The Peach Tree, 18-21 Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Can Shrewsbury Abbey's neighbour provide a divine dining experience?

Volkswagening our way down the middle lane of the M40, your correspondent and his accomplices were torn about the restaurant in Shrewsbury that most warranted your – and by extension their – attention. Several candidates presented themselves, but ultimately all roads – Google, expert local opinion, the A458 – led to The Peach Tree, a kind of forbidding elder uncle among the eateries of this not-quite-Welsh dwelling.

The early signs are not promising. A vermillion exterior adjacent to the Abbey of this sleepy country market town gives no indication, it's true, of the experience within; but by the time we are settled at the table, Charlotte notices it looks like the victim of a particularly schizophrenic Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen makeover. Everything is jumbled. I think we are in a Tudor barn with low-hanging roof beams; but then the giant speakers, craning their necks over us and working in satanic tandem with vertical heating coils, convince me that, for all the elderly dears here – is Shropshire the oldest of the shires, people-wise? – we have been teleported to Ayia Napa.

So far, then: a sub-medieval dance festival attended by dystopian technology. No wonder the website boasts: "Some interesting historic features and some cosmopolitan twists."

But wait! What's this? Frances emerges from the loo to be confronted by a mid-forties creature covered in curlers. A cosmopolitan twist too far? This mesmerising Medusa begs the question of whether there is a hair salon upstairs. Above the restaurant. The one with the old people and the Tudor roof beams and the raving equipment.

I must say all of this has rather discombobulated the four of us, and when presented with a menu it is a blessed relief. But the incoherence of the interior is reflected in the food.

The ham hock with mustard and parsley terrine (£4.95) is a false dawn, because it is reasonable. Opinion is split, but I don't at all mind this gentle, pungent chew. What troubles me slightly is the piccalilli with which it is delivered, which tastes like a bland vegetable curry. But even bad curries boast seasoning. Things you might put in piccalilli to make it delicious include cider vinegar, mustard seeds, nutmeg, ginger, cumin and cayenne. Yet this peculiar jar of blameless vegetables is devoid of any flavour at all.

Frances braves another first course: crayfish cocktail with Bloody Mary mayo and confit tomato. Confit bloody tomato! This utterly unrewarding assortment is delivered on a soppy, wet, silly foundation of peeled, boiled, unseasoned tomato – at £6.50. A roasted chicken breast (£13.95) tastes of pallid civility, a bit like John Major before the Currie-added spice. It comes with purée and an excellent crispy gnocchi and chorizo mixture, the chief pleasantry of the meal. The Greek salad comes as a main for £7.95 and is balanced; the side Caesar (£2.50) is fine.

There is a final insult, however, in the crab thermidor, one of the worst plates of food I have ever had in a restaurant. Where to start? With appearances? With the aroma? With what my companions had to say about it, which is unfit to print?

The smell really is overwhelming, and this pitiful, mustard-grey dish is delivered on a bed of rock salt, from which, in my case, it has momentarily taken flight. Yet the fact that different parts of this plate are having a barely disguised domestic is only the start of our troubles. It is cold. I should say: it is £14.95 worth of cold.

Nor does the grimace on Matt's face convince me that heat will be any kind of remedy, but we think it's worth a try. By the time it has returned it is indeed piping hot, albeit so over-salted and deficient in crabness as to be unpalatable.

Of the rest, the crème caramel (£5.50) is an overcooked omelette, the wine list is good, with reasonable bottles under £18, and the service is convivial.

There is a strong chance that this particular Friday afternoon is the worst gastronomic off-day Shropshire, or just The Peach Tree, has ever had. Maybe the chef called in sick. Perhaps there were other mitigating circumstances. One can only hope so, because the only thing The Peach Tree did for these four tourists was to almost convince us that the spectacular Abbey alongside should also be avoided at all costs.

4/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

The Peach Tree, 18-21 Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, tel: 01743 355 055. Lunch and dinner daily. £150 for four with two bottles of wine

Shropshire stunners

Mr Underhill's

Dinham Weir, Ludlow, tel: 01584 874 431

Chris and Judy Bradley's restaurant-with-rooms, beautifully located by a weir, offers outstanding food and an interesting, well-priced wine list.

La Bécasse

17 Corve Street, Ludlow, tel: 01584 872 325

The genius of Will Holland's cuisine – creative, yet comfortingly classic – wins the highest praise for the stylish panelled dining-room of this northerly offshoot of L'Ortolan at Shinfield.

The Jolly Frog

The Todden, Leintwardine, tel: 01547 540 298

A good fish-based bistro – the worst criticism anyone could have is that it's shockingly French for a place deep in the British countryside.

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2011' www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence