FOOD critic Jay Rayner gave a positive review to a new Oxfordshire restaurant, saying it “fully deserves to be very busy”.
Five Little Pigs on St Mary’s Street in Wallingford first opened in May 2021 by Sam Smith and Robert McGregor, co-owners of The Keep on Castle Street, and chef Aimee Hunt.
Rayner, a journalist and food critic for The guardbooked under an assumed name at the restaurant named after the nursery rhyme and novel by Wallingford’s Agatha Christie about two weeks ago.
Staff at the restaurant, which opened after a successful £30,000 fundraiser, joked that Rayner might show up one day, but had no idea how he discovered the establishment.
Mr McGregor said the team were “blown away” by the review, which described it as a “well dressed, smart little bistro” with an “interesting menu”.
“The first time we knew he was going to check us out was when he walked through the door,” Mr McGregor said.
“He was the first customer and all the focus and attention was on him. It was huge for all of us but especially for Aimee as she is an incredibly talented cook and it was so nice to have one of her heroes come in and taste her food.
“I was serving him and Aimee was cooking but he was holding his cards close to his chest and we really didn’t know how it was going – two weeks later it was nerve wracking, it was like waiting for exam results.”
Rayner tried bone marrow aioli, Scotch egg and fried olives stuffed with capers and marjoram for starters, a cheese toastie, seared mackerel and caramelized venison stew for mains, and rice pudding with ginger pie and a rhubarb and cardamom custard donut for dessert.
Mr McGregor said: “Aimee is holidaying in Costa Rica and joked that if the review was bad she would stay there, so it was just a relief when she came out.
“We’re a small restaurant and we’ve only been there 10 months and we’re trying to do something different and showcase the best local produce, so it’s great to have someone like Jay Rayner here.
“I believe in what we do and we started the company because we believe in Aimee’s food and the local sustainable message, but we didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Rayner’s only criticism was the speed of the kitchen, which he attributed to the restaurant being empty.
Mc McGregor said: “He’s a critic and it’s his job to pick up on anything and if he’s chosen to do that then I’m happy.”
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