I keep my polarised Thom Browne sunglasses on in the cocktail waiting room; there’s an impressive selection of Man Ray photographs in the owner’s collection. Someone saidÂ the place reminded them of the Addamsâ€™ Family -Â Hmm. Maybe if there was more dust and cobwebs, but not really.
Luis, our Spanish waiter, peers over his gold rimmed Armani spectacles (I can smell his aftershave, Sauvage by Dior: bergamot and ambergris, raw yet noble) and asks if weâ€™d like to see the Picasso, the only one on a hotel wall in the UK).Â â€˜Maybe later,â€™ I politely inform him.Â â€˜I heard they do art tours around this place?’ He says, â€˜The ones with gold plaques beneath them are noteworthyâ€¦exceptional pieces.â€™ He hands us our starter menus.
Weâ€™re blown away by the dishes that doubles as starters, and sides for the mains. Pickled violet artichoke, pea and broadbean, charred Wye Valley asparagus: bright, elegant and vivacious.Â Marinated Isle of Wight tomatoes, baby fennel, pea shoots: larger tomatoes seemed watery, and a bit flavourless, while some of the small tomatoes seemed to have absorbed more of the marinade and are delicious.Â The dish seemed a bit out of balance.
Charred cucumber, marinated courgette, butter leaf, green sauce: flavourless. Roasted Jerusalem artichoke, sunflower & dill ragu; flavours are memories – the roasted sunflower seeds, was the best bit of the day.Â They reminded me of my father roasting various types of seeds in a massive wok, we’d sit for hours, scoffing bowls of roasted seeds.Â Artichoke was a joy to behold, firm, meaty, outstanding.Â Dill is overpowered by the vinaigrette.
Jersey Royal potatoes, Tropea onion, charred grelot dressing – problem is that JR potatoes are not as tasty as they used to be, the EU demanding farmers don’t use seaweed as fertiliser.Â Castelluccio lentils, wild garlic, marinated celery, pickled peppers: functional, I didn’t go back for a second helping.Â Ember cooked Heritage carrots, wild garlic, carrot top & hazelnut pesto, baked ricotta: what is it Guy Fieri says?Â Out of bounds!Â A far cry from these Day-Glo orange versions that plague our nation.Â Milky spots from the ricotta.Â The wild garlic adds a background of flavour.Â Hazelnut pesto adds another layer of nuttiness to the carrots.Â Homemade butter on a large pebble, and sourdough bread: light, creamy, a bit like a homemade ice cream, that didn’t melt, and without the sugar.
We have Wood Fired Highland Forerib and Fillet of Beef, heritage beetroot, rainbow chard, horseradish for mains.Â Definite smokiness from the wood, Highland cows, a far cry from Tesco sirloin, which can be a let-down.Â Beetroot, sensational, intense, focused, screams “eat me”.Â Horseradish tasted like generic baby food.Â I didn’t taste horseradish, thought it might be celeriac.
I thought the Persian rugs were a nice touch.Â If you go, keep an eye out for the letters from Queen Victoria and George V.
Â£75 for three courses and soft drinks between two people. For us, excellent value for money.
Photo Credit Claire Nowbaveh