The major contingent of team DR Surrey descended last week onto Berkshire with one mission – to try all the dishes on offer at FORK – the very latest brasserie to hit Ascot in the hallowed grounds of the up and coming Royal Berkshire Hotel. A hearty mission, but there were seven of us.
Firstly you have to find the Royal Berkshire as its entrance quickly looms as you drive up the hill from the Guards Polo turn off on Blacknest Road on the stretch to Ascot. The Exclusive Hotel Group took the property over a while back from Ramada where, politely, it had seen better years. It’s still a work in motion but this beautiful Georgian property sits impervious between uber bits of expensive real estate – we are talking royalty from foreign lands, a car loving Radio 2 DJ/One Show presenter; the late Boris Berezovsky – not to mention it is opposite what was John Lennon’s Imagine video house. Although not set in hundreds of acres like some if its older Exclusive Group sisters, the site has really got the most beautiful bijou feel to it, and now overlooking the tranquil lawns is their new restaurant, FORK.
The real soft launch is later this week so we were delighted to be invited down for the scoop last Thursday and to be able to bring you this exclusive before the rest of the PR gets going!
Those living in Sunninghill, Ascot, Cheapside and Sunningdale are darn lucky – if not for their ever increasing property prices but now for the fact they have a neighbourhood restaurant that we all dream about having at the end of our street. Each dish was memorably triumphant – not confrontational, just honest good cooking. The sauces, all home made, utterly delicious. The restaurant laid out so that there was no ‘duff’ seating location.
The menu is set to change and grow as head chef Jamie Brown and his team bed in but from the six starters they tried, the team loved the crispy duck croquets, with confit duck and spring onion with homemade sweet chilli dip. Being of a slightly lazy nature the team were cautious of the mozzarella with san marzano tomatoes and ‘pick your own basil’, wary that they would have to don wellies and disappear off to some kitchen garden in Pick Your Own fashion!! For dramatic presentation the mozzarella was a gem with your own little mini twig bush presented on your board with the tastiest vine tomatoes. The garden pea vinaigrette and piccalilli from the English dry cured ham was also a sensation. But then so was the poached and oak smoked salmon and tuna nicoise salad. You see our dilemma?! If anything the menu was so simple (a blessing in a world of menus that try to trip you up) that in some ways the descriptions didn’t do the dishes enough justice. Then again a running theme of this property is quiet understatement allowing for delightful surprises and over delivery.
For main course there is a great selection of tasty dishes and grilled red meats (and apparently more to add on the veggie side). The char grilled flat iron steak deserves a particular mention with its sensational bbq flavour and the added (again homemade) peppercorn sauce. The large onion rings were also a hit with one of the team ending up wearing hers as a bangle (we won’t say who). The lightly salted cod with couscous paella, char grilled prawn and chorizo bolognese was so light it was ‘scrumptious’. A point to note – not sure that anyone would, but don’t team the tuna starter with the royal bream, tarragon & crab risotto with shellfish cream as although both independently sensational, the five spices with the tuna and the tarragon with the bream would be too overpowering. The poussin with bbq sweet corn, cream polenta and shallot herb dressing was also a hit with comments that the meat was deliciously succulent.
To finish, nothing can beat the theatrics of the fairground plate – mini toffee apples, candyfloss, sweet pop corn and chocolate dipping sauce, mini ice cream cones, marshmallows and doughnuts. Kids will love it and adults will become kids! Mind you, I’m not sure you will feel at one with your body afterwards but heck how often can you splurge on all this in one go? For grown up taste I think the raspberry almond slice with marinated raspberries and (again homemade) amaretto ice cream was the nights sensation but you also have all the old-fashioned home comforts to tempt you of eton mess, bannoffe, chocolate and praline mousse or a cheese board. I’m afraid we couldn’t squeeze in the cheese board so nothing to report there.
You MUST come and give the Royal Berkshire another try as it has made a great leap towards being undeniably great. Average price for two for a three course dinner without drinks – non-members £75.00/Members £37.50 (available from Wednesday 18th September 2013).
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Royal Berkshire Hotel
London Road, Sunninghill