Editor's note. In September 2013 it was reported in The Caterer that chef Adam Simmonds was to leave Danesfield House to set up his own restaurant in London.
Danesfield House is a hotel with a very attractive setting between Henley and Marlow, set in 65 acres looking out over the Thames. In good weather you can sit out on the terrace and have a drink while studying the menu. Three courses cost £55, while the tasting menu was £75. The dining room has smart fittings and a cream-coloured décor, and comfortable chairs. A typical evening will see only a couple of dozen covers, so the food is far from mass-produced. Chef Adam Simmonds trained at Le Manoir before winning a Michelin star in Wales, though at the time of writing he has yet to repeat the feat here.
The 36 page wine list was arranged by style rather than geography, and had fairly kind mark-ups at the upper end of the list. Riesling Gebling 2006 from Felsner was £50 compared to a retail price of around £13, while the lovely Jermann Dreams 2005 was £89 compared to a retail price of £38. At the top end of the list, Leoville Lascases 1985 was £316 compared to a retail price of about £163, and Chateau Latour 1998 was listed at £495 compared to a shop price of around £243.
Bread is a choice of sourdough and brown bread, and is made from scratch. Both breads were pleasant, the brown having a nice crust (16/20). An amuse-bouche of rum jelly, lime and mint was pleasant enough and quite refreshing (15/20). This was followed by a warm vichysoisse (leek and potato soup) that for me seemed a little watery, though it was seasoned accurately (15/20).
My first course of scallops with new season garlic risotto was impressive. The scallops were sweet and of high quality, the risotto carefully made and the garlic flavour coming through well, Granny Smith apple adding a balancing acidic element (17/20). This was a lot better than wild salmon cooked sous-vide with pea puree, green almonds and wild strawberries. The salmon itself was seasonal and accurately cooked, the peas quite sweet and the almonds an interesting texture contrast. However the strawberries, a debatable addition to the dish at the best of times, actually overwhelmed the taste of the salmon. If acidity was the idea, then the chef should find something less intrusive (14/20 – I would have scored this much higher if the strawberries were simply absent).
Beef fillet was sourced from Somerset and nicely cooked medium rare, offered with a watercress and nasturtian puree, truffled macaroni and bone marrow. I liked the bone marrow, though the macaroni was a little soggy in texture, but the quality of the beef held the dish together (17/20). Turbot was poached and served with an asparagus puree, girolles and peanuts, with a (fortunately) restrained lemon verbena panna cotta – the fish was excellent and the vegetables good (16/20).
My tonka bean soufflé was carefully made and had good texture, served with high quality white coffee ice cream (16/20). I also had a taste of milk chocolate, banana and rum millefeuille and banana parfait, which was well executed (16/20). Service was extremely proficient; admittedly there were just five tables being served, but everything worked very smoothly.
Something that left a sour note was that I had three coffees (these were not giant portions) and was charged three times for this i.e. 3 * £5.50 = £16.50. Given that a cup of coffee costs maybe 20p to deliver, and given that I didn’t see a fresh plate of petit fours arriving with each top up of coffee, this is gouging, pure and simple. A coffee is the last thing that you see at a restaurant, so taunting the customer is probably not the impression that you want to leave with if you want someone to return. An overall bill of £130 each seemed a bit high given the relatively modest wine chosen (not helped by the coffee charge). If Adam is puzzled as to why he has yet to receive a Michelin star here, I suggest he concentrates on stripping the menu back rather than adding extra elements to dishes. (editor's note, Adam gained his star in 2011).