Steve Groves, formerly sous-chef here, has taken over as head chef. As we shall see, this has led to an improvement in the standard of cooking. An amuse-bouche of pea mousse with olives and cucumber, served cold, was a light and refreshing introduction to the meal, the pea flavour surprisingly deep (15/20).
The mostly French wine list had choices such as Crossroads Winery Butchers Block 2010 at £34 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £13, the lovely Chateau Musar 2002 at £82 for a wine that retails at £30, and Chateau Matort Charmes 2006 at £129 for a wine that will set you back £60 in a shop.
Ravioli of crab was served with etuvee (braised) leek and champagne veloute fluffed up into a foam. The pasta had good texture, the crab was light and fresh, and the champagne foam was a light complement to the shellfish (15/20). Langoustine consommé was excellent, the langoustines of good quality and tender, the consommé a nice example of classical technique, light and packed with flavour (15/20). Mackerel salad (£13) featured carefully cooked mackerel, herb salad and pleasant tomatoes, though this dish, simple as it was, needed really dazzling tomatoes to stand out rather than there merely good ones here (14/20).
I was impressed with a dish of Cumbrian chicken (£24) with girolles, sweetcorn and watercress with granola. It is tough to find chicken in the UK with a great deal of flavour (compared to the chicken of, say, Landes in France) but the precise seasoning accentuated what flavour there was. There were two things that made the dish stand out for me. First was the interesting set of textures provided by the garnishes, in particular the granola made from popcorn, puffed rice, sunflower seeds and chicken skin. The other was the jus served with the chicken. This was an example of old-school French saucing, the chicken cooking juices reduction rich in flavour but avoiding gloopiness, finished in this case with some Riesling, the result being light and delicious; I would have been happy to just sit down to a crust of bread and a large bowl of this sauce (16/20).
A dessert of poached peach (£11) with raspberries, Muscat and pistachio was prettily presented and had very good raspberries, the combination with the pistachio and the accurately poached peach working well (15/20). The bill came to £105 a head, with a bottle of good wine. If you consumed a more modest wine then a typical bill would be closer to £80 a head. Service was very good throughout the evening. This meal felt like a distinct notch up from my previous meals here.Book
Further reviews: 23rd May 2011