Antona has previous with the small Warwickshire town of Kenilworth: it was where he opened the first incarnation of his now Edgbaston-based fine-dining temple, Simpsons, back in the late 90s, as well as being the location for his more laid-back grill - Beef.
The Cross is pitched somewhere between the two; a replenished 19th century inn offering stylish food, relaxed service and an honest approach to sating diners' appetites for gourmet food minus the stuffiness of haute cuisine.
Antona's ability to spot and develop talented chefs is legendary - the likes of Glynn Purnell, Luke Tipping and Marcus Eaves attest to that - and at The Cross he entrusts the Executive Chef position to ex-Simpsons Head Chef Adam Bennett. And not without reason - Bennett achieved Britain's best ever finish in the 2013 Bocuse D’Or Championships, cementing his place at the top table of British chefs in the process.
Bennett's menu items are at once familiar and innovative: citrus-cured salmon comes classically served with beetroot and horseradish but is inflected with caraway, too; while a canny venison main sojourns you up the M6, aiding and abetting the meat’s gamey flavour with accompanying components of haggis and whisky sauce. The complementary wine list, meanwhile, is expansive, taking in bins from the full gamut of regions; from Slovenia to South Africa, Lebanon to Chile.
The interior is equally inviting and perfectly coalesces with Bennett’s food. Cosy yet refined, the dining room is an attractive combination of deep red walls, exposed brickwork and wooden beams, while outside there is space for al-fresco dining in the warmer months.
The Cross is in many ways the perfect restaurant for a place such as Kenilworth - an ideal environment for a spot of Sunday lunch, a romantic dinner or to talk shop over a great meal and a glass of wine. As The Independent aptly asserts, “it’s the kind of place you dream will open in your town”.