Shropshire’s most successful restaurant, Mr Underhill’s, in Ludlow, is the only venue in the county to hold a Michelin star.
It is the sole survivor from the gastronomic boom that Ludlow enjoyed at the turn of the millennium – when four Michelin-rated restaurants were to be found within a one-mile radius.
The restaurant is owned by husband-and-wife team Chris and Judy Bradley – with Chris serving as chef-patron and Judy as maitre d’. And this autumn they published their first book of recipes and stories, called The Cat, The Cook and The Cook’s Assistant.
Judy Bradley said: “A couple of years ago, while trying to plan our future, we contemplated retiring.
“We were about to reach our 30th anniversary as Mr Underhill’s, we’d been named the UK’s Best Restaurant in the prestigious Hardens Guide, and we thought we might go out on a high.
“But even though we received offers for the restaurant, we decided we weren’t ready to leave. Instead of retiring, we decided to reinvent ourselves.”
The couple invested heavily in the creation of luxurious new spa suites for guests, modernised the exterior of the building and restyled the restaurant. No expense was spared.
Judy added: “In a mad moment, we also committed to producing our first book. Numerous hours were spent adapting some of our most popular recipes to make them user-friendly.”
The couple worked with a small, Shropshire-based creative team to publish The Cat, The Cook and The Cook’s Assistant, which was launched at Ludlow Food Festival and has proved extremely popular with guests.
Judy added: “The name of the book – and the name of the restaurant – came from our talisman, Frodo, who was a much-loved pet cat.
“Frodo’s name came from the Lord of the Rings, in which the hero, Frodo, took the travelling name Mr Underhill.
“Frodo lived with us until the age of 21 and at one point made page three of the Financial Times! He was a great character and is still much missed.”
The Cat, The Cook and the Cook’s Assistant features Michelin-quality recipes that have been adapted for use in home kitchens.
With stunning photography of Shropshire and the Marches, amusing stories from Chris and Judy and step-by-step guides to cooking at home, it makes the perfect Christmas gift, or souvenir for those who have eaten at the restaurant.
• Copies of The Cat, The Cook And The Cook’s Assistant are priced £25, from Mr Underhill’s on (01584) 874431 or at www.mr-underhills.co.uk