Archive for August, 2014

Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015: Press Release

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Three restaurants score perfect ten in Good Food Guide in a 15 year first

WaitroseGFG2015webFor the first time in 15 years, three restaurants have scored full marks (10/10), in the Good Food Guide, published by Waitrose and now in its 64th year.

In another first, Clare Smyth, Chef/Proprietor at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay has become the first female chef in fifteen years to be awarded a perfect ten score by the best selling restaurant guide, as it publishes its 2015 ranking of the UK’s Top 50 restaurants on 8th September.

For the second year running, Simon Rogan’s Cumbrian restaurant, L’Enclume, has achieved the top spot. At number two is Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, which has now scored a perfect ten for seven years in a row – longer than any other restaurant since the guide adopted its current scoring system. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay achieved third place with its top score, rising two places from last year.

Elizabeth Carter, Consultant Editor of the Waitrose Good Food Guide, explains what makes Clare Smyth so special: “After a break of a decade, Gordon Ramsay’s Chelsea flagship has once again been awarded a perfect 10. Now the domain of Clare Smyth, with support from what is, without doubt, one of the best front-of-house teams in the UK, this most impressive of London’s premier restaurants is back in that elite club. Further congratulations, too, for Smyth is the first female chef to achieve our top score in 15 years. With her brilliantly artistic, elegant, modern French cooking she perfectly complements the witty, cerebral Fat Duck and the sensual farm-to-table delights of L’Enclume at the pinnacle of our Top 50 list.”

Clare Smyth at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay said: “This is incredible, I’m absolutely overjoyed, we all are. I have personally referenced The Good Food Guide for places to eat for years and value their opinion as it’s the customers’ opinion.

“It makes it so much more significant when you know it’s through customer feedback. Like all restaurants we are one big team and my team here is tremendous, so a huge thank you from every one of us.”

Simon Rogan, head chef at L’Enclume, comments on his success: “We feel so privileged to be at the number one spot for a second year for L’Enclume. The full 10 rating really is a reflection of all the continued focus and improvements we have been undertaking at L’Enclume every single month. The team just keeps on getting stronger and stronger, and we now also have a hugely skilled front-of-house staff who more than match our culinary standards.”

The Good Food Guide’s annual Top 50 restaurant ranking is highly regarded by chefs and restaurant-goers alike, with particular attention paid to those chefs and restaurants who make it into the Top 10. Cornish favourite Restaurant Nathan Outlaw takes the number 4 spot for 2015, followed by Claude Bosi’s Hibiscus, which rises two places from seven to five. Retaining sixth place is man-of-the-moment Jason Atherton with his flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social, followed by Nottingham’s Restaurant Sat Bains at number 7, and Philip Howard’s The Square at number 8. For the first time David Everitt-Matthias appears in the Top 10, with Le Champignon Sauvage taking the ninth position, and Brett Graham’s The Ledbury completing the list.

This year’s Top 10 – cooking Score is between 1 and 10. Last year’s ranking is shown in brackets.

1. L’Enclume, Cumbria. Cooking score 10. (1st)

2. The Fat Duck, Berkshire. Cooking score 10. (2nd)

3. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London. Cooking score 10. (5th)

4. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cornwall. Cooking score 9. (3rd)

5. Hibiscus, London. Cooking score 9. (7th)

6. Pollen Street Social, London. Cooking score 9. (6th)

7. Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottinghamshire. Cooking score 9. (4th)

8. The Square, London. Cooking score 8. (8th)

9. Le Champignon Sauvage, Gloucestershire. Cooking score 8. (11th)

10. The Ledbury, London. Cooking score 8. (9th)

Fifteen year flashback – the 10/10 scorers in 1999

  • Nico Ladenis, Chez Nico
  • Oak Room Marco Pierre White
  • Gunn Eriksen, Altnaharrie Inn


Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015, Top 50 UK restaurants

1. L’Enclume, Cumbria (10)

2. The Fat Duck, Berkshire (10)

3. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London (10)

4. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cornwall (9)

5. Hibiscus, London (9)

6. Pollen Street Social, London (9)

7. Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottinghamshire (9)

8. The Square, London (8)

9. Le Champignon Sauvage, Gloucestershire (8)

10. The Ledbury, London (8)

11. Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Tayside (8)

12. Midsummer House, Cambridgeshire (8)

13. Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire (8)

14. The French, Manchester (8)

15. Le Gavroche, London (8)

16. Whatley Manor, The Dining Room, Wiltshire (8)

17. Fraiche, Merseyside (8)

18. André Garrett at Cliveden, Berkshire (7)

19. Fera at Claridges, London (7)

20. Marcus, London (7)

21. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London (7)

22. The Kitchin, Edinburgh (7)

23. The Waterside Inn, Berkshire (7)

24. Pied-à-Terre, London (7)

25. Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London (7)

26. Michael Wignall at the Latymer, Surrey (7)

27. Restaurant Martin Wishart, Edinburgh (7)

28. Artichoke, Buckinghamshire (7)

29. Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Derbyshire (7)

