sofas in which you can curl up comfortably to read the menu or enjoy post dinner coffee. It's a place to

chat and as our fellow diners agreed, the difficulty is deciding what to chose. Admittedly the prices are a touch higher than in some country pub restaurants, but the quality of the food proved to be at such a different level that it actually represents very good value for money. There are some of the best local beers on the pumps and a wine list which mixes the sensible with the sublime. We opted for a very pleasant mid-range Sauvignon Blanc, very clean with hints of greengage and gooseberry. For starters we went for the ham hock and minted pea risotto and the goat's cheese and tomato pannacotta with Parma ham. They came to the table looking beautiful and tasted even better. If the first bite is with the eyes then Jon and his team of young chefs are creating masterpieces worthy of Chardin and Monet. The risotto was perfect, the moistness of the rice and sweetness of the peas being off-set by a slight saltiness in the ham. It was very pretty to look at and a pretty decent sized portion for a starter, not just a mouthful and a half as with some aspiring restaurants. As for the pannacotta, I did have one problem

with it. It looked almost too beautiful to eat! However needs must and it was an absolute treat; when I could

get it back from Mrs G's side of the table that is. I was only left a mouthful to try, but the creaminess of the panacotta was beautifully balanced by the Parma ham and the crisp garden leaves. For the main course I went for the noisette of Welsh lamb with ratatouille, garden courgettes, dauphinoise potatoes and mint oil. A very good choice and one I tried to keep to my side of the table. The lamb was a delight. The sauce was laden with subtle and fragrant herb flavours and the courgette fritters added a touch of crunch to the silky smooth dish. I might have preferred new potatoes but the peppery dauphinoise were delicious. Meanwhile Mrs G had gone all quiet

on me, which is either a very good sign or a very, very bad one. This time it was due to the perfection of the smoked fillet and crispy belly of pork with red cabbage and cider sauce. (Phew, what a relief.) "That" she declared, "is a perfect combination." I would have liked to try some but her plate was pretty well cleared by now. This is what happens when you pop off to take a sneaky photograph and have a chat with your fellow diners! Among these was South African, Louis Goosen. He was happy to add his own review. "You tell them it's all just great and the best chips I've ever had. I didn't know you guys in England could cook this good." Ah, pudding... and the pudding row. Our choices were both so delicious that we eventually had to agree to share. The

chocolate fondant with Jon's own chocolate ice cream was perfectly cooked and delicious, but the trio of sorbets was simply divine. Clean, fresh and invigorating, the combination of flavours tingled the palate and was as fresh as bright frost on a sunny winter's day. They were sublime. As Louis my new South African friend said: "It's damn good here isn't it?" Jon and wife Tiffany have been in charge for less than a year but they are already creating a reputation for excellent food in a relaxed and unintimidating atmosphere. It's an impressive combination. Jon doesn't ignore the reality of the economic situation, he is offering a popular midweek steak night and is looking to develop his own range of food products. However he is clearly focused and passionate about producing great tasting food of the highest quality. That passion produces food so good it puts everyone in a happy mood, including Louis, Mrs G... and me.

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