Steven and Ami Ellis are applying high-end cooking techniques to classic pub-style dishes, with a focus on local flavours and game. Ben McCormack pays a visit
You might not expect a chef who worked under Clare Smyth at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay to ask to postpone an interview because his pork pies need putting in the oven. But that is life for Steven Ellis and his pastry-chef wife Ami, who relocated to the Surrey stockbroker belt, swapping haute gastronomy for gastropubs at their new venture the Bailiwick.
The couple met in the kitchens at the Star Inn at Harome when Steven was on a 12-month sabbatical from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, at the end of which Ami joined him at Royal Hospital Road. They left London to open their first solo project, the Oxford Blue in Old Windsor in 2016. Pork pies were on the menu there too, but presented with an open top filled with pea shoots and served on pea purée.
"We were our own worst enemy at the Oxford Blue," Steven says. "We made it too much like the high-end restaurants we'd been working in. We want to keep the heart of the Bailiwick as a pub."
The Oxford Blue didn't reopen after the first lockdown of spring 2020. A gamekeeper from the Crown Estate told Steven and Ami that the Bailiwick, on the other side of Windsor Great Park, was coming on the market, and the couple reopened it in May with backing from Brindisa Kitchens co-owner Ratnesh Bagdai.
Steven says there are two types of clientele at the Bailiwick at lunch and dinner, which means two separate menus. At lunchtime walkers and tourists choose from a bar menu of what Steven calls "pub classics", which includes those pork pies (£12). To make them, the chef adds egg yolk to a standard shortcrust pastry to turn the pie golden brown in the oven and fills the case with pork shoulder, belly, smoked bacon and salt, which he says gives a good meat-to-fat ratio and prevents it becoming too dry. Each pie is served warm with a cream-based pea and mint sauce poured through a hole in the lid.
Dinner is aimed more at destination diners in search of a two- or three-course à la carte (£35/£45). Pig trotter terrine with apple, black pudding and sauce gribiche might be followed by sea bass with capers, lemon, prawns, mussels and caviar butter sauce, with Ami's bestselling chocolate delice with vanilla salted caramel and malt ice-cream to finish.
On The Caterer's visit, however, the lemon parfait stole the show. Ami puts each parfait into a lemon-shaped mould before blast-chilling them to -50ºC and glazing them with a vivid yellow jelly made from lemon skins and juice. The parfait is presented on a base of burnt Italian meringue and Swiss meringue cooked with lemon verbena and decorated with fresh verbena, picked from behind the pub.
However, Steven's real ambition for the Bailiwick is to make it one of the country's great year-round champions of game. For the bestselling main course of red deer, Steven gets a whole deer from Windsor Great Park, where the saddle is wrapped in smoked streaky bacon, poached and pan-fried to order. The bones are cooked down with red wine, port and brandy to make a venison jus, while the ribs are braised and turned into a breadcrumbed croquette, served with celeriac fondant and purée.
The shoulders and neck are used in the venison bonbons (£5), which are served as a bar snack, while the haunch and back legs are minced for the Scotch egg (£10) and the royal stag burger (£12) on the bar menu. Steven is proud that the Bailiwick is one of the few places in the country to sell Windsor Great Park sparkling wine, made from the classic Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, grown on a three-hectare vineyard planted by Tony Laithwaite.
Currently there is only the couple and sous chef Arran Jones in the kitchen; a brigade of eight is the ideal, not least so that Steven can introduce a four-day week for the team. The 60-capacity dining room averages 40 to 50 covers for each lunch and dinner service, with 90 to 100 customers for the all-day Sunday lunch.
The ultimate seal of approval came when Clare Smyth brought the Core team for lunch. "We were quite nervous, as it's the first time Ami and I Steven cooked for Clare since working with her," Steven says. "But she loved it. It's good for them to have people look after them for a change." Smyth, like everyone who leaves the Bailiwick, knew she was in a safe pair of hands.
From the menu
- Buttermilk-fried chicken burger with Asian-style slaw, sriracha and mayonnaise £10
- Salmon, lobster and prawn cocktail, Marie Rose sauce, avocado, Gem lettuce £12
- Mussels marinière with white wine cream sauce and crusty cider bread £16
À la carte
- Corned beef of cured aged beef cap with pickled vegetables and English mustard
- Isle of Gigha halibut with charred potatoes, mussels, Champagne velouté and Avruga caviar
- Aubergine ‘steak' with mushroom duxelles and vegetable demi-glace
- Cinnamon-spiced apple doughnuts with toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream
- Bavarois of bramble and vanilla mousse with blackberries, apple and sorrel sorbet
Two courses, £35. Three courses, £45
Wick Road, Englefield Green, Egham, Surrey TW20 0HNwww.thebailiwick.co.uk
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