Archive for March, 2014

Newsletter: fine dining guide March 2014

Posted on: March 15th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Much to report after a busy 2013 and first quarter of 2014.  The site maintained a focus on restaurant and hotel reviews supplemented with feature articles, interviews and broad guide coverage.

The iTunes podcast series continues – as always the links are to the written transcripts, you may find the podcast series on iTunes by typing “Restaurant Dining (UK)” into the main iTunes store search box.  fine-dining-guide continues to have a YouTube Channel for which the site commissioned and uploaded a professional piece on Diego Masciaga of The Waterside Inn preparing the special dish of Canard a la Presse.

The site has conducted eight interviews since the last newsletter spanning three chefs, four guide editors (sort of) and a hotel general manager.


With twelve years (no less) experience at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Sue Williams enjoyed her first Hotel General Manager role at Bath Priory.  After further work with the Brownsword family, Sue is now well ensconced after 18 months at Cliveden House.

Having worked with Nico Ladenis, Guy Savoy and the Galvin Borthers,  André Garrett now finds his name above the door at Cliveden House, one of the most iconic country house hotels in Britain.

Arnaud Bignon is producing some extraordinary food at The Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair, London.  Recently recognized with two Michelin stars for the second time in his career he spoke candidly to the site about his philosophies and influences.

Michael Ellis quietly took the international helm of the Michelin Guides from Jean-Luc Naret a couple of years ago.  In what is perhaps a European web first, Michael gives an in-depth interview with fine dining guide.

Rebecca Burr has completed her third year as editor of the four Michelin Guides – Michelin Great Britain & Ireland 2014 (Red Guide), Michelin Main Cities of Europe, Michelin London Guide and Michelin Eating out in Pubs.  Rebecca speaks of her observations of the industry as well as the workings of the guides.


Daniel Clifford is one of those rare breed of Michelin two star chefs who collectively exhibit the on-going passion to succeed while encouraging those around them to learn and grow.  Daniel has successfully spawned three Michelin starred chefs from his kitchen at Midsummer House – a restaurant which continues to gain plaudits and recognition.

Simon Numphud has been an employee of The AA for over fifteen years.  He worked his way through from junior inspector, to senior inspector, through management to head up, for the last six years, Hotel Services.  Here he gives a candid interview to Simon Carter of fine-dining-guide about The AA Restaurant Guide.

The Good Food Guide was founded by Raymond Postgate in 1951; during the last 63 years there have been only seven editors.  Elizabeth Carter is in her eighth year as editor and found time to speak about her insights into restaurant dining around the country.

Twitter/Facebook: Both continue to deliver good traffic to the site – @finediningguide has over 5400 followers in March 2014 and the newer facebook page 700 likes.  You may go directly to the site’s pages on twitter or facebook simply by clicking on the ‘f’ and ‘t’ buttons in the top right corner of every page on the site.  As we go to press the site is investigating Pinterest and Instagram as platforms to spread the visual word about fine food.

Restaurant/Hotel Reviews: Reviews by Daniel Darwood have included Midsummer House, Waterside Inn, The Vineyard, Brasserie Chavot, The Savoy, Alimentum and Bar Boulud.   (See Reviews)

Guides: The GB Guide season took place during September 2013 (as applicable to fine-dining-guide).  Relais & Chateaux elected a new president – France based Philippe Gombert stepped into the shoes of Jaume Tapies from the last quarter of 2013.  This guide is well respected in the hotel community and amongst travelers in equal measure.  Marketing of the association has progressively improved over the last decade with the apparent profile steadily on the rise.  The ‘gold standard’ of Michelin Guide GB&I 2014 was eagerly anticipated with some buzz about the possibility of a new Michelin three star in GB.  However two restaurants – Dinner by Heston and The Greenhouse both found promotion to two Michelin stars.  L’Enclume retained the lofty 10/10 in The Good Food Guide 2014 (the Guide having been acquired by Waitrose!) following in the illustrious footsteps of Chez Nico, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck.  Simon Rogan’s latest plans to open at Claridges became public which could prove the big news story of 2014.  Sat Bains, Jason Atherton, Gordon Ramsay and Nathan Outlaw all recorded impressive 9/10 scores, while Daniel Clifford and Michael Caines gained the maximum 5 AA Rosettes in the 2014 AA Restaurant Guide.

