I'm always excited to be given the opportunity to review a restaurant located outside of Cambridge, especially when it turns out to be an unexpected foodie haven like Rodells in Watford, Hertfordshire. Rocking up to an unassuming shop front nestling surreptitiously at the corner of a rather unattractive crossroads close to Watford Junction station and then discovering that a small but perfectly formed bijou wine bar with a fascinating food menu lies within is a food blogger's ideal Friday night....
|The dining room at Rodells, Watford|
We started off the evening with a glass or two of Marigny-Neuf Sauvignon Blanc, an organic white wine from the all-organic wine list featuring an interesting selection of wines produced from grapes without the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers. I was immediately fascinated by Rodells' wine choice so did a little research on the organic ethos behind it. Vintage Roots provides a good summary of how the organic vineyard works. Bizarrely enough, earlier in the day I had been investigating organic food delivery company Riverford Organic Farms who supply the exact organic wine I ended up drinking in the evening.
|Organic wines at Rodells, Watford|
According to Riverford's incredibly user-friendly online shop and grocery delivery service, the Marigny-Neuf Sauvignon is:
...from an unheard of little tributary of the Loire, nowhere near the famous areas of Sancerre and Pouilly, yet it's right up there with the very best on offer. This (wine) is for people who like elegance. It has stunning clarity, a wonderful racy grip and tremendous liveliness.
What I like best about Riverford's website, in particular it's wine shop, is the thorough and eloquent description of each producer. Here's what they had to say about Frédéric Brochet, the individual behind the Marigny-Neuf organic wines:
A highly qualified winemaker and academic, he decided to revamp an old, rather run down winery in a very unlikely part of France near Poitou, establish himself as a benchmark producer of Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and do it organically. In less than 15 years he's succeeded and his wines are a real testament to his diligence. The cellar is built into a cave that is over 1,000 years old. Despite its ancient appearance, everything is spotless, well maintained and very well equipped. The wines are truly impressive, especially when you consider they don't come from a 'classic' area.
Definitely a fan of the typically sharp, gooseberry and full-flavoured Sauvignon wines, in general I found the overall taste and aroma of the Marigny-Neuf pleasing and refreshing. However, the finish, although certainly vibrant, produced an aftertaste reminiscent of earthy, yeasty hops. I couldn't quite decide whether it was pleasant or overwhelming. Nevertheless, the wine certainly packed a punch - both in terms of flavour and alcohol content - and we all agreed that the wine left us with a certain buzz that we couldn't entirely attribute to the lively atmosphere at Rodells!
|Retro cartoon projections|
Ready to sample some of the world foods featured on the tapas-style menu, we moved upstairs to the quirky yet homely setting of the dining room. With the simple pine-stripped tables and chairs and baskets of cushions to cosy up to, we felt like we could easily be in the living room of a contemporary, city centre apartment. Unusual touches, such as the huge retro cartoon projections on one wall and the random painted black squares on the tables, gave the room an artistic and edgy air. The extensive food menu proved to be an equally interesting talking point, featuring a choice of sharing platters and huge list of tapas style "pick n mix" dishes taking inspiration from the cuisines of many different parts of the world.
|Fresh bread and olives|
While we perused the menu and chatted to the friendly waitress about portion sizes, the best dishes to sample together, etc, we enjoyed a board of freshly baked bread to whet our appetites, served with olives and a delicious balsamic and olive oil dip. We learned that the menu changes daily depending on what the Chef fancies cooking up and on the fresh ingredients that he's in the mood for. The menu usually consists of sharing platters for two - on Friday the selection included round the world in a taste and caribbean funky platter - plus an extensive list of "pick n mix" tapas inspired by the tastiest international cuisines.
|Authentic world cooking in bite-sized servings|
Sampling the dishes on the round the world platter gave us the perfect opportunity to get a taste of the fresh ingredients, intelligent cooking, and interesting combinations of flavours which clearly go into all of Rodells' food. The choice was excellent - ranging from rice dishes from the Caribbean to Singapore noodles and peanut chicken and Korean dumplings - and the portions allowed all of us to taste everything without getting too full! Being an absolute sauce fanatic, I was thrilled with the authentic and generous flavours literally dripping off the moist meat dishes and creamy edamame potato salad. The platter featured delicious tempura in a crisp, light batter, and a fantastic Thai dish similar to my favourite Masaman curry.
|Rice, Korean dumplings and tempura|
Thoroughly impressed with the quality of the platter, we couldn't resist ordering a few more dishes from the menu. We tried Cuban Mexican pork (rich and delicious), green Thai curry (creamy and lightly spiced), garbanzos with chorizo and monkfish (hot and wholesome) and a perfect partner, patatas bravas, smothered in a cheesy nacho-style sauce. The dishes were served on a board in cute mini casseroles with lids, which inside held generous portions of well-seasoned, well-put together, inspirational foods. We were very impressed that so many interesting creations were freshly made to order and we especially enjoyed guessing the flavours and techniques woven so expertly into each and every dish.
|Monkfish, chorizo and chickpeas|
Rodells is a fabulous little place to visit if you're looking for a friendly and funky venue for a glass of wine and a leisurely, foodie supper in the evening. If it's a slap up meal you're after or you have a tendency to over-order when hungry, the food bill can quickly become expensive! The quality of the ingredients and the gorgeous flavours created at Rodells, however, make the experience worth every penny. We'll definitely visit again soon!