After several months of standing empty, looking sorry and forlorn, the Reks has been transformed into Hadley House restaurant and bar.
It’s quite a contrast for this huge site at the top of the High Street. As a bar, the Reks only seemed to pick up late in the evening, whereas Hadley House is open for lunch as well as dinner and the garden has been kitted out with a children’s play area. So it’s decisively more family-friendly.
The restaurant is still dominated by the bar with the kitchen tucked upstairs at the back. However, the new décor looks sleek and contemporary. The room is divided up into different dining areas and I really like the wine theme – decorative bottles on the shelves and the wooden case ends on the walls. The staff are welcoming, the atmosphere is relaxed and there’s an upbeat mixed music playlist.
Coming to the food, on a couple of visits I’ve tasted several dishes from the broad menu and, so far, things are a bit patchy. It’s early days though. My first visit was with my family on a warm evening. I ordered a couple of starters – calamari with wild garlic mayonnaise (£6.75) and the Hadley salad with grilled halloumi, avocado and grilled peppers (£6.95). Our daughter had the mini burgers (£3) on the children’s menu and my husband went for the caesar salad (£5.10) and Hadley burger (£12.50). They suggested a small appetizer, parmesan chunks served with aged balsamic vinegar (£4.85). This was served first, but there was some confusion about the vinegar as it was more Sarson’s than aged balsamic. They quickly replaced it and, although it was better, it still wasn’t syrupy aged balsamic and the huge chunks of cheese were too much for us to finish.
After this initial glitch things got much better. The burgers were all good with proper brioche buns and the other dishes were fine. The calamari could have been a bit more crisp, but it was nicely paired with the garlic mayonnaise and my husband’s caesar salad came unexpectedly with chicken, all tasty though.
We had a couple of desserts – the cheesecake (£5.50) and chocolate brownie with ‘artisan’ ice cream (£5.50). We had moved outside by this point and our daughter enjoyed the play area. There were a couple of drinks dispensers which was a thoughtful touch, especially if you’re with children, so we helped ourselves.
As the wine list featured several by the glass we tried crisp whites Picpoul de Pinet (£5.50) and Albariño (£6.50) and a richer, more oaky Californian Chardonnay (£6.00) with our starters, and my husband sipped a glass of Rioja (£6.75) with his burger. The mark ups are quite high with bottles priced from £20 (eg at Savoro they start at £17), but the list is comprehensive and includes dessert wines by the glass. Some Chilean late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc was a nice match for the cheesecake. And if you like Prosecco, there are four to choose from, all available by the glass, but unusually no Champagne by the glass.
When I returned for lunch earlier this week it was still a bit mixed. The £6.50 set menu includes olives, bread (very decent sourdough), main course and a soft or hot drink. My toasted cheese and tomato sourdough sandwich was lightly griddled and had such thick slices of bread with a tiny amount of cheese that was never going to create the unctuous melting centre I was looking forward to. There was way too much bread on the table at that point! I was offered an alternative and a small bowl of fresh pea and shallot ravioli turned out to be a much better choice. I also got to try the vegetarian burger – deep-fried avocado, grilled halloumi and red pepper – which was delicious. However the small burgers at lunch didn’t have the brioche buns. I finished lunch with a generous pot of fresh mint tea.
There’s a quite a lot to like about Hadley House, particularly once they get into their stride and there’s certainly something on the menu for everyone. Some of the wording on the menu is a bit inconsistent as ‘home made’ and ‘artisan’ keep popping up and there are a number of typos (but that’s the editor in me talking). The prices are reasonable, especially the bargain children’s menu and set lunch so I hope they’re able to pull in the punters – it’s a huge place and a big improvement on the Reks.
Open midday to 11pm Monday to Sunday for coffee, lunch, dinner and drinks.