Opinion/News: As the economic seasons move through their cycle let us hope that in March 2014 we are entering spring in more ways than one.  Without doubt, during the seven year economic winter experienced in Britain, the restaurant space bucked the trend to the extent that peoples’ tastes and needs witnessed a cultural shift.  The idea of eating out for a significant band of consumers went from being a rarely sought luxury to a way of life.  I am not merely referring to the content of fine dining guide, where there is an accent on the top end, but across the restaurant world the make-up of the customer has changed.  What do these customers want?  Relaxed accessibility it would seem and pervasively so (right through to the top end).  Having said this, the institutions tend to survive the fashions and fads of a shift within a cycle; in other words there will remain a market for front of house wearing ties while taking the trouble to describe dishes at tables that still have table cloths.

The ‘Michelin market’ will remain.  While some commentators question the relevance of the inspector-led guides in the reader-led web based information age, there remains room for all in this diverse market place.  While chefs still aspire to the credible career benchmarks on offer, while consumers still hold their ratings in high regard, then this market will remain.  The only concession required from the inspector-led guides will be real time awards provided to the web as consumer thirst and hunger for new information in this era is near insatiable.

Google, having purchased Zagat, will be pushing to see Google+ challenge Trip Advisor for its coveted position in the reader-led guides category.  When you type in a well known London Hotel or restaurant into google, for example, a picture appears of the establishment along with various details including number of reviews and review score.  As Google link their products together into a cohesive offering they will seek to dominate the review market.

Until next time Happy Eating!!

Restaurant Review: Stoke Place, Stoke Poges. March 2014

Posted on: March 15th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

A meal at The Garden Room Restaurant is something you selfishly want to keep secret. Once news of Craig van der Meer’s superb cuisine spreads, securing a table becomes more difficult. On the other hand, you cannot resist telling others, celebrating his food and encouraging them to go. Having visited several times, I reluctantly succumbed to the latter.

The Garden Room is the fine dining restaurant of Stoke Place, a well preserved country house hotel built in the classic William and Mary style of the late 17th century. For many years the family home of high ranking aristocracy, it eventually became a private hotel in 2005.

Chef Craig van der Meer

Chef: Craig van der Meer

The wooden floored room itself is a light and airy space. The walls, lined with pastel blue paneling up to dado level, are enveloped in a bold green vine pattern against a  white  background which is very heavy on the eye. The decor is more suited to fine weather, when the open sash windows allow a gentle breeze to waft through the room.  In winter, given the absence of curtains and blinds, it adds to the coldness of the room. The furniture is a mix of designer tables of varying shapes, size and colours, with upholstered Bauhaus chairs. Lighting is provided by wall lanterns, supplemented by standard lamps. Modern country house the design certainly is, but is it a sufficiently luxurious for showcasing cooking of this quality?

Fine dining in top end hotels dominates Craig’s impressive CV, which includes being Sous Chef at the celebrated Five star Arabella Hotel and Spa near Cape Town in his native South Africa. In England, he refined his skills at Langshott Manor and Frimley Hall Hotel and Spa before becoming Sous Chef at Stoke Place. His undoubted creative and organisational ability led to promotion as Head Chef after just one year. Accolades, including three AA Rosettes within 18 months of joining the AA Restaurant Guide, and entries in The Good Food and Michelin Guides, confirmed his position on the British gastronomic map.

While the hotel’s website describes Craig’s food as modern British, inventive and seasonal…Seasonal and locally sourced ingredients are used to create interesting versions of traditional fare,” it gives little indication of the range of classical and contemporary techniques employed. When used, the sous vide method is applied without the use of cream or stocks, keeping tastes of main ingredients natural and pure, even if rendered in different ways. The precision of timing; the harmonious combination of flavours, textures and temperatures; and the conscious artistry of the presentation all contribute to the exciting vibrancy of the cuisine. From conception to completion, this is the labour intensive, creative gastronomy of a highly talented chef.

