This closed in March 2008, so the notes below are of historic interest only.
Notes on my first visit. In the old Pengelleys, and little changed in decor. Lots of light wood with a pleasant but empty bar upstairs. There were only a few diners other than ourselves, though to be fair it has only been open a few days. We went for the modestly titled “inspirational” menu, which involved numerous small courses. Ingredients seemed generally quite good, and technique was capable, with no real errors. Some of the dish combinations seemed a little forced, but there were no major eccentricities in this regard. Service was good throughout, though it was disconcerting hearing chef Bjorn van der Horst swearing loudly in the kitchen at his staff – and we were a long way from the kitchen door!
Nibbles were green olives (a little hard and uninspiring), served with fine and light home-made bread sticks and a garlic dip. Amuse-bouche was a salad soup, comprising a thin soup tasting of cos lettuce, in which was a small piece of goats cheese, a baby cos lettuce leaf, corn sorbet and baby croutons. Lettuce soup is not inspirational, but the other ingredients added interest. Bread was a single selection: slices of a country bread, good and crusty, and served with salted and unsalted butter. The next course was paella, made with plenty of saffron, finely diced chorizo and garnished with mussels. My wife had a watermelon carpaccio, topped with goats feta and rocket, with a light vinaigrette, which worked very well (14/20), although it is hard to get excited about watermelon. Veal was tender, served with mixed vegetables and fruit in a meat jus. My wife had an assortment of vegetables and fruit, comprising a piece of peach, apricot, carrot, baby leek, and fennel, in a delicate vegetable sauce; this was topped with strongly flavoured celery leaves (14/20).
Next was a slow-cooked cod, topped with paprika. Chicken was carved at the table and served with its juices and crushed potatoes. My wife had red mullet – two fillets served with a layer of herbs in between. This was served with a little black olive tapenade, clams (not in the shell) and goats cheese gnocchi, which were light; again this was topped with the ubiquitous rocket (14/20). The cheese was from Philippe Olivier and was mostly in good condition, though the St Maure was past its bests; however Brie was in good nick, and Epoisses also fine (15/20) cheese). Cheese was served with more of the country bread, and some fibre-rich non-wheat dark bread. The pre-dessert was an apricot cheesecake, topped with apricot compote and served in a small glass preserve-type jar. The base comprised small hard pieces of biscuit.
The dessert was a strawberry tart, with thin layers of good tasty strawberries on a base of strawberry crème patissiere in a crisp short pastry, all of which was excellent, but for me marred by the crystallized violet in the crème. On the side was a strawberry and crème fraiche sorbet, but again this was sprinkled with more crystallized violet. Overall I reckon 15/20 is a fair score – it was all very pleasant, but I cannot say that I was dazzled. It was also £150 a head with wine, and the menu itself was £75, which is the same as at the main Gordon Ramsay at the time of writing.