FOOD REVIEW: A hidden town centre gem
Tucked into aÂ high street of old houses, pubs and eateries sits a real gem. Truffles Restaurant at Fareham looks, from the outside, like an old-fashioned sweet shop and although you won't find lemon bon bons or liquorice allsorts inside, there are still treats to be had.
On a Saturday lunchtime, my parents and I occupied the table near the window and were welcomed by the husband-and-wife team who have run the establishment for more thanÂ two years.
We were pleasantly surprised by the choice of drinks available for the size of restaurant and were offered the chance to try the wine of the month '“Â a pinot grigio from Romania '“Â which was a nice touch.
Warm home-made sourdough bread was our snack whileÂ perusing the menu which offered a la carte and a set lunch menu (three courses for Â£15.95).
For starters father and I chose confit duck satay, pickled vegetables, peanuts and coriander (Â£6.95) which we both agreed was a fresh take on the classic you usually pick up on a Friday night in aÂ takeaway bag and the whole peanuts added a good crunch to the dish.
Mother opted for the smoked mussel risotto with parsley, dill and creme fraiche (set menu) Â and describedÂ it as perfectly unusual '“Â it seems the world of risotto does indeed stretch past mushroom.
For mains I went for pulled confit lamb milles feuilles with dauphinoise potatoes, spinach, sautÃ©ed lamb bacon and a cauliflower, mint andÂ caper jus (Â£16.95).
It was all types of bliss.
The pulled lamb was soft and matched well with the flaky pastry top and creamy potatoes whileÂ the spinach added an earthy element.
As for the sautÃ©ed lamb bacon, it cut the dish with a salty edge and well anything with bacon '“ swine or sheep '“ gets my vote.
The owners are keen to source local produce and seasonal ingredients and often change the menu to be in keeping with what is on offer down the road.Â
Dad choseÂ cider-braised pork belly, smoked ham hock and lentil casserole, spring greens, smoked potatoes and agro dolce (Â£16.95) and was pleased with the crispiness of the belly '“Â something hard to always get right and no one likes a soggy belly.
Mother's dish was a vision in green '“Â chargrilled marlin loin with roasted new potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and watercress veluote. She thought the marlin was meaty enough to contend with the sea green sauce.
If sticky toffee pudding is on a dessert menu then there is, alas, no hope for other puddings (as yummy as they sounded) as it truly is the best dessert out there.Â As a self-professed sticky toffee critic, I know a good one when I see (and taste) it.
This, ladies and gentlemen, was one of the best on my roadtripÂ of sticky toffee delight '“Â the sauce was smooth and not too sweet, a soft sponge oozing with more sauce and a vanilla ice cream like a cherry on top (Â£6.50).
Mother joined me with the sticky toffee pudding choice while dad opted for chargrilled pineapple, chilli and lime syrup and coconut sorbet (Â£6.50). Like a Caribbean throwback to the '70s, the lime and coconut were sweet but there could have beenÂ more chilli bite.
The restaurant has a cosy feel, one that would suit a Sunday roast with the family or a night with neighbours at one of the restaurant'sÂ monthly events sampling different types of foods and cuisines.
One small note of criticism: the place is perhaps in need of a facelift to match the quality of the food. But this in no way detracts from what was a great meal for a great price.Â This gem tucked into the High Street truly deserves to be found.Â
RATINGS (out of five)
Truffles Restaurant, High Street, Fareham
Tel: 01329 315487