Gilbert Scott; to keep it short and sweet the building is visually stunning. The welcome is warm, service is charming and the atmosphere is great fun all eased along by the frenetic buzz of staff working very hard to make it all look so easy.
Despite the Hotel looking like it was cooked up by JK Rowling on an opium bender (sorry had to squeeze one in) it’s clear some real thought has gone into the design and delivery. I love the theatre of it all and it’s always a good sign when you can see some real money has been put into a business.
We started in the bar with a bottle of the Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs to kick off. This sparkling wine from Sussex really does showcase how good British bubbles can be and for the price it’s a pretty sensible choice if you want something sparkly.
We were here for the kitchen table so after the second bottle and some catching up we were guided through the restaurant and down the steps to the kitchen. We were well lubricated by this point but unlike us the kitchen was surprisingly quiet, as if they were on their best behaviour and there was a distinct lack of swearing...
They eyed us warily for a while but once safely ensconced at our table the kitchen team started to relax and service carried on around us. By this point we’d moved onto the Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc; my favourite of the Marlborough bunch and nicely mid range on the incredibly expansive (and sometimes expensive) wine list as well.
Onto the food and to start a charcuterie board was put in front of us with some radishes and cornichons. It served it's purpose but there wasn't anything very special about it sadly. Next please!
Up came the Dorset Crab with Bergamot and Fennel and for me this was fantastic. The sweet rich crab went perfectly with the Fennel though I want to be able to say I could taste the Bergamot; I don’t think I’ve had it before so I couldn’t place it...
The Lincolnshire Haslet was rich, creamy and expertly seasoned. The pork and liver working incredibly well with the Prunes and I’d have been happy with this any day of the week.
The English Hake with cockles and bacon again was delicious. The ingredients simply presented together allowed the natural richness to shine through and I quite enjoyed slurping the buttery sauce up with a cockle shell in a vain attempt not to be seen drinking from the bowl itself!
The main act was a platter of meat and if I’m honest it wasn’t the best steak I’ve had this year. That honour goes to Niall Davidson but this attempt was delicious all the same.
It was around this point a glass of red wine appeared on the table in front of me. It was great stuff and despite my best attempts to finish it, it was never any less than half full...
The steak well cooked and rich, the calves liver and bacon were both creamy and crunchy in that order. The jugged feather steak was marvellous, deeply flavoured and savoury but I don’t think any of the dishes were shown in their best light without the accompaniments of the normal menu.
I really do think a selection of sides and sauces would have improved the course no end and allowed us to customise our meal a little bit but I’m just nitpicking here really. The cheese course was quite disappointing; only three choices, none of which were that exciting but I was enjoying watching the kitchen work, chatting and knocking back the wine so it didn’t spoil anything for me.
The first dessert could have knocked me off my seat though! Pear ice cream with Ginger Bread Crumb, it was a sexy little thing and my god was it nice but kind of showed up the next which was clearly meant as the show stopper!
Mrs Beeton’s Snow Eggs, with Everton Toffee and burnt honey custard and a liberal dowsing of crunchy peanuts. It looked amazing, I was transfixed when I dug in the mound of fluffy meringue and the caramel oozed sensually out.
Very clever stuff but far too rich, the whole thing was cloying and heavy after the light touch of the gently flavoured and fragrant pear ice cream. This of course is purely subjective stuff as everyone else loved it so don’t be too put off by this.
By this point LOTS of wine had been drunk as the waitress had been skilfully topping us up all evening. The kitchen brigade had been introducing each course and talking us through what was on the plates and I don’t think the service could be faulted at all.
It was so much fun watching the guys work; you could see the points when the stress of service got too much for people. There was the occasional slamming of skillets and oddly quiet but angry looking discussions, for the most part though I was amazed at how calm and collected they all stayed.
I’d absolutely recommend getting the kitchen table, with a group of friends and family it is a definite treat and we enjoyed a great meal and a bit of a spectacle as well. I think for the price you could probably get better value elsewhere but for the sheer enjoyment of the whole evening it was definitely worth it!
More photos here as well.