It came as a surprise to see the Wig and Pen on a deals website. When it comes to dining out these sites rarely have much to offer, the advertised discounts being for restaurants of dubious quality, corporate chains or those on their last legs, trying in desperation to lure people in.
The Wig and Pen is neither of those things. As far as I can tell it’s successful, popular and serves very good food. The plan must be this: entice people in, feed them very well and they’ll return, happy to pay full price. Our deal, a glass of prosecco, starter and main from the a la carte menu was just £29 for two people, outstandingly good value for cooking of the quality and execution here.
It’s a nice restaurant too, formerly a regular pub by the look of it. The tables are solid and bare, those by the window have a lovely view over Paradise Square with its attractive Georgian terraces that I didn’t even know existed until that evening.
Both of my courses were good, but AS really got lucky. Hers were excellent. Two mouthfuls of her heirloom tomato salad with basil sorbet made me grin from ear to ear. Rejoice: tomatoes and basil with depth of flavour. For want of a better word it was just so tomatoey, tomatoey in a way you usually have to travel two hours south on a plane to find. If all the tomatoes I eat in Spain next month taste like these I’ll be happy.
My salt cured salmon was a far subtler proposition. Everything was delicate and mild, the salmon so lightly cured as to almost seem raw. Little cubes of chorizo in the dressing didn’t overwhelm, but just added a little saltiness and depth.
Bavette steak was a fine piece of meat, impressively tender for the cut and served with an oxtail dauphinoise. A nice idea but I couldn't really taste the oxtail. The sauce was also a little too sticky and over-reduced and there was a bit of a broccoli overload. Look it at all sat there like lurid bonsai. I did like the bone marrow fritter though. A greaseless crumb stuffed with beefy buttery goodness. Yum.
Guinea fowl with peas, roast onions, mash and a cep sauce wasn’t mine, which made me very jealous. It looked and tasted beautiful, the couple of mouthfuls I ate bringing crisp skin, moist flesh, sweet, soft onions and an intensely savoury, earthy sauce. That all sounds a little wintry but the peas brightened the whole thing and the overall impression was of a perfect summer roast. In the interests of balance, what with me being in raptures over something I hardly ate any of, AS who actually ate it thought the meat was a little dry in parts but that it was otherwise lovely.
We shared a dessert, a plate of tropical fruits with weird stuff done to them. Mango, coconut and passion fruit rendered in rectangles of marshmallow, parfait and jelly. I’m usually unsure about this sort of thing, a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to pudding, but I liked this. It was soft, cooling and fragrant, reminding me a little of the salmon starter in these respects, not in the taste but in texture and experience. Both were summer dishes through and through, showing the thought that’s gone into the menu.
Service was excellent throughout the meal, friendly and with none of that second class customer effect you sometimes get when you’re on a deal. A la carte prices are a lot more than we paid but about what you’d expect for food of this standard, starters around £7 and mains in the teens. I’ll definitely return, deal or no deal.
44 Campo Lane