“ Address: Ludford Bridge / Ludlow / Shropshire / England / SY8 1PJ „
When it comes to finding nice places to eat whilst on holiday, Mrs. SWSt and I have something of a knack of sniffing out nice places (pun definitely intended!). That run of luck continued when we visited Ludlow and found The Charlton Arms.
The Charlton Arms has to have the best location in the whole town. Situated on the edge of one of the main roads through Ludlow, it can be found at the end of a long stone bridge. Whilst the pub itself is an attractive-enough stone building, it's the formal restaurant that really takes the biscuit. That is in an extension at the back of the pub which runs parallel to the river. One side of the extension is made almost entirely of glass, which means diners have a wonderful view of both the bridge and the river as they dine, as well as some pretty views over Ludlow itself. It feels special even before you've tried a mouthful.
The evening menu at the Charlton Arms is not particularly extensive (around10 dishes to choose from on the main course and around half a dozen starters). Style-wise it sits somewhere between fine dining and standard pub food - I guess what some people might snobbishly and dismissively refer to as a "gastro pub". Some dishes are exactly would expect to find (soup, for example); others are sight twists on dishes you might find elsewhere (such as the chicken supreme - chicken stuffed with cheese); a few are things that you do not normally see (such as guinea fowl).
With one exception (more on this in a moment), staff were efficient and friendly. They were smiley and enthusiastic without being over the top or forced. They were chatty if you wanted to chat, but left you alone if you preferred to talk amongst yourselves. They were also extremely patient. We witnessed them dealing with one party who were a bit of a nuisance. They were indecisive, kept changing their orders, shouted out "hilarious" comments whilst the waitress was trying to take orders, requested changes to dishes and even demanded that the food and drink be charged to 9 separate bills so that each couple only paid for what they had. Personally, I'd have been reaching for the carving knife; the staff at The Charlton Arms met each request as though it was the best idea ever.
Kitchen staff appeared very accommodating too. We heard several other people requesting changes to the advertised dishes (garden peas instead of mushy; this vegetable instead of that) and all were treated politely and accepted. A particularly nice feature which they actively encourage is that if you only want a main course, but fancy something off the starters menu, you can request it as a main course and they will serve a double portion (the price is also doubled, of course, but that's perfectly reasonable).
Even allowing for the fact that we arrived relatively early in the evening, service was extremely efficient. Barely five minutes after our orders had been placed, the starters arrived. There was a similar sort of time lapse between finishing our starters and the main courses arriving. And this wasn't because the food had been pre-prepared and reheated - everything had clearly been cooked from fresh.
The one complaint we had was that staff were not so efficient when it came to the drinks side of things. When we first went into the restaurant, we were not given the opportunity to order drinks until our waitress came to take the food order. Similarly throughout the meal, no-one came to ask whether we would like more drinks and we had great difficulty trying to attract their attention to order some. The same was true when we wanted the bill and a couple of the waitresses seemed more interested in talking to each other than watching to see if there were any customers needing anything.
The food throughout the entire meal was absolutely delicious. Where possible, The Charlton Arms uses locally sourced produce, and it shows. We sampled the cauliflower soup and goat's cheese and red onion tart for starters and both of us had the guinea fowl for main course. Everything was fantastic, cooked to perfection with perfectly sized portions. This is not one of those fancy places where the amount of food received is inversely proportionate to the price paid; nor is it one that just piles your plate high with stodge. Everything was clearly calculated to complement everything else. Main courses were served with a selection of seasonal vegetables, and there was, again, a reasonable portion of theses.
Normally, neither Mrs. SWSt nor I are that bothered about desserts when we go out, but such was the standard of food at The Charlton Arms that we weren't disappointed. The homemade crumble was particularly nice and a perfect way to end an excellent meal.
Price-wise, The Charlton Arms is not as expensive as you might expect. Starters were in the £5-8 bracket with main courses in the £10-15 range. This was pretty much comparable with many other places serving food in Ludlow. Moreover, if there was any extra cost, it was obvious in the quality of the food, and that's always worth paying a little extra for.
Slightly slow drinks service aside, it's hard to fault The Charlton Arms. It serves excellent food in beautiful surroundings and is surprisingly reasonably priced. What more can you ask for than that?
The Charlton Arms
(c) copyright SWSt 2012