Dishes can feature unusual ingredients such as mizuna, mooli, chakalaka, Cape gooseberry and bee pollen, with garnishes such as gels, spheres, and foams adding to the overall interest of the cuisine.

The relatively short carte of five starters, five mains, four desserts and one cheese option allows each dish to be given maximum attention to ensure consistency. Pricing makes dining in the Garden Room reasonably accessible. Two courses from the carte cost £35, with three for £45. The eight item Tasting Menu costs £55, with a flight of six wines for £35 more. Cooking of this quality in central London would be half as much again. The impressive 361 wine list features a wide variety of wines by the glass carafe with variations to match seasonal changes in the menu.

Fine Dining Guide visited on a Wednesday evening in March. Understandably not as busy as at weekends, when there can be 40-60 diners, (with the overflow dining room coming into use), nevertheless the 24 cover restaurant deserves a larger weekday audience.

Three homemade breads were exemplary in their crisp crusts and firm crumb. The Guinness bread was outstanding in its dark malty sweetness and the white truffle bread had a pleasingly light texture.

It is rare to be offered more than one amuse-bouche; here the chef had the confidence to serve two:

Pumpkin espuma and curried banana was suitably smooth with added crunch from a granola of pumpkin seed.


A velvety smooth lemon grass sorbet with pickled ginger and lime meringue crisp was a fragrant palate cleanser.


An inventive “surf and turf” starter featured smoked eel and Serrano ham, their moist saltiness combining well in deep fried croquettes. Passion fruit foam and puree cut the richness, while thinly sliced pickled kohlrabi added contrasting taste and texture.


Another successful starter was scallops prepared two ways: accurately seared to produce a caramelised crust with moist, sweet flesh; and a tartare of lively freshness and delicacy. Charred cauliflower florets and peanut puree added texture and a wasabi “sphere” gave a well- judged, not overpowering, lift to the seafood.

Grilled lobster tail was accurately timed to produce a gentle smoky flavour and succulent texture. Smooth parsnip puree and al dente purple and golden beetroot added contrasting earthy textures and flavours, and apple puree gave a sweet acidity. This visually stunning dish was a brilliant combination of tastes, textures and temperatures.


A terrine of rabbit, using different cuts of the animal, was moist, flavoursome and well pressed, giving a mosaic effect.  Contrasting in texture and flavour was a rich, creamy torchon of foie-gras.  Spicy cubes of chorizo lent a spicy note, although the molecular “snow” added more colour than flavour. The piquant pepperiness of the unusual mizuna leaf acted as an extra seasoning. Melon puree and jelly provided the sweet element the dish needed.


Main courses continued the themes of invention, attention to detail, clear tastes and clean presentation.

Venison from Everleigh farm in Sussex was accurately seared and fully rested, giving a soft, almost melting texture and a mild gamey flavour. Sharp cape gooseberry compote proved an ideal foil for the rich meat. Celeriac puree and caramelised endive added a sweet earthiness of contrasting textures, whilst a red wine jus successfully bought the various elements together.


Pan fried wild sea bass had a crisp skin, firm white flesh and delicate flavour. Perched on a bed of soft, buttery samphire, it married well with a creamy vanilla and corn puree flecked with crayfish. Purple potato added colour and substance to this well balanced dish.


A pre dessert of black pepper and cream cheese sherbert, raspberry,  and compressed pineapple was at once light, fruity and refreshing.

Desserts are given a much care and attention as starters and mains.

Freshly prepared cinnamon doughnuts were amazingly light, warm and delicately spiced. Smooth ginger bread ice cream, set alongside spiced poached pear, gave contrasting flavour, texture and temperature.  This composite dessert benefitted from a final crunch and sweet lift with the addition of honeycomb.


