Do try Simon Radley as my experience is a one-off and there is little choice in the area. I cannot add much to the previous concise description but that is virtually the extent of the parallel. I am sure that the standard was accurate two and a half years ago, however, I have to depart from the ‘glowing’ tone mostly because the food did not accord closely with summer and execution was not as good as it should be.
As we started our holiday heading for L’Enclume in the Lake District we travelled via Chester. Our room was fine, but after a tedious 5 hour journey I was surprised that the kitchen couldn’t wait 5 minutes beyond last order deadline to allow us to freshen up before ringing our room – and I mean 5 minutes – it was 9.05p.m. when they rang to hurry us (we made it by 9.10p.m. – a record for me to slip into glad-rags and trimmings). You do feel the need to dress for dinner here as the atmosphere is one of opulence (but the rebel in me may have been more comfortable in jeans and plain T). One glance and everyone had made the effort to look decent. Even two young chaps about 9 and 5 years of age were in jackets. Check in was far from swift, so we had no choice (other than dining in jeans) but to go in reasonably smart minutes late – the hurry-up could just have been lack of communication, but maybe there is scope for hotel and kitchen to improve liaison.
The menu was interesting enough, but the dishes were rather rich and a touch heavy for a warm July. I also wondered whether the chef had acquired a job-lot of oxtail which dominated my John Dory almost in size as well as flavour, so not a carefully balanced (flavours included) seasonal main course – and with onions as the primary vegetable, sadly not a bright fresh summer vegetable appeared on my plate – it shouldn’t be a rarity mid-season. Oxtail featured elsewhere on the menu too.
Special mention does have to be made about the bread for the choice and very flavoursome red wine and fig loaf and impressive wine list. Mid July I like to enjoy fresh peas, broad beans, courgettes et al, if young and properly handled and, of course, importantly should include the soft summer herbs that can elevate a dish. Clever Michelin Star cooking to me should be modern, using fresh ingredients with a hint of healthiness or brightness, even if one or two components happen to be rich this time of year. Service was attentive and cheerful and whilst the kitchen’s technical ability was higher end, I thought it to be leaning toward autumnal flavours a little too much, using expensive ingredients with insufficient attention paid to balancing flavours – true throughout all courses. Our table was underwhelmed by the standard and it was uber expensive.
Would I go back? – I would try again if passing, depending upon how appealing the menu sounded. I think I’d try their Brasserie first though.