The last time I was invited to the Fuzzy Duck in Nuneaton, I ended up writing you a bit of a comedy post on what it’s like when a bunch of food bloggers go out together. That was partly because it was back in the early days of going to blogger events, but also because we didn’t actually get to try much of what the menu was going to be like, instead trying out some canapes that were intended to give us a taste of what the menu would be like.
Clearly that didn’t do the trick and convince me it was fabulous, because I hadn’t made the journey back to Nuneaton since then.Until recently, when I was invited to what I guess was a kind of relaunch of the Fuzzy Duck.
I’m fairly sceptical about big events at restaurants these days. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE canapes, but they don’t actually give you the idea of what the restaurant would be like for normal punters. However, I was assured that the launch of the revamped Fuzzy Duck would be a chance to experience it in all its newfound glory, complete with promises that it would finally live up to the dining experience it had promised since it opened.
The event had been organised by new general manager Ian, who previously worked at Rugby’s own Cafe Vin Cinq and started promisingly with a friendly welcome and some cocktails from the Fuzzy Duck’s rather impressive drinks menu.
So far, so good, but I was eager to see what the food would be like. In what could have been seen as a slightly risky move, the plan for the evening was to showcase the new menu by serving up a selection to us – without letting us choose.
A brave plan, I thought, but a great way of injecting a bit of fun and mystery into the evening – as well as showing off each and every item on the menu. As dish after dish came out of the kitchen, you could see people peering at each them wondering what they would get.
So imagine Mr M’s joy when he was presented with the exact starter he would have chosen – chilli salted squid with lime mayo. Something you see quite often on a menu, but not necessarily done well. I’m happy to say this was – tender squid without any rubberiness coated in a well-seasoned crispy batter that had a lovely warm kick to it thanks to some heat. Simple and nicely balanced by the lime mayo, it made for a promising starter.
I was served one of the more delicate starters from the menu – roasted beetroot and goats cheese tart. The tiny square tarts were a welcome change from the normal puff pastry creations you often get, with a buttery, crumbly pastry box filled with rich goats cheese. The different types of beetroot – including pickled as well as a kind of beetroot gel – were different textures and sweetness but lent an element of sophistication to the plate – reminding me of some of the more fine dining starters we’ve tried elsewhere.
Buoyed by our starters, we excitedly looked forward to the mains. By this point it had become a bit of a game trying to work out what we’d end up with. I was thinking one of their burgers might be nice – possibly the ‘Hipster’, a lamb and mint burger with a raita – and Mr M was clearly yearning for a steak.
Of course, this isn’t what we got. Instead, I was presented with grilled sea bass with ginger and lime dressing, wok fried greens and noodles. A pretty, pretty plate of food, I have to say, and it tasted just as good.
The sea bass was exactly as it should have been – crispy skin and tender, flaky flesh. And it was served on far more than a bed of noodles, instead perched on top of a pile of well-seasoned noodles and crispy veg that played with textures and tastes in the same way my beetroot and goats cheese starter had. Plenty of crunch, as you should get in an Asian dish, and a nice generous helping of chillis too. A welcome change from the afterthought that noodles can sometimes be.
Mr M was given one of the Fuzzy Duck’s stone-baked pizza breads – the Somerset apple cider and pork version. Light stone-baked bread, topped with pulled pork in cider sauce, fresh apple pieces and smoked Applewood cheddar sprinkled with sage.
The bread was light and crispy, the copious amounts of pork had a lovely rich sweetness that was reminiscent of barbecue sauce but more complex, and the apple pieces added a nice fresh crunch to counterbalance the rich cheese.
And here we had the moment where Ian’s bold move paid off. The pizza bread was a triumph – in fact Jamie declared it delicious and far more than just a pizza. And his enjoyment was made even sweeter by the fact that he would never in a million years have ordered that dish if it hadn’t been picked for him, which I assume was one of the big aims of running the evening in the way they did.
I have no doubt there were probably some people in the Fuzzy Duck that night who wished they’d been served up something else, but I guarantee there were plenty who found themselves in our shoes, eating dishes they would never usually have ordered and enjoying every single mouthful.
Perhaps they’d decided that three courses of food roulette was just too much to put people through, or maybe they decided to stick to the classics, but for dessert we were all given a try of the chocolate fondant and a passionfruit and white chocolate tart.
Again, both were presented nicely, well-cooked, and it was nice to see somewhere comfortable with going back to basics when it comes to tried and tested flavours that are guaranteed to please.
We left the Fuzzy Duck rather impressed by their adventurous attitude and confidence in their menu, such that they are happy to show all of it off to a bunch of strangers and even take a risk on serving them dishes that might not be the top of the list.
The gamble paid off, as far as I could see on that night. The drinks were flowing, as was the conversation, and there was an air of excitement in the restaurant that came partly from the fun of the evening, partly from the buzz of being brought dishes you weren’t quite sure you wanted, and possibly from the idea that the Fuzzy Duck finally has landed and shown what it can do.
Okay, so it may be the case that it takes me another 18 months to get back to the Fuzzy Duck but that will be to do with convenience rather than anything else. I admire a place that has the honesty to say it hasn’t been achieving what it wanted to achieve whilst making the changes it needs to to push forward with those ambitions. And this is what they’re trying to do. So when I’m next nearby, I know I’ll be popping in, and I suggest you do too.
I was invited to the relaunch of the Fuzzy Duck and our dinner was complimentary. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review, just to share my opinions on the night.
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