Suitably grand yet strikingly quirky, many visit The Dorchester’s Coworth Park for the Polo, the stunning landscapes, or the no-expense-spared accommodation. Yet if there is now an overriding draw, it is undoubtedly the remarkable cooking of Adam Smith in Restaurant Coworth Park.
Perhaps the only facet that hasn’t changed since Smith’s investiture in 2016 is the dining room. Not that it needed to. Like the hotel, this room convinces as a place for special occasions without resorting to tired, stuffy cliché.
You’ve never seen anything like the bronze and silver-leaf sculptures strewn across ceilings, the equine-themed artwork, or burnished orange chairs that soften the straightforward luxe of double-clothed tables, deep-pile carpets and army of suited staff.
This balance mirrors Smith’s remarkable cooking. While classicism is rarely far from the plate, it’s always alongside subtle invention that makes dishes memorable for reasons other than shock or excess.
No one is ever going to complain about generous servings of caviar, but here it’s piled atop a clean, simple tart of pristinely picked white crab meat as integral seasoning alongside yuzu gel and a quenelle of crème fraiche. Our main was a glorious take on steak and chips: short rib cooked rare, buttery crisp potato terrine topped with tartare, a fresh salad of gem and shallot and a bowl of deeply satisfying beef broth.
This simple-but-special ethos dominates. We tried a single grilled langoustine served sweet and juicy on a wooden skewer pepped up with plankton powder and citrus gel, then a fillet of wild bass with crisp chicken wing, greens and chicken sauce. It takes real talent to wow with so few ingredients, and reflects knowledge gleaned in Smith’s nine years at The Ritz.
What he may not have picked up in that time is the sense of tongue-in-cheek fun that permeates the luxury here. Among our canapes were obscenely crisp nuggets of buttermilk-fried chicken topped lavishly with caviar and a four bite take on the humble tart flambee buried in funky Alba truffle.
Restaurant Coworth Park is inarguably a national dining destination, but its pastry section is world class. A six-layer take on gateaux St Honoree was the definition of clean-but-indulgent precision, while mango and passionfruit tart loaded with vanilla is impeccably balanced by banana and passion fruit sorbet. These are desserts to travel for.
Prices are by no means low, but the wine list is generous in its scope, offering quality drinking for most pockets backed by informed and sensitive advice. There is also a ‘best of British’ lunch menu that offers remarkably good value.
Service was flawless on our visit and, with classical precedents observed rather than obsessed over, achieved the same special but unfussy balance as the cooking and room.
Restaurant Coworth Park is part of a new wave of restaurants that slip a little fun into fine dining. Yes, everything is resolutely top-spec, but nothing – from room to plate to service to wine – is done stiffly or without a little touch of tasteful invention. For luxury, out of town escapes, little comes close.