It is with mixed feelings that I write this review.
Having stumbled upon this little gem by chance 18 months ago, I sort of want to keep its hidden secret to myself, but that would be selfish so I am forced to pour my foodie heart out to you all and beg you to visit as soon as you possibly can.
If you haven’t yet been to The Artichoke in Old Amersham, you are missing out and that is a fact.
I have eaten at several Michelin Starred restaurants now (all as part of my continuing foodie education, and ONLY for educational purposes I promise you) and this place continues to surpass anything I have sampled so far.
I have thought long and hard about it, and the fact that this truly fantastic Restaurant hasn’t yet been awarded a coveted Michelin Star is quite unbelieveable.
It still has 3 AA Rosettes to its name, was awarded AA Restaurant of the Year in 2013-14, and has been given a Top 25 place in the Top UK Restaurants Good Food Guide 2016, so you begin to get an idea of just how good it really is.
I need no excuse to continue to visit, but today we booked a Lunch for 3, as part of an early birthday present to my boyfriend. I have been ‘going on and on’ (his words not mine) about The Artichoke since I visited for an Easter meal last year and I was over the moon to be able to take him for his first meal there today.
If possible, I always like to go for the tasting menu in a restaurant. So much thought goes into compiling these wonderful menus. They are the chefs choice, and at The Artichoke, seasonality and complimentary flavours are at the heart of each one. Today was no exception.
We began with a Carrot and Tarragon Amuse Bouche, Sweet and tender baby carrots, carrot puree and the delicious earthy and bittersweet flavour of tarragon were the perfect start to our meal.
The Parsnip soup, curried raisins and toasted almonds we had next was like no other soup I have ever tasted. I was sitting on a table with a parsnip-hater (I know, don’t ask) and even he was beyond impressed. Its strong earthy flavour, its delicate mousse-like texture, with a rich mouth feel, carried the sweet curried raisins perfectly. The flavours burst onto your tastebuds, and perfectly toasted almonds gave the dish a brilliant crunch. We mused over how they could possibly create something so delicious, which was so so much more than ‘soup’.
Mum was less convinced when we begged to try the extra Eel dish on the menu, but she begrudgingly obliged, thoughts of jellied, slimy squirming things pushed to the back of her mind. It was a decision the Chef made sure she didn’t regret. Severn and wye smoked eel, beetroots and horseradish cream was a brilliant combination of three simple flavours. Slightly sweet, slightly sour, meaty Eel flesh, delicately hot horseradish and sweet, perfectly in-season beetroot, this small but beautiful dish was a delight on the palate.
Having made Lemon Sole Meruniere at Leiths a few weeks ago, I was incredibly excited to see Cornish skate wing, roasted salsify, caper beurre noisette, and mustard leaves on the menu. Beurre noisette is utterly delicious and this dish was phenomenal. The skate wing was beautifully tender, the delicate sweetness of the salsify in perfect contrast to the saltiness of the capers.
With seasonality continuing to set itself at the fore, we were treated next to Chess valley pigeon breast, curly kale and squash. The pigeon was meaty, pink, with a dense texture and strong game-like flavour. The pureed squash was sweet and with enough citrus to perfectly cut through the rich flavour of the pigeon. It was a beautiful dish, and the portion was a generous one.
Divided over dessert, (as ever) we decided to try both. I had an unusual Artichoke ice-cream, blackberry compote, roasted hazelnuts and apple,continuing with a recent trend of sweetening savoury flavours for a mouth watering, earthy dessert. It was just beautiful, Medium-sweet, smooth ice cream, crispy, savoury artichoke crisps, tangy, bursting blackberries, and little slices of juicy apple. All of the textures, and interesting flavours made this dessert a stand-out for me.
I also tried the Honey set cream, poire william sorbet and pickled quince, which was equally delicious, although totally different. The pear sorbet was utterly brilliant, and its cool, tangy sensation was a fabulous contrast to the sweet and smooth set cream. Not missing out on textures, some crispy honeycomb was dotted for good measure and it became another memorable dessert.
I’ve got a huge sweet tooth, so I was delighted to finish with a slate of perfect little Petit Fours, one of my very favourite things. Each one perfectly formed, I cant wait to devise my own around Christmas time.
At £44 a head for such a delightful, considered and exquisite menu, I really think The Artichoke holds the answer for a brilliant value, really very special Lunch. The restaurant offers various other Tasting Menus and Set Menus as well as a mouth watering A La Carte, and festive menus to top it all off.
The service is not to be lost amongst all the fantastic food, as a sommelier is always on hand to recommend from the ‘Exceptional Wine List’, yet another accolade to the restaurants name. The front of house is very friendly, helpful, and unintrusive, and combined with the calm, relaxed atmosphere created by the Scandinavian styled interior within this 16th century building, it makes for a restful and delightful experience.
I really think you should go, and I promise you will want to return.
(In the meantime, I’m going to pray that not too many people read this and I can continue to keep it under wraps, and visit again very soon.)
Love and petit fours
Website- The Artichoke Restaurant