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Checkers Michelin Restaurant, Montgomery Wales, Review

Checkers Restaurant Montgomery

Checkers Restaurant Montgomery

It was heartening to see the inclusion of Checkers in the newest Michelin Guide.
Winning a star is the pinnacle of most chefs’ ambitions and Stephane Borie was justly proud of his achievement. In securing inclusion in the red book, the so called foodie bible, he became only the region’s second chef to be starred – the other being the utterly consistent Chris Bradley, at Mr Underhills, in Ludlow.
Borie’s inclusion was heartening for many reasons. In recent years, food has undergone something of a revolution. Where Michelin once simply featured cooks who served great-tasting food, new additions have seemed to be based on fashion. The kitchens of many newly-starred eateries have featured a smudge of this and a froth of that. Perfectly-good sauces have been turned into foams or other outlandish feats of molecular gastronomy. Good old-fashioned cooking has gone out of the window as chefs have embraced cutting-edge techniques.
Simplicity Borie, however, bucks that trend. His food is all about great flavour, traditional combinations and precision cooking. When my friend and I enjoyed a midweek dinner at his restaurant, we were bowled over by the apparent simplicity of his food. It reminded me of the dishes served by one of Ludlow’s greatest former cooks, Shaun Hill, whose Michelin-starred The Merchant House kick-started Shropshire’s gastronomic revolution.
The comparisons with The Merchant House don’t begin and end there. Hill’s fondly-remembered eaterie managed that rarest of feats: its service, food and ambience were all profoundly good. Walking into Checkers is reminiscent of those halcyon days of the early 2000s. Checkers is a delightful venue, just off Broad Street, in Montgomery, and has the look and feel of a converted home. A welcoming lounge is styled with luxurious sofas and chairs, a warming fire, plenty of oak and stylish furnishings. It is understated and oozes class. On the night of our visit, the service was spot on – with only one fault all evening. We were greeted by an attractive, flame-haired Welsh waitress who took our jackets, provided aperitifs and brought menus for us to consider. We also received an amuse bouche; a tomato and chicken filo pastry parcel and a refreshing cucumber shape topped with a quail’s egg. They were deliciously appetising.
The waitress made me realise what is missing in so many Shropshire restaurants. Service is something of a forgotten art – but she had it off to a tee. She was polite, rather than formal; attentive, but not intrusive. During the course of our evening, she showed herself to be knowledgeable about both the wine and food. She engaged in conversation, had great humour and was deferential when required. So many Shropshire restaurants fail to invest in service, assuming that paying the minimum wage to staff aged 25 and under is all that customers deserve. It’s a fatal flaw – and one that Checkers hadn’t made. It’s difficult to speak too highly of our waitress’s efforts. She stood out like the Christmas star. She made us feel welcome throughout the evening. Others could learn much from her. The service was not the only facet to impress.

The dining room was a real treat. It had undergone a stylish makeover, with delightful cutlery, crockery, tables and chairs, swish wallpaper and a wonderfully neutral colour scheme. Real thought and skill had gone into the surrounds. It was a pleasure to eat in the room. The third stand-out component was the food.It was exceptional. Borie combines classic French and British dishes, changing his menu on a monthly basis and using local suppliers wherever possible. I started with a cheese, bacon and potato soufflé that was an absolute treat. The soufflé was impeccably light and fluffy,there was a sweet and salty smokiness from the bacon and a filling, creamy savouriness from the cheese. It was faultless.
My partner began with a crab and scallop cannelloni, which was similarly triumphant. The pasta was decadently thin and perfectly cooked and the crustacea a real treat. The sauce had
great body and depth and when our waitress returned she removed two utterly clean plates.
Christmas was in the air and we both opted for a seasonal dish for our main. It featured wilted greens beneath a silky smooth buttered mash. Slices of medium rare goose breast were
delicately placed on top. Sprouts had been panfried, there were small pieces of delightfully sweet apple, tiny cubes of beetroot and an intensely savoury jus. It was heavenly, the best
Christmas dinner imaginable.
We hesitated for a nanosecond when the waitress returned to offer desserts; we weren’t sure we could manage much more, so generous were the portions. However, I was determined
not to miss Borie’s signature praline creme brulee with vanilla ice cream – and I’m glad I did not. It was heaven on a stick. My friend enjoyed a pear dish in the thinnest, crispiest, sweetest biscuits that either of us had tasted for some time. Both were exemplary.
Our waitress showed us through to the  lounge where my friend enjoyed petits fours – including an amazing crystallised grapefruit – with tea. We’d had a thoroughly enjoyable
evening. Checkers deserves its place in the Michelin Guide. Unlike a number of other restaurants, it’s not a follower of fashion.


You can expect its star to stick for many years,
it’s a class act and has been built on sturdy foundations. Our waitress accidently overcharged me by £6 – an oversight that I decided not to correct. She, Stephane and the venue itself were all utterly delightful.Food: Classic French and seasonal British.
You really must try: One of Stephane’s soufflés. Three were on our menu – with sweet and savoury available.

Service: A masterclass. The standard against which others will now be compared.
Atmosphere: Informal, relaxed and in sophisticated surrounds.
Local/seasonal: The best produce from Shropshire and the Marches was on offer.
Lasting impressions: A seriously classy operation. Service, food and atmosphere were all exceptional.
Checkers: Broad Street, Montgomery, Powys, SY15 6PN
Telephone: 01686 669822 Rating: 10/10

Checkers Montgomery Website

Reviewed by Gourmet Diner for ETM 2011 (c)

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