A cheese alternative came in the form of an Oxford Blue roll, the creamy consistency and sharp, clean flavour of which was given added interest with pumpkin seeds. These also formed the crisp base of caramelised brittle on which the roll rested. Coffee gel and cubes of kiwi fruit jelly gave extra colour and flavour to this playful dish – a good choice for those who cannot decide between cheese and dessert.


Good coffee and petit fours of milk and dark chocolates and fruit jellies completed a highly accomplished meal, made more enjoyable by courteous, informative and efficient service.

It is clear that Craig and his team are producing refined, cutting edge food, with a wealth of innovation and experimentation. We will return to sample other dishes such as Lamb Canon with basil, homemade feta and chakalaka or Hake with honey and yellow carrot jelly, bee pollen, fennel and horseradish, confident they will surprise and delight. In our view this is Michelin star cooking, it only being a matter of time before this accolade is awarded. Fine Dining Guide will follow the restaurant’s progress with interest.

Restaurant Review: Oxford Kitchen, Summertown. Mar 2014

Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

The Oxford Kitchen

The last time I ate in Summertown was in 1980, when a friend and I drove the 30 miles from Maidenhead to have dinner at Raymond Blanc’s ground breaking restaurant, Les Quat’ Saisons. We had turbot and lobster terrine, roast duck with honey and cloves, and raspberry soufflé, three courses so superbly executed they are clearly memorable today.

Since then, when Oxford was firmly established on the fine dining map, the fortunes of this university city have ebbed and flowed. There have been the occasional high profile openings – witness Le Petit Blanc further down the Banbury Road, and Brasserie Blanc in Jericho, also in the 80s – but little of serious note. In the nineties and noughties the restaurant scene stagnated. Blanc himself now has little to do with the places that still bear his name, luxuriating instead at Le Manoir in Great Milton. For some years, a plethora of mid-market chains serving mediocre meals have dominated the city’s restaurants, making eating out a dull and predictable experience.

Thus, Oxford food yearns for a much needed boost. This is why the recent opening of The Oxford Kitchen may well signal the start of a timely revival of the city’s gastronomic fortunes. (In this context, compare the worldly and sophisticated Oxford with the supposedly more puritanical Cambridge, which now boasts two Michelin starred restaurants.)

The restaurant’s location in Summertown on the Banbury Road, a mile from the city centre, is ideal for both Oxford residents, and close enough to the ring road to attract foodies from further afield. Indeed, the long term aim is to make The Oxford Kitchen both a neighbourhood and destination restaurant. The current site in a shopping parade might seem undistinguished, but we mustn’t forget that in 1977 Raymond Blanc’s original restaurant opened in the parade of shops opposite, between the Oxfam HQ and a lingerie store! As they say, “From small acorns…”

With a seating capacity of 36 downstairs and 55 on the first floor, there is enough space to accommodate the 80 + covers on Saturday nights. This is impressive for a restaurant open for just two months. During the week, ladies who lunch, businessmen and residents from this prosperous northern Oxford suburb, with its Edwardian villas and modern private housing, keep the kitchen busy. Weekends often see families, partly attracted by the new Kids’ menu, helping to fill the restaurant.

The low ceilinged, air conditioned downstairs room has a suitably contemporary edge, with partly bare bricked walls, and wood and stone flooring. High backed brown leather banquettes and a variety of upholstered and plain wooden chairs offer a variety of comfortable seating. Bare tables benefit from wall, pendant and spotlighting, which, thankfully, are not turned down to ridiculously low levels in the evening. The larger upstairs room has a brighter plusher look, with a slightly more formal feel.


Chef John Footman and Manager Tom Wood

Executive Chef John Footman and Head Chef Gerd Greaves are not aiming specifically for Michelin accolades, although their CVs, which include stints at Michelin starred kitchens of Le Manoir, L’Ortolan and The Nut Tree Inn in Murcott, testify to experience of a high order. Rather, their aim is to provide fairly priced fine dining in relaxed surroundings, to a knowledgeable and appreciative clientele.

