November 2 2015

review: tasting menu at the muddy duck

And so it came to pass that, a mere couple of months since visiting the Muddy Duck to celebrate their inaugural Pig Guide membership, we were lured back along the lanes and byways that lead to this scrumptious little haven of pastoral paradise to sample a seasonal Tasting Menu that was simply too, too good to resist.

Built on the site of an 11th century Cluniac priory, this super-pretty pub-with-rooms was originally established as an inn in the 17th century… little wonder, then, that rumours about the pub’s various resident ghosts abound. But the only spirits we were interested in making acquaintance with at the bar were of the redistilled botanical variety – amidst an extremely well-considered range of tipples, both the selection and presentation of the gins are amongst the best we’ve ever come across round these yer parts. Not sure what your fave gin rave might be? Just ask! Bespoke is not a problem.

In a similar vein, the same could be said of food at the MD. Should you be in the mood for, say, an upmarket, downhome supper of classic fish and chips or a burger while your partner for the evening is hankering after a right here, right now trés foodie melange involving, perhaps, sashimi followed by something clever muddled with harissa, your wish is the menu’s command. On the evening we visited, however, we put ourselves entirely in the very capable hands of the MD kitchen team who had designed a unique 8-course menu that showcased both the very best of locally sourced, seasonal produce and the skills of the people who work hard at the hob to keep the MD at the top of the West Wiltshire food scene charts.

Our foray began with a selection of canapés that included the long, thin fingers of pork crackling that have earned the bar snacks menu legendary status alongside sushi that sparkled on the tastebuds and a couple of other tasteful teasers (sorry, the notebook didn’t come along for the ride this time!) that acted as a perfect precursor for the feast to follow: a velvety, flavour-packed amuse bouche of butternut squash, chestnut and bacon (if you’ve ever been moved to apply the idiom “good things come in small parcels” to a dinky little cup of soup, this would most definitely be the perfect opportunity); sumptuously soft Perl Las beignets artfully teamed with caramelised nuts and sweet, succulent pear; an exotic, complex plate of salmon with deeply umami-fuelled miso vegetables and tart, fruity yuzu; seductively earthy, gamey mallard served with mellow celeriac and a wonderfully complex jus; a beautifully balanced, acerbic hit of lime and mango sorbet to blast us back into sharp focus; honey and almond tart with supersoft figs. Wow, blimey and crikey! We’d taken a voyage around the tastes of a British autumn on eight plates, with each and every offering provoking debate, reflection and even controversy in all the right places. And there was wine to match too, from a duo of English wines with the canapés courtesy of Bath’s very own Mumfords Vineyard and Stopham Estate in Sussex, heading south as the menu rolled along to eventually reach a deeply passion-fuelled Grenache from McLaren Vale, Australia, with the mallard.

But for me, it was the tiny tipple served with our honey tart at the final flourish that really got me raving. If you take our advice and visit the Muddy Duck at your earliest opportunity (and you must, you really must), ask for a Rum Flip: Clément Rhum Vieux blended with house bitters, almond-infused orgeat and nutmeg, resulting in sheer palliative alchemy that works the most amazing magic in the glass. I raved about this so much that the kind folk at the bar even gave me the glasses we drank from to take home – empty, unfortunately (yup, that’s the remains of it that you can see in the accompanying Pig pic). But hey, Christmas is on the near horizon; I already know what my Top Tipple of the season will be, at home. But still, I doubt very much that I’ll be able to match the standards I met at the Muddy Duck, on either the food, drink or service front. There’s nothing for it; we’ll just have to waddle our way back to Monkton Farleigh again on a very regular basis. Quack quack, Piggies! You’d be a crazy ducker indeed not to follow our lead.

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