Before I start this review I have to caveat it by saying that I’m afraid when it comes to Glorious Great Fosters I am a little bias. You see Mr R and I were married here so it is our special place. Now that could mean I am mercilessly critical of any changes they make rather than just soppy and romantic but I’ll let you be the judge – at least you have been warned.
I could wax lyrical about this hotel but we came to try out the new Tudor Room restaurant under even newer Chef Nik Chappell (formerly L’Ortolan) so I won’t.
The Tudor Room was the original restaurant of the hotel when we first came here in 1998 but was decommissioned and used instead as private dining when the Oak Room (now Estate Grill) came into being. It has now been totally refurbished with new silk walls and one of the hotel’s stunning 17th century tapestries taking key focus opposite a large stone fireplace. The room is small but accommodates 24 covers very well and extremely comfortably with large deep velvet chairs. Mr R who is normally a bit of a fidget confided at the end of the meal that he hadn’t moved once.
Design Restaurants’ members are treated to a glass of Champagne which always starts the evening with promise. We were then presented with a plate of intriguing canapés as an appetiser (this was additional to the eight-courses) which included the most intense fishy hit of Squid Ink, then Frogs Legs in a super crunchy batter, Duck with a blob of fruity jelly and a Mushroom treat. The frogs legs did indeed taste of chicken as most people contest to. This plate of veritable flavour bombs ensured our taste buds were fully limbered up.
A charming plate of mini breads followed, ranging from a tiny milk loaf, rosemary focaccia and Guinness and rye. All fantastic flavours although it was the milk loaf, shaped like a tiny brioche which was my favourite.
The pre-starter of Asian Broth, Roasted Chicken was served beautifully with the broth poured from a glass teapot. I identified either lime or lemon grass which gave the broth a sharp taste stirring up the last of the five ‘tastes’ and starting us on the first direction of our menu journey which was distinctly Asian.
The starter of Sesame Crusted Tuna Loin, Watermelon, Soy and Wasabi left us in no doubt that Chef Chappell was properly serious and we were in for a meal most definitely prepared by a Michelin experienced chef. The tuna was served with tiny moreish shell fish crackers, wasabi captured in tiny pearls and watermelon cubes which had been compressed and dehydrated intensifying the flavour. The tuna was utterly exquisite, delicately crusted and so fresh it melted in your mouth. Alper served this with a floral Henry Fuchs Gewürztraminer from Alsace which was aromatically rosy and flattered the Asian flavouring in the dish.
Already impressed, we were knocked sideways by the next starter of Foie Gras Terrine, Smoked Eel, Carrot, Spice. Mr R actually said that if the restaurant had not been full, he would have stood up and applauded it. This dish was so completely heavenly that we both paused half way and looked at each other in reverence. I can’t truly separate all the elements out in my head – the creamy, smoky, spicy combinations simply leapt from the plate in approximately four unforgettable bites. The picture I took didn’t do it justice so instead here is a link to one Chef took himself http://instagram.com/p/mafpkBkVqZ/. Let it be known that this will without a doubt feature on my ‘Fantasy Tasting Menu’ that I have been compiling for the last few years (in my head).
This dish served as a little curve ball which brought the Asian part of our journey to a gentle end and we continued on with Seared Scallop, Asparagus, Morels, Truffle. Followers of this blog may recall that Mr R is somewhat of an aficionado of Scallops and he looked slightly punch drunk with flavour after this beautifully presented dish was brought out. Meaty parcels balanced perfectly with truffles in vinaigrette and the honeycomb textured St George Morels sat happily atop wafer thin asparagus. To reflect the change in direction our wine was changed and we were served a deep yellow Greek white from the northern city of Drama. I have to say not quite to my taste but Mr R seemed happy and I do think it is good to try wine you’d never consider yourself. To make up for not having a picture of the previous dish I have an amazing one of this wonderful plate.
We paused and were served a rich glass of Malbec Punta Final Reserva as we looked forward to that most Easter of meats, New Season Lamb. This was served with garlic, anchovy and tomato and the lamb was prepared three ways; there was a noisette, a BBQ Rib and fillet all parked alongside a sweetbread in batter. Mr R commented that there was ‘a lot to discover in this dish’. I would agree – it was a voyage in its own right. The anchovy was puréed in the tomato and intensified the taste of the meat without leaving any kind of fishyness. The Malbec with its blackberry and cherry components also did its magic in enhancing the lamb. Again the photo I took didn’t correctly reflect this dish but sometimes it’s better not to let too much daylight in on the magic – discover this one yourself.
Next on the menu was the cheese course which was music to my ears as I prefer to end my meal with a sweet dish rather than savoury. Now any chef that can take Hampshire’s own Tunworth and truffle it deserves respect. Served with Homemade crumpet, Honey and Quince, the creamy, nutty Tunworth rose to Chef Chappell’s challenge and delivered.
The cheese was served with the first of our desert wines, Recioto della Valpollicella. This sweet unfortified Venetian wine is so called as only the ripest ‘ears’ of the bunches are used and ‘rece’ is Italian slang for ear – now you know.
Completely satisfied that the savoury part of this journey was complete, the pre-dessert of Gariguette Strawberries, Fennel, Fromage Blanc tickled our palates with a delightful licorice kick. This lead onto the dessert of Salted Chocolate Mousse, Praline, Caramel. Served with popcorn and super crunchy bites of tiny cake, which tasted like home made honeycomb, this dish again simultaneously challenged and adored the taste buds. I will be forever grateful to the chef who first put salt with caramel – now widely used even in Starbucks – because it is a genius combination.
This course was accompanied by a different dessert wine – a honey hued Jurancon from South West France, ‘Clos Thou’ which tasted of orange marmalade and smelled of apricot with a hint of croissant. As a huge fan of pudding wine I finished off Mr R’s glass too and from here on my notes became decidedly scrappy…
We congratulated Alper on the wonderful ambience he has created in this most special of rooms. As fine dining appears to be becoming more casual, the setting of an oak panelled room in a Tudor hunting lodge could feel oppressive and stuffy but it is anything but. The pale sun flickering through leaded lights and thoughtful chair arrangements give this room an almost dreamy feel. Subtle piano music acts as a buffer between the small number of tables so you don’t tune into others conversations. The meal was perfectly paced and expertly explained by Ellen and Eva.
We settled into the sumptuously furnished Anne Bolyen room (I’m not going to give you a history lesson on why it is so named – read it yourself here) and sank onto the deeply feathered sofa in front of a gently crackling fire. Petit fours were served with our coffee on a mini London Eye and Mr R found a book on the shelf that was dated 1868.
Nik Chappell is a Michelin grade chef and the Tudor Room is the perfect place for him to demonstrate his prolific talents. Great Fosters for me has always been a destination hotel. It now has a destination restaurant.
Design Restaurants Members and their guests receive a complimentary glass of champagne when dining for lunch Tuesday to Friday and for dinner Tuesday to Saturday. The eight course tasting menu is £75.00 per person. For more details click here.
Mr and Mrs R were guests of Great Fosters.
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