I do like a good revisit – especially to a place that we enjoyed as much as we did when we visited last year. At the time Mike Welsh was heading up the food, but after moving on to pastures new, this left a space to be filled. Enter stage left, Charles Dingley and his partner Carlie who have taken the reigns.
Every chef, like any creative, has an individual voice and Charlie has brought an individuality to the menu that makes this quite different from our previous visit; but the essence of the experience is as positive as we left it, a fantastic community pub serving food beyond it’s borders in quality and voice.
Charlie fell in love with nose-to-tail eating early in his career becoming influenced by the potential of butchery, fishmongery and game. With experience cooking for guests at Ski Chalets in the French Alps, he has had a varied career ending up as Head Chef for the rosette winning ‘The Inn at West End’ and becoming runner-up in the Game Chef of the Year Awards in 2014.
Over the last year they have been cooking at one of the Port du Soleil’s busiest restaurants, returning to the UK earlier this year.
Carlie qualified as a Chef De Partie at The Inn at West End too and continues to work alongside Charlie as Sous Chef as they take the helm at The Seven Stars. Charlie’s love for game comes across with a menu with emphasis on seasonality and flavour. This sits next to classic pub favourites and bar snacks, with special themed nights throughout the year.
We visited The Seven Stars on the Friday of a busy period for the team. After a week filled with Christmas parties, we visited when Christmas celebrations were in full swing.
The pub was buzzing with locals; a full-house makes me internally happy given the demise of the community pub in recent years, and this was a highlight from our last visit too. A strong community spirit like this shows a pub with local support and love for an establishment.
The menu is a well balanced strong offering with a good focus on game meats and seasonality. The pricing is reasonable too given a meat-heavy menu.
Our menu tonight:
Duck Carpaccio £6.50
Grilled Mackerel Fillet £6.50
Pan-fried Gurnard Fillet £15.50
Local Pheasant Breast £14.50
Double Chocolate Cheesecake £6.50
The Duck Carpaccio with pickled fennel, orange and pomegranate was, for Tori, a well rounded dish with the flavour of the duck contrasting nicely the pomegranate seeds and the orange with succulent meat.
My Grilled Mackerel with caramelised baby shallots and piccalilli was a combination that worked together as well as Peas & Carrots, Saatchi & Saatchi, Morecombe & Wise – you get the drift… and whether Charlie was going for it intentionally, it felt like a very Parisian dish that could have been served in a traditional French bistro.
It was at this point that my DSLR decided it had enough to drink and went to sleep, right at the point when I really really needed it. After casually trying to persuade it, jabbing it and swearing quietly, I had to accept defeat.
I don’t take a DSLR to every review meal (I can’t always borrow one for each) but this was one occasion that I did. So apologies to everyone for my rubbish photo. It did come back to life strangely, but by that point we were on to our dessert!
My main was Pan Friend Gurnard Fillets, curried aioli, sticky rice, coriander, sauteed red chard, bok choi and toasted peanuts.
The aioli was strong in flavour, but with the curried overtone, it wasn’t overwhelming which it could have well been. The Gurnard was cooked skillfully and had a mild fish curry vibe to the dish. It was a new experience for me given this was the first time I’d tasted Gurnard and as the gurnard is a bit of an ugly thing as it swims around the bottom of the Atlantic, it tastes much better than it looks. If you’ve never had Gurnard before, then give it a go – it isn’t factory farmed and it isn’t too expensive either.
Tori went for Local Pheasant Breast, artichoke puree, sprouts and bacon, artichoke crisp with a red wine jus which made agreeable noises from that side of the table. The use of pheasant and artichoke was a winner and the splash of sprouts and bacon brought the whole thing together.
I said to Tori ‘you can choose the dessert’ so predictably we ended up with a dessert with ‘chocolate’ in the title. Not that I’m complaining as she chose a Double Chocolate Cheesecake with espresso syrup and granola crumb and boy was it good. In food writing, one must avoid stating things like ‘it was delicious’ or the word ‘yum’. But with this dessert, it was all of those words.
The Seven Stars leaves a big impression on me each time I visit. Kennford is in perfect prime location to be a place that passing motorists remember fondly as they pass on the M5, and I like to think that The Seven Stars is not just popular with those who live in the area but those who pass it on-route to other parts of the world. And, why shouldn’t it be?
Charlie’s food is speaks for itself, a celebration of game and seasonality that places it firmly in my line of sight as a local foodie. In an economic climate where restaurants and pubs not only have to give good value, but also have to tempt diners out of their houses in the first place with a strong culinary offering, The Seven Stars is definitely succeeds.
SERVICE TIMES: (Closed Monday)
Tuesday – Sunday: 12noon – 2:30pm
Tuesday – Saturday: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Sunday: 6:00pm – 8:30pm
This meal was paid for by The Seven Stars. This does not influence the article in anyway and has not been viewed beforehand.