The brigade of six chefs – which is hoped will be eight in the near future – sharply hone their skills, with no weaknesses in any department of the kitchen. The “modern, innovative” cooking style, with a base of strong classical techniques, highlights aromas, tastes, textures and temperatures in the use of first rate ingredients. Combinations occasionally surprise but are harmonious, with the main ingredient always taking centre stage, enhanced by sauces, purees and the occasional gel. Vegetables are integral to each dish, not mere garnishes. The cooking of meat and fish is accurately timed and well-seasoned, maximising flavour and texture. The clean line presentation on glass, slate or porcelain, in a variety of shapes and sizes, shows a conscious artistry and fine attention to detail.

Although the provenance of regional and seasonal produce is now acknowledged on menus, here it is not taken to the extremes seen elsewhere with every supplier or region, regardless of their pedigree, being listed. Thankfully, only Cornish crab, Cotswold White chicken and Creedy Carver duck are mentioned.

The menu caters both for casual diners and those seeking more sophisticated, fine dining options. The carte is shrewdly limited to five starters, five mains + specials, four “Kitchen classics” from the Josper Grill and five desserts. Here less is more, ensuring that each dish receives thorough attention. Pricing is keen with starters, (“small plates”) ranging from £5.50 to £14, mains from  £15 to £20  and  desserts £5.95 to £7. A plate of artisan cheeses is £8. For those who seriously want unashamed luxury, the £40 WAGYU burger with Cornish lobster salad, triple cooked chips and black truffle mayonnaise provides the ideal choice.

At lunchtimes a set menu for £16.50 for up to three courses, with the option of a glass of house wine instead of a course, is not only flexible and eminently reasonable, but also excellent value for money.

Fine Dining Guide visited on busy Thursday evening, when the lively buzz of contented diners was still evident.

An amuse bouche of velvety smooth, intensely flavoured chicken liver parfait, smoked in Kilner jars at the table,  added a little restaurant theatre at the start of the meal

Three starters followed:

Cornish crab salad featured utterly fresh sweet white meat with the  gentle bitterness of  pink grapefruit.

The Oxford Kitchen

Hand dived scallops were seared to produce a caramelised crust and succulent sweet flesh. They married well with confit belly pork, that meltingly soft piece of porcine indulgence!  To cut the richness, mandarin puree gave a measured acidity.  Puffed up crackling gave crispness and roasted almonds provided a crunchy element to the composition. Served on a dark slate, this dish was also visually stunning.


Best of all was the Duck “Bon Bon” composed of densely packed, well rendered confit of duck in a crumb coating. Pickled pear provided a sweet-and-sour counterpoint, and mini nut clusters gave crunch. Garnished with gingerbread tuiles, this was a brilliantly conceived, attractively presented dish.

The Oxford Kitchen

For main courses, sophisticated comfort food comes no better than ox cheek and mash. Braised for 36 hours to a soft, unctuously melting texture, the meat could be cut with a spoon. Deeply flavoured with the rich wine sauce, reduced before serving to give an even greater intensity, this delectable – and highly fashionable – cut was garnished with baby onions and lardons, both added at the end of cooking to retain their individual identity. Smoked potato puree, of velvety smoothness and decadent richness, completed this highly enjoyable dish.


The cooking of a breast of Creedy Carver duck did full justice to this high quality, free range bird farmed in Devon. Accurately seasoned and well rested, the meat had a gentle gaminess, with the fat rendered to a thin layer under its crisp skin. The bitter sweetness of chicory marmalade was a perfect foil to the richness of the duck. Buttery potato fondant and wilted pak choi proved well-judged accompaniments, adding contrasting colour, texture and flavour. A light duck and vanilla jus brought the components together in a rounded way.


For dessert, Calamansi lime tart had crisp pastry, a bruleed crust and a sharply astringent filling. Elements of deconstruction came with shards of meringue and lime curd. On its own this would have made an excellent dessert, but the addition of coconut sorbet was inspired, giving a cleansing quality it its icy temperature and refreshing taste.


