Great Fosters is a 16th century mansion located between Egham and Windsor, now converted into a smart hotel. The Tudor Room is the flagship restaurant, seating around twenty customers in an historic dining room with a large fireplace and well-spaced tables on a bare wood floor. The head chef since April 2019 is Tony Parkin, who had worked for a former two star Michelin restaurant called Kommendatenin Copenhagen, and more recently has been a private chef. There is a set menu only, priced at £90 in the evening, with a shorter version at lunch for £45. Four chefs work in the surprisingly small kitchen.
The wine list offered 214 full bottles, ranging in price from £30 to £1,250, with a median price of £66 and an average mark-up of just under three times retail price, which is hardly a bargain but is pretty much a normal level in high end restaurants, and a bit kinder than you would usually see in central London. References included Simonsig Estate Pinotage 2016 at £42 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Rioja Roda Reserva 2014 at £68 compared to its retail price of £29, and the lovely Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2011 at £85 for a wine that will set you back £54 in a shop. Those with the means could indulge in Joseph Phelps Stag’s Leap Insignia 2013 at £420 compared to its retail price of £214, or Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore 2011, now owned by Frescobaldi, at £425 for a bottle whose current market value of £188. There were some ambiguities on the list. Muscat Beaumes de Venise was listed without specifying the grower – might it be from Coyeaux, Pigeade, Bernardins, Durban, Cassan or someone else? Who would know? This is a small thing and I may seem to be picky here but such omissions are a little sloppy. Other than that the list seemed quite reasonably well put together, with 73% of the bottles under £100 and as many as 29% priced under £50.
The meal began with an unusual canapé, a tostada made from scratch in the kitchen from corn flavoured with chipotle, garnished with kaffir lime zest and topped with Berkswell sheep cheese, sour cream and a garnish of fresh coriander. There was a nice kick of spice from the chipotle and the tostada base had excellent texture, with the acidity of the kaffir lime balancing the richness of the cheese (16/20). Bread is made from scratch in the kitchen, a choice of onion and thyme brioche and stout and treacle bread. The brioche was excellent, the herb flavour note coming through nicely and the texture good. The other bread was fine but a touch on the dry side (15/20 average). The bread was served with Bordier butter from Brittany.
Beetroot tatin used a crepadine beetroot grown in the grounds, along with goat curd and yuzu granita. This was pleasant and the yuzu was not too sharp, though for me the texture of the beetroot was not quite right (14/20). Hen of the woods mushroom came with rosemary butter, a mushroom reduction, pickled onions and Iberico ham, with a little net of crisp ratte potato. This was a good dish, the sourness of the pickled onions bringing some sharpness that went well with the umami of the mushrooms, while the potato crisp was excellent. I am not quite sure what the ham really added, and the dish would have been just fine without it (15/20).
This was followed by fillet of turbot from a large 6.5 kg fish, served with leek, butter with lemongrass and ginger and a sauce infused with Thai basil oil, finger lime and caviar. The turbot was very accurately cooked and the lime provided just enough acidity to balance the butter. This was a nice example of not adding too many culinary elements, but instead keeping the dish simple but precisely executed (17/20). The star dish was roast sea bass in a Thai broth, with artichokes, lemongrass, pickled turnips and coriander. The fish itself was excellent but I was particularly impressed with the broth, which had very clean, distinct spicy flavour and really well balanced spices. A superb dish (18/20).
A large diver-caught scallop came with salt-baked turnips, Granny Smith purée, a sherry gel, sea fennel and a stock of reduced turnip essence with bonito flakes. The scallop itself had good natural sweetness and was precisely cooked, and the gentle acidity of the apple worked well. However I found the additional flavour note of the Pedro Ximines sherry a little odd, being just one flavour too many for me (15/20).
The final savoury course was quail. Often in UK restaurants quail can be of modest quality, but here it was excellent quail from the Landes in the south west of France, which had lovely flavour. This came with purée of polenta with aged Parmesan, ceps, confit quail leg and also quail sausage with a little foie gras. The dish was finished with a sauce of the cooking juices enriched with madeira and truffle, and finally a little onion ketchup. The onion brought useful sharpness to balance the richness of the meat, and I thought that the sausage in particular had really deep, pleasing flavour (easily 17/20).
A pre-dessert was kaffir lime gelato with salted puffed wild rice. This was refreshing, and the crisp puffed rice added an interesting textural contrast (16/20). Gateau of dulce de leche was the main dessert. This is a caramel-like milk sponge confection made by slowly heating sweetened milk. It came with a honey crisp, Neals Yard yoghurt sorbet and honey from Ynyshir in Wales. The dish was finished with Hungarian honey truffles, a truffle that grows under acacia trees near the Danube and has a sweet flavour. This all worked very well indeed, the combination of elements working harmoniously and coming together to make a dessert that was not too sweet (16/20). Finally there was a choux bun with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and olive oil, which had nice texture and was very pleasant (15/20). A menu of speciality coffees and teas was available, the former from the Difference Coffee, the latter from Canton Teas.
Service was very good, with a very helpful and patient Bulgarian waitress serving us. The bill came to £111 a head. If you came for dinner and shared a modest bottle of wine then a realistic cost per person might be £130 or more, but if you take advantage of the £45 lunch then clearly this will bring the cost down. Overall I really enjoyed my meal here. Although there were one or two minor inconsistencies, the best dishes were good indeed, and the chef is clearly making an effort to use high-grade suppliers and produce, such as the excellent quality quail. This is still quite early days for the current kitchen brigade, and so there is considerable potential as they continue to develop and refine the menus.