The Tudor Pass is the latest incarnation of what was previously called the Tudor Room within the Great Fosters Hotel. Alex Payne has been executive chef here since September 2022. He had previously been head chef of Crockers in Henley and had worked as sous chef at The Vineyard at Stock Cross and as a junior sous chef with Matt Worswick at the Latymer. The Tudor Pass has just seven well-spaced tables with unusually comfortable seating. The tasting menu was priced at £95 for a seven-course version and £65 for a shorter four courses; the price is higher on Saturdays (£120 and £90 respectively).
The wine list had 82 labels and ranged in price from £45 to £1,000, with a median price of £73 and an average markup to retail price of 3.1 times, though the markups were actually quite erratic. Sample references were Leone d’Almerita Tenuta Regaleali Tasca 2020 at £50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £20, Weingut Knipser Kalkmergel Spatburgunder Spatlese Trocken 2017 at £70 compared to its retail price of £23, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano La Braccesca 2019 at £90 for a wine that will set you back £25 in the high street. For those with the means there was Joseph Phelps Insignia 2012 at £400 compared to its retail price of £257, and Chateau Margaux 2001 at £850 for a wine whose current market value is £637. There were some oddities on the list. There were quite a few typos on certain regions and producers, and some remarkably indistinct descriptions e.g. “Sauternes, Bordeaux, France” with no vintage does not look good on a Michelin starred wine list. Water was £5.50 a bottle. A wine pairing was available at £90 for the seven-course menu, or £60 for the four-course menu.
The meal today began with a quartet of canapes. Native lobster from Devon was poached and dressed in a lobster reduction with elderflower vinegar gel, fresh herbs and cresses, served in a little tartlet. The lobster was tender and the pastry quite delicate, but the dressing was a little too sharp; much as I generally enjoy acidity, this was a little too much. Better was a chicken “Jammie Dodger”, a fowl take on the popular Burtons biscuit. This version had crisp chicken skin with chicken liver parfait and Cumberland sauce gel. This certainly looked like the biscuit and more importantly it tasted excellent in its own right, the parfait silky smooth – a very comforting canape. The third canape was Baron Bigod cheese that had been blended with Australian black winter truffle and placed inside a potato tuile, all with a garnish of shaved black truffle. This was a pleasing combination of complementary earthy flavours. Finally, there was glazed veal sweetbread on a skewer, the kimchi glaze providing some spice, the canape finished with pickled walnut ketchup and tarragon emulsion. This worked very well, the ketchup and kimchi nicely lifting the delicate flavour of the sweetbread (16/20 canapes).
The first formal dish was a Porthilly oyster from Cornwall, poached in its shell for an hour to pasteurise the oyster and soak the juices into the meat. The rested on a bed of diced cucumber, apple and celery all compressed differently (with garlic oil, apple juice and chardonnay vinegar), an aromatic herb broth (juice of chervil, chives and tarragon), along with pickled apple gel, oyster foam and a crispy aromatic herb crumb on top. The various elements provided an interesting contrast of textures, the oyster retaining its natural flavour (15/20).
At this point a bread course arrived, and very good it was too. A milk and onion bun using the Asian tangzhong technique, a gel that results in a very resilient and fresh crumb. This was served with Irish salted butter made into a beurre noisette. Also on the side beef dripping, consommé jelly, whipped beef fat, onion ash and garlic oil on top. The bread was lightly, fluffy and enjoyable.
The next course was a very pretty tomato dish. A ring of alternating of dots of basil emulsion and tomato fondu puree surrounded tomato concasse, tomato jelly, pickled tomatoes and dehydrated tomatoes that are then hydrated in the consommé, tomato crisp. On the side was black cow Cheddar and tomato toastie, and the dish was finished at the table with a Bloody Mary consommé split with basil oil. The tomato flavour was enhanced by a process of dehydrating and rehydrating, resulting in excellent flavour even from Isle of Wight tomatoes, which rarely compare in flavour with the best of the Mediterranean. This was a very attractively presented and lovely summery dish (17/20).
This was followed by quail. Chanteloup quail from Britany in northern France was stuffed under the skin with an Australian truffle farce, topped with a garnish of fresh truffle. This was accompanied by celeriac puree with herbs and cresses, and a quail supreme sauce split with wild garlic oil. The celeriac nicely balanced the richness of the quail, which had unusually good flavour. All too many London restaurants use farmed Norfolk quail, which has nothing like the quality of flavour of this bird from France (16/20).
The fish course was wild black bream that had been butterflied open and stuffed with a scallop and broccoli mousse before being pan fried. This rested on a sweet fennel jam, a pomme Maxim (galette) and a broccoli puree. The sauce was a seaweed velouté finished with some English Ridgeview sparkling wine. The bream was very accurately cooked and had excellent flavour and texture, the potatoes crisp and delicate, the sauce having quite intense flavour (16/20).
The main course was rack and belly of Texal ram cross-bred with a Yorkshire hill lamb from north Yorkshire. The lamb belly was slow cooked for two days then seared on a barbecue and glazed. This came with Wye valley asparagus with a courgette puree on top. Finally, there was a morel mushroom stuffed with a courgette mousse, and a light lamb and rosemary sauce. This was another successful dish, the morel in particular nicely balancing the flavour of the meat (16/20).
Pre-dessert was baby pineapple compressed in a reduction of its own juices to intensify its flavour. This rested on pineapple jelly, and was accompanied a pineapple and mango crispy cigar made of pineapple which was compressed in a reduction of its own juices to intensify its flavour. This was accompanied by a crisp pineapple and mango cigar made from feuille de brick pastry. There was also diced Alphonso mango dressed in a homemade mango vinegar, and finally lime ice. This was a refreshing and enjoyable pre dessert (16/20).
The main dessert used strawberries from Oakchurch farm in Hereford. There was a cheesecake dipped in strawberry glaze, a strawberry sorbet and a strawberry delice with a lees gel and strawberry with Fitzrovia rose wine gel. The dish was completed with a milk crumb and meringue with fresh marigold leaves. The strawberries were right at the peak of the season and had excellent flavour, the dish having a pleasing combination of textures (16/20).
Coffee was Lavazza, which seemed a rather out of character choice for a restaurant that generally was aiming for high-end ingredients; we drank tea. In a clever touch, the four petit fours looked just like the quartet of canapes in appearance, but were sweet rather than savoury. The “déjà vu” effect was not one I had seen before, and was a witty touch. The lobster tartlet in the canapes was replaced by a lemon curd tart with a thyme gel, citrus meringue and herbs and cresses. The Jammie Dodgers were this time the sweet biscuit variety, here made from Linzer biscuit, milk chocolate cremeaux and raspberry jam. The cheese canape was substituted by a pastry tuille stuffed with a sweet ricotta mix, roasted apple gel and fresh truffle. The sweetbread canape was replaced by a mango and coconut sorbet on skewers. All very clever, and they all tasted good, so this was not just cheffy trickery, but the petit fours were good in their own right.
Service was excellent, the staff being friendly and attentive, with drinks topping up faultless. The bill came to £213 per person; if you opted for the shorter menu and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head might be around £105 or so. This was a very enjoyable overall experience, with skilful cooking and an appealing seasonal menu. The new look Tudor Pass is in very capable hands.