Far richer, but equally accomplished, was the Banana tart tatin. The buttery pastry and thin overlapping layers of fruit played host to a quenelle of rich peanut butter ice cream, slowly melting in the warmth.  Passion fruit jam added a contrasting tangy edge which balanced the overall sweetness of this dessert.


Double expresso and petit fours completed a memorable meal, made even more pleasurable by the relaxed formal service.

Clearly, The Oxford Kitchen has done its homework well, seeing a gap in the market which has existed for some time and which they are eager to fill. It has made an impressive start and has already gained an encouraging degree of support. This is fully justified by the quality of the food coming from the kitchen. Fine Dining Guide will follow The Oxford Kitchen’s progress with interest.

Restaurant Review: Bentley’s, Mayfair, London. Feb 2014

Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Located in Swallow Street, which links Piccadilly and Regent’s Street in the south east corner of Mayfair, Bentley’s combines the elegant refinement of London’s wealthiest district with the vibrant informality of Soho.

In 2005, Michelin starred chef Richard Corrigan rescued this iconic and once celebrated fish restaurant, which originally opened in 1916, from a dramatic decline and almost inevitable closure. Many would now agree that he has restored Bentley’s to its original leading position.

Whilst the ground floor Oyster Bar and Cocktail Bar retain their original features, such as the marble bar and wooden panelling, the first floor Grill and Rib Room have undergone a more thorough refit. The floral patterned William Morris blue fabric wall covering with matching curtains, give a richer, sophisticated, if darker and more masculine feel to the room. This is reinforced by the plain wooden floor, comfortable studded blue leather chairs and decorative piscine prints. Fine napery covers well-spaced tables which are lit by old fashioned wall lights and cleverly directed spotlighting

Not that the more traditional décor and furnishings of the Grill Room dampen the atmosphere which is one of relaxed conviviality and real enjoyment. On a weekday evening in February we were impressed to find the room fully booked, with a lively buzz of contented diners. Or perhaps we should not have been so surprised given the reputation and following Bentley’s has established. The service, which is formal, but not stiff or condescending, contributes to this success. Indeed, we found it courteous, informative and eager to please without being intrusive or ingratiating.

Well known for his championing of impeccably sourced, seasonal British ingredients, Richard Corrigan celebrates them in his extensive menu of modern and traditional dishes. Smoked salmon with blinis, Dover sole meuniere, dressed crab and shellfish bisque  sit alongside more inventive preparations such as  roast quail with Jerusalem  artichoke and white truffle, roast cod with quince, morcilla and calcots and oysters Vietnamese style.  Combinations are sometimes unusual but always harmonious. Tastes and textures are finely balanced. The kitchen shows a range of well-honed skills in the preparation of the raw ingredients, cooking techniques and elegant presentation. Given the relative simplicity of many of the dishes – not a foam, smear or gel in sight –and with nowhere to hide, it is important that the cooking is finely tuned; Bentley’s more than succeeds in this respect.

With up to 60 covers upstairs, another 50 downstairs, not to mention the private dining room  maximum 60) in the basement, the kitchens are kept very busy indeed. In addition to the oysters (three wild natives, four rocks, three hot rocks), langoustines and caviar, the menu structure accommodates a staggering 15 hot and cold starters, three Fish on the bone, six Waters and the Wild, five dishes From the Grill and five Desserts. All this creates an embarrassment of choice for which recommendations from the front of house are gratefully received. The sommelier judiciously matches the dishes with an interesting flight of wines.

Sat the start of our meal, both the breads and canapés gave a good impression, auguring well for the courses to come. Breads, including French baguette and sour dough, prepared on the premises, had a good bake with firm crumb and crisp crusts. The Irish soda bread was particularly accomplished. Two butters – Lincolnshire poacher and anchovy – showed a pleasing attention to detail.

