Review: Tapas night from The Rose Inn, Willoughby
February 12, 2021

You’ll have seen me write about The Rose Inn before on this blog. Just 10 minutes outside Rugby in Willoughby, it’s somewhere we’ve discovered as a great place to walk to with the dogs.

It’s a quintessential country pub, complete with toasty fire in the winter, a beer garden and benches outside for the warm days, it’s super dog-friendly, the owners Rudi and Gillian are lovely and most importantly (for me anyway) the food is good.

We’ve had a few meals at The Rose Inn and they’ve always been great. To call it pub grub somehow seems to diminish it, because the dishes go far beyond pie and mash, but it’s simple fare, executed brilliantly. Well seasoned, with a focus on flavour, and always on the mark. We’ve also recommended it to other people and had their confirmation that it’s good, so you’re not just going with me on this one.

Rose Inn, Willoughby

Like lots of other country pubs across the country, the last year has been a disaster for The Rose Inn. Usually packed with a range of clientele from after-work drinkers to families in for a Sunday roast, walkers like us and everyone else in between, their warm, cosy pub has been left empty – as have their tills.

Like everyone else they started offering a takeaway menu but I think it’s fair to say that with so many people offering us meals at home, it’s easy for the little guys to get missed – and for that I’m as guilty as anyone else.

It was only when I saw a plea from them that they really are struggling now that it hit home that things are pretty desperate for some places right now and even if it’s a case of each of us ordering one meal from them, it might just mean that they can survive long enough to still be here when this is all over.

Rose Inn, Willoughby

With that in mind, after I saw their message a few weeks ago I decided to scrap my Friday night food plans and order from their monthly takeaway tapas menu. You choose seven dishes to share from their menu and at £45 it’s pretty good value. Then it’s simply a case of collecting and following the simple instructions to reheat it.

There’s a wide choice of dishes to choose from, ranging from classic tapas to a few choices that aren’t necessarily Spanish in origin but lend themselves well to the small-plate dining that tapas has become synonymous with.

We skipped the antipasti options and opted for the dishes that have been the product of Rudi’s fair hand, starting with aubergine fried and rolled with feta and herbs stuffed inside it. For something so simple, it ended up being one of my favourite dishes.

Cassoulet is technically French, and this was a simpler version without the addition of any meat, but on a cold lockdown Friday night in January it was exactly the kind of comfort food you need and I could happily have eaten a vat full. Patatas bravas were a classic that we had to include and while I could have handled a bit more spice in mine, I get that that wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste.

For me, the winning dish was pork belly in a sticky sauce. The pork was fall-apart tender, the sauce rich, sweet and sticky without being claggy. A rich one and perfect for those of us who love a bit of moist, fatty meat.

For something a bit lighter, the garlic prawns were a simple classic – I may have slightly burnt my garlic butter but it didn’t stop them being delicious and a heady reminder of warm holiday nights full of garlic, seafood and too much wine.

Chicken with chorizo and red wine was another rustic, hearty dish that had had the right amount of time and attention put into it to ensure the chicken fell apart at a light touch and was infused with the flavour of the chorizo and garlic and onions that laced the sauce.

Rose Inn, Willoughby

Our final choice was Braciole – an Italian dish made by rolling thin strips of beef up with garlic and parsley and serving with a tomato sauce. Not my thing if I’m honest, but having done extensive research this is exactly what this dish is meant to be and I can’t see that it was executed anything other than how it should be. So no fault at all to The Rose, it just simply didn’t float my boat.

Overall, it was a lovely evening. This amount of food for £45 is a bargain in my book – and knowing that it’s been homemade by a decent chef and that it means so much to the people selling it, somehow makes it even more enjoyable. It was easy to reheat, with simple instructions, and a nice alternative to some of the offerings out there.

The Rose are doing their tapas nights once a month, with the next one on February 26th. But if tapas isn’t your thing, they also do takeaway Sunday roasts and a takeaway menu on Friday and Saturday nights, offering everything from garlic mushrooms and salt and pepper squid, to fish and chips, burgers, pizzas and pies. Not forgetting their AMAZING tiramisu that I still dream about.

I’m acutely aware that I’m as guilty as the next person of getting carried away with the big names when it comes to ordering food, and going for the sexy, stand-out options whilst neglecting some of the stuff right on my doorstep.

But these guys really do need us right now. It’s all well and good planning to visit ‘when we’re allowed’, but there’s a very good chance some of these places won’t be there whenever that is. It’s worth keeping that in mind. Support them now, and enjoy them in the future.

[Disclosure: We paid in full for our tapas meal for two from The Rose Inn.]