WE ATE FOR ALL!
For somewhere fabulous to dine, take a trip to the Four Alls at Welford on Avon in Warwickshire. Ann Evans went along to discover what this newly refurbished inn had to offer.
Photographs by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography.
What a delight to eat at the Four Alls in Welford on Avon recently. The award-winning riverside pub re-opened on 1st June after a £1.9 million refurbishment bringing new career opportunities to the area and a fantastic place to dine at any time of day and evening, or simply enjoy a drink in picturesque surroundings.
Nestled on the banks of the River Avon, near Stratford upon Avon The Four Alls is a welcoming pub for all the family. You can even take your dog into the large landscaped garden and bar. It’s part of the Oakman Inns chain, in fact it’s their 22nd and their 2nd in Warwickshire. And although it’s part of a chain, it’s very distinctive in its style, furnishings and food. Chefs are passionate about their craft and regularly create new and exciting dishes for the menu – as we discovered.
The Four Alls is welcoming from the start. Easy to find as you enter the village of Welford, and looking so attractive nestled on the banks of the River Avon. There a large newly extended car park, spacious landscaped gardens with lots of places to sit, plus a delightful patio area perfect for al fresco dining on warm summer nights. There’s even an outside ‘Horsebox Bar’ – detachable in case of flooding.
Inside, there’s a welcoming bar that clearly served a huge range of wines, spirits and local ales and friendly bar staff to great you. The ambiance was one of comfort and relaxation with comfy leather furnishings, and an inglenook fireplace with a reclaimed hearth – lovely and cosy.
You’re immediately drawn to the fabulous open theatre-style kitchens, where you can see the chefs at work preparing and cooking for their guests. Here the dining areas are light-filled with elegant, modern décor and lighting. The front of the kitchen is clad with patina zinc fish-scale tiles.
The design of the restaurant isn’t just for appearance. Being so close to the river, flood defences have been built in. 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. Outside the riverbanks have become a series of terraces, which will help with flood defence.
General manager of The Four Alls is Claudia Reiter who worked with Raymond Blanc for over 16 years. She and her fiancé Damian are delighted with how things are going. “Welford is a beautiful village and my fiancé 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.”
The food is Mediterranean-inspired and it’s a very comprehensive menu. Food and drink are served from 8am throughout the day and evening: 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.
They pride themselves on using only the very highest quality of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. Aubrey Allen, established in 1933, is their chosen butcher, renown for sourcing the finest meats from the British Isles. The pork is sourced from top quality outdoor bred pigs; and their pork belly is slow roasted for 12 hours overnight. Incidentally, for every pork belly sold the restaurant donates 25p to The Woodland Trust. The fish is responsibly caught and sustainably sourced. It’s entirely traceable to local fishmongers who have been approved by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Chefs use a Josper oven which is an enclosed charcoal-fired grill where they can smoke, slow cook and roast delicious and tender meats, fish and vegetables. And hand-crafted Italian pizzas are cooked in an authentic wood-fired pizza oven. It’s Fairtrade coffee and Teapig teas.
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 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’; and a farmer saying ‘I pay for all’; a lawyer saying ‘I plead for all’.
Ladies visiting the Four Alls at Welford will find a beautiful stained glass window in the ladies toilets depicting these figures and the colours have been picked out on the new tiled floor.
As for us – we ate for all.
We did our best to sample a range of starters, mains and deserts. 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. Gorgeous pasta, a light lovely texture to the filling and quite a kick from the fresh chili – and those lovely peas. I loved this! 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.
“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.
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.
More info at www.thefourallswelfordonavon.co.uk