I love the idea of being able to choose 4 – 5 courses rather than adhering to a tasting menu. We perused the interesting sounding menu over drinks and simple canapé served in the bar, and once we’d chosen our dishes, having explained our favoured wine styles, they then made suggestions. Having understood our preferences very well, our food began to arrive after we were given a liquid amuse bouche of Thai white for me and a red for the other half which suitably woke up our taste buds. Guineafowl terrine with blood orange, crisp chicory leaves and crushed slightly sweet brittle almonds was unexpectedly wonderful. Pork was good and soft sea bass with a cream or emulsion which I think was chestnut and truffle scented was delicious. Rave reviews of the Confit duck breast with butternut squash and wild rice came from the other side of the table whilst I was having my terrine and then I had the duck after my sea bass, whilst the other half had smoked oxtail with fillet of beef. The duck was an outstanding dish, but when I tasted the beef, I wished I had included this somewhere in my choices – next time.
The opening dish of Wild Garlic Veloute was too powerful and I could taste no hint of parmesan. Happily, the Californian Riesling was just what was needed to cut through the pungency of the starter, otherwise I would have struggled to finish it. This was the only negative as the food just got better and better from then on. My US west coast wines were gorgeous. The white was fragrant yet slightly rich tasting which pleased me no end. The Pinot Noir which followed was one of the best from anywhere in the world (in my book) and so I have noted these as it is also possible to source wines from the Vineyard Cellars. With 100 wines on offer by the glass, the sommelier will be able to deliver something to suit if you properly describe what you like.
Service was impeccable and completely unobtrusive. It was refreshing to be asked whether we wanted dishes to be described to us or not. The option to have a reminder should be the diner's option after-all. Easter Monday evening meal really showed the chef's skill to the full making the close of our holiday a bit special. It is a unanimous decision to re-book soon.
Chef Change (Nov 09)
Being a bit of a John Campbell disciple, I was curious to find out how Daniel Galmiche would fit into his shoes. He’d had a month to settle in so lunch was booked. Everything else seemed to be as it was before, décor styles leaving one slightly confused, but somehow mood was good. The new team performed well, and not only they were very accommodating, but the chef was also. A rather precise piece of cooking resulted in ubiquitous belly pork prepped a little differently with delicious accompaniments. An added punch of lime lifted flavours and proved a perfect foil for pork fat. Out of 4 courses, the only let down was the cheese which is rather needless given the fabulous indigenous ones that can easily be sourced. The inherited wine list, weighted towards US west coast on account of the owner having vineyards there, encourages a Californian choice. We asked Sommelier for one in our desired style and he delivered. All cooked courses pleased as a deft effort, I’m guessing heads for one star.
Last night we were in a side room purely for an evening of indulgence with 40 or so others. Each course was matched with Californian wine, some of which I would most certainly not have wanted to miss.
The meal began with a joyously rich and creamy mushroom cup topped with a succulent morel, more powerful than the cauliflower risotto served in a giant glass eye-bath which came next. Sadly, the cauli’ risotto failed to cope with the chunk of acidic jelly on top. Then spiced salmon and lentils, as described by SqM, was so blissful that I wanted to snatch it from the plates of others; the foie gras was highly rateable but each seemed so complete that they could have been two separate courses, especially with a tram-width gap between. I, and others, marvelled at the baby pig terrine which had been artistically crafted and presented in precise fashion with pea shoots and vibrant pickled bits doing an elegant tango on the plate and in the mouth. Toothsome beef cheek was served with mash and trimmings which were all worthy of a notably braised bit of meat. Desserts I found pleasantly fruity in theme but unremarkable as was the cheese – all blue and all foreign. Refined petit-fours helped to perk things up again.
We felt contented enough to be glad we went, but I tend to agree with Jonesey that it’s scarcely avant-garde. As always, service is as one would expect. However, the hotel strives to be a classy joint which somehow can’t quite hack it.