The National Star College reaches the grand age of fifty this year, and boy have they got a lot to celebrate! Since 1967, they have provided amazing opportunities for young people with disabilities to realise their potential.
A huge number of students leave the college with the skills and experience to be able to gain paid employment or voluntary roles, and after a visit up to the campus at Ullenwood, it’s easy to see why. We are greeted at reception by a member of staff and a student who is taking charge of welcoming guests, signing them in and dealing with both incoming and outgoing calls.
The reason for our visit was, of course, a trip to the fabulous Star Bistro which rose to fame when a group of students reached the finals of ‘Food Glorious Food’ in 2013. This is no ordinary eatery, because as well as serving some mighty fine food, it also offers work experience to students giving them a taste of the hospitality industry.
The bistro itself is light and airy with a patio area for summer days; breakfasts, lunches (both in the form of light bites and rather more fancy stuff), sweet treats, afternoon teas and hot drinks are served throughout the day, up until 4pm.
Wanting the full and proper experience, we put down the light bites menu - as tempting as it was – and went for the fancy pants stuff, heading straight in for main courses (two courses for £17 or three for £22.50).
Mum chose the Cornish Day Boat Caught Pollack (not to be confused with Pollock) which comes served with crab fritters, chive crushed new potatoes, sorrel, red pepper & chilli bisque. The fish was perfectly light, fresh and flaked to the touch; as for the crab fritters, they were right up there in the taste stakes.
It was the Slow Roast Tamworth Belly Pork that caught my eye, served with crackling, baked apple, carrot, celeriac puree, quince and cider sauce. Sadly for me, the crackling had gone amiss, but the pork was so wonderfully tender and the sauce so full of flavour, that all was forgiven. I’ll be repeating the baked apple idea at home, rather than shovelling on the contents of a jar of apple sauce.
Both meals were presented beautifully, and also came with Star Bistro bread made with Matthews Cotswold Flour, so those delicious sauces and flavours could be mopped up (oh sorry, are we not supposed to do that in public?!).
On to dessert and we were presented with two stunning plates of food yet again. Mum went fruity with the Tarte Fine Aux Pommes which is served with a caramelised apple compote, vanilla bean ice cream and apple crisps. As for me, as usual, I couldn’t resist the lure of chocolate so I had Dark Chocolate & Torrone Nougat Brownie which was served with raspberry sorbet, fresh & freeze dried raspberries, raspberry jelly and an orange crumb. My dessert was really something else, and it looked like a piece of art. The nougat makes the brownie quite dense and fudgy with a nutty flavour. And as for the raspberry elements, everyone knows chocolate and raspberry is a match made in heaven. The only thing we would have changed is that we both felt our desserts (the tart and the brownie) would have been even better served warm.
Having heard so much about Star Bistro, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to journey up there and experience it, as well as learning a bit more about National Star College. The food is on a par with many fine dining restaurants, and on top of that, by dining there, you are providing students with learning opportunities and also supporting what is an excellent and local charity.