My recent visit to The Latymer was pure chance. In hindsight, it ought to have been on my wish list of places to go but it wasn’t. I’d never heard of it before and I certainly didn’t know that within a couple of weeks of our visit it would be awarded a second, very well deserved, Michelin Star.
Our wedding anniversary was coming up and at the last minute we decided to throw caution to the wind and book a sneaky night away, somewhere not too far from London, where we could relax and forget about the stresses of every day life. There were a number of places I fancied (Limewood, Le Champignon Sauvage, The Pig at Brockenhurst) but we’d left it far too late to get a reservation. Not one to be deterred, I embarked on a bit of trusty Google research and came up with Pennyhill Park. A spa hotel, less than an hour away and with a decent restaurant, it fit the bill perfectly and the restaurant turned out to be exceptional*.
We went for the seven course tasting menu (plus the optional cheese course, obviously) and it was one of those meals where every single dish is delicious. There was nothing especially exciting or unexpected going on. No out there combinations or theatrical touches. This was simple, beautifully presented, hugely flavoursome food. No gimmicks necessary.
We nibbled on crispy grissini dunked in rich, smooth chicken liver parfait, whilst we perused the menu and chose our wine. I’m a big fan of chicken liver parfait but I rarely order it because there’s always something more interesting on the menu, so for the wondrous idea of serving it as a nibble, they had me at hello! This was followed up with a pitch-perfect appetiser; delicate lemon sole with salty shrimp and deep seaweed, something to delight the tastebuds and leave you wanting more. Then a rich quail dish, with sweet onions, earthy girolles, charred sweetcorn and a tiny fried quails egg as an extra surprise. A deconstructed virgin mary and a cauliflower and langoustine dish followed and were both faultless. Light and fresh with wonderful texture combinations.
Four courses in and I was throughly enjoying myself, all of my expectation had been exceeded. These weren’t dishes that I’d naturally order but that just made it all the more fantastic. There was nothing to fault, it was just a case of sitting back and enjoying the ride.
For main there was a choice of grouse or sea bass. I was born on 12 August, which is known to some as The Glorious Twelfth, as it signals the start of the shooting season for grouse. Despite that, I’d never got round to trying grouse before and as this was Yorkshire grouse, it was an easy choice for me. I loved it. Beautifully tender, rich and delicately gamey, it was complimented with the sweetness of parsnip and blackberry and earthiness of parsley and bay, all brought together by a dribble of sticky red-wine jus.
I also stole a mouthful of Mr E’s delightfully spiced, melt in the mouth sea bass. Delightful!
Then onto the desserts, both beautifully crafted as were all of the dishes that had gone before. We started with a sexy raspberry and chocolate number. A combination that has so much promise, it really needs to deliver and it deliver it did. I didn’t quite lick the plate but there was some discrete plate wiping and finger licking going on. Then a very pretty combination of chocolate, pistachio and violet. It turns out violet is not for me, I never did like parma violets as a child, but it certainly looked lovely on the plate and I had no hesitation in hovering up the rest of my plate without it.
Finally, when we thought things just couldn’t get any better, the cheese arrived. Wonderful, stinky, nutty, oozy, happy cheese. We made the poor waiter describe every single one to us before we both made our separate selections of five cheeses. And then we sat, in blissful matrimony, eating our cheese, drinking our wine and wondering why we’d never thought of coming to this wonderful place before.
crackers with taramasalata, homemade grissini & chicken-liver parfait
freshly baked bread & butter
lemon sole poached with nori, watercress, brown shrimp, & macadamia
poached and roasted quail, veal sweetbread and tongue, barbecued sweetcorn, caramelised onion, girolles & fried poached quail’s egg
dehydrated & marinated tomatoes, basil seeds, cow’s curd and ricotta
cod poached in single estate olive oil, langoustine, textures of cauliflower, parmesan veloute
roasted sea bass, scallop with Moroccan spices, charred gem lettuce, confit fennel with salted lemon
poached Yorkshire grouse, confit leg, Parsnip “bark”, parsley sponge, bread and bay, parsnip hash & blackberry
textures of raspberries, white chocolate namelaka and powder, chocolate sable, clotted cream ice cream
chuao chocolate, pistachio cake, violet ice cream, white chocolate snow
cheese & biscuits
If you haven’t been and it’s not already on your wish list, I suggest you add it right away. You certainly wont regret an evening spent with Michael Wignall’s cooking.
*The hotel I could take or leave and if I had a choice, I would probably leave it, but then there is something so delightfully extravagent about being able to stroll off back to your hotel room after a wonderful meal and the spa is great.