Just south of Burton-upon-Trent, sandwiched between the canal, the railway, the A38 and the River Trent, sits Branston. The village, with its origins in medieval times, is home to Pascal at the Old Vicarage.
The Old Vicarage has been on the Staffordshire dining scene since Karen and Pascal Arnoux took ownership in 1999, so we thought it only fitting that we pay a visit. Over the last two decades the restaurant has established a reputation for excellent food and built up a loyal following, so it’s definitely advisable to book your table. To illustrate this point, we decided to pay a visit on a Sunday and the only time available was 3pm.
As we walked into the entrance we were greeted by Pascal himself. He is no stranger to the international restaurant trade, having trained in Dijon and worked both in Paris and Amsterdam. He welcomed us and showed us through to a comfortable seating area, where we could enjoy a drink while perusing the menu.
Having looked through the drinks menu, which has a wide selection including Champagne cocktails and impressive Old and New World wine lists, Karen proceeded to take our refreshment order. The room was full of guests waiting to go through to the dining room or enjoying coffee and petits fours. Our drinks arrived quickly and were accompanied by salmon, dill and mayonnaise canapés and chilli flavoured olives; if these were anything to go by then we thought we must be in for a treat.
Pascal himself attended to us and explained the specials on offer. À la carte is available, but we plumped for the table d’hôte menu which comprises a three course meal for £25.95 per person. On the day we were there the menu choices were excellent, with six starters and seven mains to agonise over. The table d’hôte menu is revised on a monthly basis to keep the food seasonal and interesting for both customers and staff.
Having made our selections, we finished the canapés and Pascal saw us through to our table, which offered lovely views of the beautifully tended garden. Leigh the restaurant manager introduced himself with the wine list and presented us with a good selection of fresh breads.
We didn’t have long to wait for the starters to arrive. I had chosen the confit of duck terrine which came on a bed of oriental vegetables including pak choi and daikon radish with a hoisin and plum dressing. I was intrigued by this dish and it didn’t disappoint; it proved a very grown-up version of duck pancakes. The generous portion of flavourful duck terrine paired beautifully with the vegetables, particularly the daikon radish, which provided a mild, sweet taste. Meanwhile the hoisin held all of these wonderful tastes and textures together.
Our plates were removed by the attentive but unobtrusive staff, a credit to Leigh who, as the Old Vicarage’s website mentions, prides himself on his levels of customer service.
For the main, although the roast sirloin of English beef looked beautiful (the table next to us had all ordered it), I opted for the roast rump of lamb, served pink, with gratin dauphinois and a red wine reduction. The dish was plated beautifully with great attention to detail from Pascal’s chef Colin Ansell. This is a man who clearly takes great pride in his work. Leigh offered us a choice of condiments, including mint sauce which complemented the perfectly cooked lamb.
The dauphinoise potato stack had a good balance of flavours, with the milk and garlic carefully calculated so as not to overpower the delicate lamb. The lamb itself was a beautiful cut with no fat on it at all. Pascal and the team at the Old Vicarage work closely with local producers and you can taste that this is clearly paying off.
At this point my appetite had been sated, but I vowed to battle on to the end of the three course menu. Leigh delivered the dessert menu to the table and again we found a wide selection of seven different dishes, ranging from bread and butter pudding (far too heavy for me at this point) to apple and blackberry crumble to locally made Needwood Ice Cream. Looking for something that was light on the palate I opted for the iced lemon parfait with meringue, raspberries and biscuit crumb. Yet again this was a beautifully presented dish set off to perfection by the use of a black plate.
I was glad that I had convinced myself to have a dessert as this was a lovely way to finish the meal. From the fresh local raspberries to the meringue presented two ways and, of course, the refreshing iced lemon parfait, this was a charming dessert – and this coming from someone who would never describe themselves as a sweet person!
Overall, what Pascal at the Old Vicarage offers is fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere with friendly service. Great care is taken to present immaculately plated, carefully constructed dishes and the pride that the whole team – from Pascal and Karen to Colin and Leigh – so obviously take in their work translates into a wonderful dining experience. They will undoubtedly be seeing more of us.
Pascal at the Old Vicarage
2 Main Street, Branston, Burton-upon-Trent, DE14 3EX
Tel. 01283 533222