Canapes featured delicate olive straws, richly flavoured duck rillettes and grain mustard feuilletes.  Best of all was a deep fried savoury croquette which produced a veritable taste explosion of melting feta cheese and soft green olive.

Purists might reel in horror at one of our chosen starters. More than confident of the supreme quality of raw oysters, we nevertheless opted for a “Hot Rock.” Oyster tempura had a feather light, crisp batter encasing the warm, succulent bivalve which retained its magical alkaline qualities. The spicy chorizo offset this perfectly, whilst pickled red onions gave contrasting acidity and texture. Presented in their shells, which also provided a base for a well-made  beurre blanc, the whole dish was lifted by an acidulation of lime. The accompanying wine, Gruner Veltliner Satzen 2012Weingut Manfred Felsner Kremstal – Austria, with its spicy and clean acidity, was an excellent match for this dish.

Bentley's Oyster

Tartare of beef featured soft, well-seasoned, superb quality meat, given a well measured kick of horseradish. Raw quail-s egg gave extra richness to bind the beef, whilst toasted sour dough added the texture contrast the dish needed.The medium bodied wine, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Torre del Falasco Veneto, with red fruits and good complexity did full justice to this classic dish.


An escalope of pan seared foie gras had a beautifully caramelised crust and a melting interior. Its richness was cut by slices of lime pickled apple which might prove too acidic for some palates but which we found balanced this luxuriously rich piece of offal perfectly. A chiffonade of sorrel added colour and texture with a muted acidity to this decadent dish.  The sommelier showed her expertise in pairing it with a Jurancon, Clos Uroulat, Charles Hours, 2012, the balance of acidity and sweetness of which acted as a perfect foil.


Two seafood main courses were chosen.

Wild Sea bass was perfectly cooked to retain its deep, clean flavour and moist succulence. The crisp skinned and firm fleshed fillet, garnished with light potato gnocci, was perched on wilted sea lettuce and a fricassee of brown shrimps and wild mushrooms which added a rich, earthy quality. Although it did not need it, the dish was enhanced by the heady fragrance of a generous shaving of black truffle.  Chablis, Billaud-Simon, 2012 with its crisp, mineral qualities and balance of high acidity and rich fruit, proved a highly satisfactory match.


Pan roasted scallops had sweet firm flesh and a golden caramelised crust. Balancing acidity came from blood orange segments, whilst braised salsify, pleasing al dente, gave contrasting texture and flavour. Brown shrimps added an intense shellfish depth of flavour. Finally,  the various elements were brought together by a lively beurre blanc. The elderberry notes, high acidity and long finish of Nosiola Cesconi  2011 Dolomiti Trentino 2012 was another inspired choice of matching wine.


Side dishes of mashed potatoes and buttered spinach with garlic were generous in quantity and well rendered.

Too full to attempt cheese or rich puddings, such as Sticky toffee pudding with oyster stout ice cream or Bentley’s trifle with mascarpone, we opted for a trio of sorbets – Sicilian blood orange, passion fruit and champagne, apple and mint – all of velvety smoothness and intense flavour. Although it is notoriously difficult to match wines with iced desserts, the Royal Tokaji, late harvest, 2011:  had a delightful seam of freshness that proved the exception to the rule.

Overall, our visit to Bentley’s was a highly pleasurable experience, and one we are eager to repeat. Whilst prices are high, they represent excellent value for money given the quality of ingredients and skill of cooking, and are not unreasonable compared with other, less accomplished, restaurants in the West End. No doubt Bentley’s will go from strength to strength under the watchful eye of its ebullient chef patron, whose essential joie de vivre it embodies in its food, wine and service.

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, Richard Corrigan proposes: At Bentley’s 

  • 16th March – Beef and Oyster Club from £45 for four courses and includes a glass of Bellini
  • 17th March – The Feast of St Patrick, the grand finale of St Patrick’s Day. Celebrations will take place in the restaurant, followed by live music and entertainment in The Swallow Rooms hosted by Richard Corrigan himself. A three course lunch including live Irish music. £60 per person.