Taste test: The award-winning Preston restaurant creating Aven-turous combinations from local produce

Posted on - 27th April, 2024 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Food & Drink, Opinion, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Restaurants in Preston, Reviews, What's On in Preston, Winckley Square
Aven in Preston
Aven’s signage is the equivalent of an introvert’s name tag at a work’s team building weekend

This week my father Dry Tony and I were invited to try the new set menu at Aven, Preston’s three AA Rosette, award-winning restaurant, which has also recently gained entry to foodie survival manual the Michelin Guide.

Formerly known as 263, Aven is located in Camden Place just off Winckley Square in the city centre. It’s a cosy little restaurant with the signage equivalent of an introvert’s name tag at a work’s team building weekend, so if you plan to visit, aim to arrive ten minutes before your booking so you can wander anxiously up and down a few side streets before realising that your sat nav didn’t lie to you and you’re actually parked directly outside it.

We finally got settled in and ordered two cans of Löf, a German-style pilsner from Lancashire’s Farm Yard Brew Co at £7.50 each, before our first course arrived: tomato consomme and tomato smoked cod roe crumpet.

Aven tomato consomme and tomato smoked cod roe crumpet
Don’t be fooled by the petals

The consomme was shot size, but not something that should be knocked back. Even a sip of the clear tomato, cucumber, basil and liquorice stock was an assault of flavours tangy enough to make one eye want to squint shut, but in a good way.

The crumpet topped with tomato and pearls of cod roe crumpet echoed the consomme, but with an extra haymaker of salty fishiness. There were also some tiny edible flowers balanced delicately on top, possibly inspired by the scene in The Terminator when Arnold Schwarzenegger smuggled a shotgun into a hospital amidst an innocuous box of roses.

Our next course was a beautiful little chunk of monkfish topped with magnolia creme fraiche.

Aven monkfish
Get in me, you gorgeous Munter of the Sea

I love monkfish, having fortunately tried it before I saw a photo of one. The texture and delicate, slightly sweet taste of the massive ocean dwelling munter was similar to that of a king prawn, so the slight hint of flora and ginger provided by the magnolia was the perfect restrained accompaniment to the fish.

After a short intermission during which we shared some warm and delicious spent grain bread and butter, we were on to the main course of chicken, turnip and wild garlic.

Aven chicken, turnip and wild garlic

A beautifully cooked piece of chicken breast complete with crispy skin was served with bite-sized pieces of turnip, a swipe of turnip puree, purple broccoli florets and wild garlic leaves. The accompanying sauce was a thing of joy to a Northern lass; nothing overly fancy or frilly, just some bloody wonderful chicken gravy made from scratch. A touch of flavoured oil added pesto-esque hints of basil and garlic that didn’t take away from the ultra chickeny flavour but enhanced it, like a chicken comfortable in its own intense chickenness wearing a small basil leaf tucked behind its ear. (Do birds have flaps on their ears? If not, let’s just stick it in one of its side holes.)

Dessert was a chilled parfait flavoured with apple and Douglas fir.

Aven chilled parfait
I was horrified too but don’t worry, that’s just apple disguised as a mushy pea

I was a little worried that it might taste like a car air freshener, but the fir was barely perceptible; more of a woody, perfumed enhancement than a taste. The honey and apple came through in spades, with the added gorgeousness of little green apple balls and crunchy, caramelised apple skin.

Finally, two little cubes of chicory fudge finished off our meal with a treat, leaving us full without feeling stuffed. Hurray!

Aven continues to be one of Preston’s culinary treasures, showcasing the fantastic produce available from suppliers in and around Lancashire without the drama that other fine dining restaurants can sometimes exhibit.

Each dish is sent out bearing small, artfully-presented portions of food, but it’s apparent in the friendliness of the staff and the warm, understated decor of the dining room that the aim of Aven isn’t to pander to snobbery. The aim is simply for a kitchen and front of house team, who are passionate about food, to share, in one sitting, as many imaginative combinations of aromas, textures and tastes as possible with diners who enjoy trying them.

Are you raging about how insufficient and tiny Aven’s portions are because you looked at the photos without reading the article and, consequently, are unaware that it’s a set menu of multiple courses? Go for it in the comments.

Karen and Dry Tony sampled the £49 set menu as guests of Aven. Some of the produce mentioned in this article is available to buy from the new Aven online shop.

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