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The others seated nearby looked over; they could hear the peculiar sound coming from our table. Even our dog, who had been snoozing peacefully on the floor, took notice, arising on his hind legs, curious and alert. My cheeks started to blush.
“The meatball is sooo good,” groaned my partner, the person responsible, mouth full while cutting into a round of venison offcuts that other establishments might have destined for the bin. Here, they were transformed into an orb of palate-punching bliss, a notch on a belt of highlights during a stay at The Loch & The Tyne, a restaurant, pub and rooms in the countryside of Old Windsor.
The venue is the latest venture and first outside of London from chef Adam Handling, a longtime advocate for sustainable practices in the culinary world. Each of his restaurants is underpinned by a commitment to minimising food waste and promoting cooking and eating sustainably — without sacrificing flavour, refinement and enjoyment.
Beyond the M25 his ambitions are greater. Handling’s desire for The Loch & The Tyne is for it to be the most sustainable pub in the UK (with zero compromises on luxury) — a goal ingrained in the whole offering, from the food at the table to where guests lay their heads at night. And if you didn’t know before arriving, the proposition is bolted above the door: “Sustainable British Luxury” is what you’re here for.
Handling’s characterful country inn is located on a quiet road in Old Windsor, around three miles south of the hubbub surrounding Windsor Castle. Originally two gamekeepers’ cottages, its wooden interior and upcycled furniture are juxtaposed with some of the chef’s chosen modern art pieces.
Following a dismal year for the hospitality industry, which included the closure of two of Handling’s restaurants, The Loch & the Tyne opened last May, helmed by chefs Jonathan McNeil and Steven Kerr, who have both worked alongside the Scottish chef for more than a decade. The former first met Handling in St Andrews (hence “the Loch”), the latter in Newcastle (“the Tyne”). Both regions are well represented in Berkshire: Scottish potato scones covered in a mild blue cheese, delectable haggis scotch eggs and Newcastle Brown Ale sourdough, the base for a host of different house-made butters, are menu staples.
The chefs have also peppered their offering with a few signature dishes from the rest of Handling’s repertoire, which sit alongside their own creations that celebrate local ingredients. Most produce is sourced nearby or grown in the pub’s gardens and orchard, which are partially fuelled by composted waste from the kitchen — all efforts to minimise carbon footprints to tiptoes. The venison comes from Great Windsor Park, just a few miles from where it is eventually pan-roasted, slathered with butter and served in the company of cauliflower and leek. A fillet of British cod swims with mussels in caviar sauce, punctuated by crunchy Old Windsor kohlrabi.
Prior to the embarrassing moment at our dinner, restaurant manager (and visionary) Freddie Scholtes suggested that we accompany our mains with one more to share: mac and cheese, a dish that originated at Handling’s one-Michelin-star outpost, Frog. This was not a matter of offsetting diminutive portion sizes — no serving here will leave you hungry — but one of greed, and Scholtes had a receptive audience.
The mac is an architectural masterpiece, built with pasta that is stacked uniformly, filled and smothered with a Parmesan/Gruyère sauce that has been lightly aerated, and topped with a truly generous amount of Parmesan (with shavings of black truffle if you fancy it). When I couldn’t face another bite, I deeply regretted wearing ultra high-waisted trousers, though the gastro-sartorial discomfort was quieted by delight. This dish encapsulates Handling’s culinary style: upscale and refined yet playful — and utterly delicious. Calorie counting, heart conditions and tight trews be damned.
Following scenes of biblical gluttony, visitors staying the night will be glad for the short stumble upstairs to one of just two rooms, both smart yet cosy and sprinkled with personal touches: a bottle of raspberry Negroni (made in house), a jar of freshly baked shortbread (the best I’ve ever eaten) and hot-water bottles with covers knitted by Handling’s mum. Our room looked over a field of sheep and, in the distance, Elton John’s house, allegedly.
We had checked in well before supper (a pre-prandial ramble in nearby Windsor Great Park was spoiled by an intense spring shower) and so I made the most of the room’s deep, freestanding bathtub — and the restaurant’s excellent wine list, which is English-heavy with fine wine offered at lower margins. Sipping a glass of cool Meursault in a hot bath sprinkled with pretty homemade lavender bath salts was a very welcome alternative indeed.
Come morning, the loch sparkles in Old Windsor: the cooked breakfast is decidedly and deliciously Scottish with tattie scones and haggis (made in house in an effort to use whole lambs). After such an indulgent 12 hours, we also ordered a fruit salad as a small form of atonement, which still, somehow, managed to feel quite luxurious.
As for Handling’s grander goals, The Loch & the Tyne is a successful implementation of his commitment to sustainability on a larger and broader scale. Upcycled furniture has been used throughout the building; newer furniture was made with environmentally friendly materials such as mango wood or bamboo (as are the cotton buds and toothbrushes). Toiletries come in reusable containers and are filled with products from Haeckels, a luxury sustainable skincare brand from Margate.
Water from the sinks is recycled as toilet water to minimise waste. Solar panels were installed to reduce electricity consumption, and the beer garden offers solar-powered charging points and blankets made from recycled materials (and come summer, some cheffy magic conjured on a giant egg-shaped kamado grill).
But what’s also laudable is how easy it feels. There is no eco posturing or pontification. The philosophy of sustainable British luxury flows so seamlessly and subtly that I suspect some guests might not even notice the majority of the efforts made, even though the concept is signposted above the entrance. Until meal time, of course, when the meatballs come out and the dining room fills with bemused faces, red cheeks and the sounds of satisfied guests.
How to get there
The Loch & The Tyne is about an 80-minute journey by public transport from Paddington or Waterloo, or less than an hour by car from central London.
What to do in and around Old Windsor
Eat: Some of the country’s most lauded dining establishments are nearby (The Fat Duck, The Hand & Flowers, The Waterside Inn, to name a few), so visitors could make serious progress on a foodie bucket list, if time, money and stomach capacity allow. (Excellent and less expensive recommendations include The White Oak, The Crown at Bray and The Greene Oak.)
Boat: This part of the Thames is lovely to canoe: you can rent a boat in Windsor in the morning and make it up to Marlow for lunch. Those looking for something less strenuous can take to the water on a riverboat tour
Walk: A stroll through the countryside or along the Thames starting from near The Loch & The Tyne will have you admiring the Round Tower of Windsor Castle in about an hour. Travellers with dogs or children to tire out should head to the sprawling Windsor Great Park
Cycle: The Loch & the Tyne offers guests the use of Vélosophy bikes (made using recycled coffee capsules) for a spin round the local area
Drink: Siren, a craft brewery in Berkshire, does tours and tastings of its flavour-forward offerings, such as the bestselling White Tips session IPA
Niki Blasina was a guest of The Loch & The Tyne, 10 Crimp Hill, Old Windsor, Berkshire SL4 2QY. Starters, from £15; mains, from £20; tasting menus, from £70. Rooms, from £147 a night
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