As  part of my continuing culinary education, and due to a complete and incurable addiction to food, I have taken it upon myself to visit as many fantastic restaurants as I possibly can.

Today is my Dads birthday, and last night we took him out for a birthday meal, at somewhere a little more special than the pub down the road.

Mum and I wanted to find somewhere to rival our latest experience at The Artichoke, and impress and delight the birthday boy.  We were not disappointed.

I have to say, having lived in Buckinghamshire all of my life, just a 20 minute drive away from this place, I am unsure as to why I have never visited, but certainly will be returning again!

Dad has. In fact his last memory of the Sir Charles Napier was being locked in with his college drinking buddies in 1978… I think its safe to say a lot has changed since then! (and he may or may not have acquired a few wrinkles too…!)

The pub is now a Michelin Starred Restaurant, offering a mouthwatering A La Carte, and simply delicious 7 course tasting menu, which of course, we felt obliged to taste.

If you have read my blog post on The Artichoke, you will know how I feel about tasting menus. If you ever visit a restaurant with a tasting menu, I highly advise you go for it! Usually required to be eaten by the whole table, they showcase the best of the seasonal ingredients, crafted into stunning dishes, as chosen by the chef, that flow beautifully from beginning to end. We left satisfied, but not over-full, having tasted some wonderful morsels of food, that was so deserving of the Michelin Star this fantastic restaurant has earned.

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Parsnip and quince veloute with spiced granola
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Diver caught scallops with crisp chicken wing, pak choi and asian broth
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Wild mushroom risotto, crispy quail egg
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Roast cod with celery and apple croquette, violet artichokes, salsify, girolles and bergamont
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Braised ox cheek with horseradish mash, artichoke crisps and red wine jus
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Apple souffle with vanilla ice cream
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Caramelised chocolate terrine with lime sorbet and pecans

My parents, despite over 75 years of wine drinking experience between them, still haven’t decided what they actually like! If you set me loose on a decadent wine list, I would head immediately for a New Zealand Reisling, new world Sauvignon, or a bottle of Veuve Clicquot if the occasion is worthy! However, as we umm’d and ahh’d between about 15 different red wines, it became apparent that mum and dad should really start writing down the ones they actually like from their monthly Virgin Wines Delivery…

Sitting on comfortable seats by the fire, scanning our menus, we settled, finally, upon a delicious Californian Pinot Noir, with helpful recommendation from the owner. It was deliciously fruity, and with more body than you would expect. Parents satisfied, (and relieved, I suppose, that their daughters food and wine training was finally paying off), a tick was placed in the ‘good wine’ box on our virtual checklist, and we moved on to the food.

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Above you can see, in order, the tasting menu which we gladly devoured. From start to finish, the food was perfectly seasoned, carefully cooked, and immaculately presented. Each dish was explained to us at the table, sauces poured theatrically onto 3 of the 7 dishes.

I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite, but for me, the Braised ox cheek with horseradish mash, artichoke crisps and red wine jus was exceptionally tender, rich and delicious.

And of course, there to indulge my unstoppable sweet tooth, were two desserts! What more could I ask for? The souffle was impossibly light, delicately sweet, and perfectly formed. The chocolate terrine- rich, mouth coating and complex, surprisingly good with the tart lime sorbet.

We were treated to friendly service, in a relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant isn’t pompous or intimidating, it envelops you in a modest pub-like feel, entirely unpretentious, and yet extraordinarily good, in its food and service. There are open fires by the bar, where you can relax with a drink and study the menu, or retire to after dinner, with a coffee and some stunning salted caramel truffles, drinking in the cosy atmosphere.

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I should also mention, it has repeatedly been named one of the most romantic places in the country to visit, with good reason. If you’re after a perfect spot for a special date, this is just the place.

The gardens are a spectacle, full of unique sculptures by the artist Michael Cooper, and on a less wet and windy day, preferably in summer rather than freezing december, we would have adored a walk in the restaurants beautiful surroundings. However, we were delighted to find that the decor inside was adorned with miniature versions of the bears, owls, snails, and other creatures bestowed upon the grand lawns outside.

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At £65 a head, its not a cheap option, but when visiting top class restaurants, you should think more of value for money. We enjoyed every single bite. Here they serve food that makes you concentrate on flavours and texture, and makes you ask “how did they do that?” – the million dollar question.

Definitely visit, and if you’re at a loose end on New Years eve, gather some friends and indulge in a NYE Party, Sir Charles Napier style, with champagne, canapés, set menu including cheese and petit fours, and dancing until 2am.

It sort of makes me wish I wasn’t off skiing in the Alps for 2 weeks over new year, but hey, its a hard life.

Happy Sunday foodies, hope its a lazy one

xxx

 

 

 

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