30. Restaurant James Sommerin, Glamorgan (7)

31. The Peat Inn, Fife (7)

32. Murano, London (7)

33. Paul Ainsworth at No. 6, Cornwall (7)

34. Gidleigh Park, Devon (7)

35. Hedone, London (7)

36. Hambleton Hall, Rutland (7)

37. Restaurant Story, London (7)

38. The Pass, West Sussex (7)

39. Casamia, Bristol (7)

40. Ynyshir Hall, Powys (7)

41. Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire (7)

42. Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, London (6)

43. The Hand & Flowers, Buckinghamshire (6)

44. Yorke Arms, Ramsgill, Yorkshire (6)

45. Paris House, Bedfordshire (6)

46. Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor, Cheshire (6)

47. The Raby Hunt, Durham (6)

48. Chiltern Firehouse, London (6)

49. Northcote, Lancashire (6)

50. The Clove Club, London (6)

Interview: Raphaël Rodriguez, Fera at Claridges (Aug 2014)

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Raphael Rodriguez

Raphaël Rodriguez began life surrounded by vines, living at home with parents who happened to have a cellar and who enjoyed an appreciation of wine.  The young Raphaël was, however, fascinated by planes which led to time spent in the French Air Force.  After a pause and an epiphany, Raphael retrained as a Sommelier.  Now at Fera at Claridges, with time previously invested at Tom Aikens and Sketch, Raphaël discusses all things wine in this interview with Simon Carter of fine dining guide.  Interview took place at Fera at Claridges during July 2014.

Tell us some background about yourself.

I am from the Southern Rhone area, vines were around me when I was growing up and my father was something of a connoisseur – we had a cellar at home.  In spite of this I studied electronics and aeronautics as I was fascinated by planes and spent five years working in the French Air Force!

I took a break and came to London and worked as a commis sommelier at Isola restaurant in Knightsbridge.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I went back to study for the Sommelier-Conseil diploma at the wine university of Suze-La-Rousse in France.  After a brief sommelier job in France I returned to London and worked as sommelier at top end restaurants like The Square, Sketch and at Tom Aikens.

What are your current roles and responsibilities ?

My position at Fera at Claridges is officially restaurant manager and wine buyer, working under a restaurant director. There is a very strong hierarchical team in place where everybody knows their role and performs well and with passion.

I am also proud of the bar at Fera at Claridges, where for example, there is a selection of gins from London based micro distilleries and beers from independent London breweries.

What type of training is involved in becoming a leading Sommelier?

Certainly the studying, reading and learning are important as the knowledge gives you a base but tasting, experiencing and having the right personality (with passion) is vital.  Going on site to meet the wine makers, getting to know them, tasting their wine and seeing with their eyes.

You must also have a thirst, so to speak, for continuously taking on board knowledge – the wine world is constantly changing and evolving and the sommelier must mirror those changes in their craft.

Naturally experience is crucial and spending countless hours on the floor of top end restaurants: As with any job, a sommelier will be inspired by the people around them in their place of work – I have been very fortunate to have had a great mentor like Fred Brugues at Sketch in London.  In addition, looking up to someone like the food and wine writer Andrew Jefford who has the great qualities of knowledge and humility which inspire people.

Learning to read the guest is a critical piece of the jigsaw – are they regulars, a business customer, or a wine fanatic?  Do they want much interaction or little interaction?  Not only assessing these matters but also finding the balance between relationship (imparting and sharing knowledge) and selling.  Areas of this nature develop as an instinct which only comes through experience of time on the floor.

Perhaps the final part of becoming a leading sommelier is in appreciating and developing the theatre of the role – how you move on the floor, how you pour a glass of wine, how you decant.  Every element of the position is like performing meticulously on a stage, in an interactive play.

How would you describe the Fera at Claridges Cellar in terms of size, quality and diversity?

The legacy of the existing cellar at Claridges provided a strong foundation, allowing us to start with over a 600 bin wine list.  We hope to expand that to around 1000 but must bear in mind the physical restrictions of storage that come into play.

The buying power of an institution like Claridges is exciting for us and will continue to provide excellent opportunities.  We have an eclectic international wine list mixed with a good balance of old world.

For many years, the British culture has been sourcing wines from all over Europe and indeed all over the world.  You just have to look in wine shops today to see the diversity of choice available to the consumer.  Fera at Claridges is a British restaurant and as such will reflect the culture. To an extent this also means bringing in more British wine of the right type and quality.

In line with the ethos of Simon Rogan the focus is on smaller production, artisan products, with producers who really care about the wine and who explore the terroir.  This may involve underrated appellations and native/indigenous grape varieties.  We like to think of those wines that have ’a sense of place’!  Wines that have a story to tell and move you in a certain way.  Even in classical regions we will look for special wines with this ‘sense of place’ perhaps from a small artisan producer or family orientated business!

How do you go about sourcing?

We work with fifteen different wine suppliers, which is rapidly heading up to nearer twenty.  As the restaurant is still fairly new it is still a work in progress.  Most suppliers are small specialist companies that you get to know well and they too get to know the wines you will like to take on board.

How do you go about food and wine matching?

Simon’s (Rogan) food is largely about tasting menus.  So each time there are new dishes I will sit down with Dan Cox (Executive Head Chef) and we find wines that match the dishes.  An important factor is natural acidity to balance Simon Rogan’s style of food: There is a lot of fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs and the right wine will naturally lift and balance the food.

We try to be diverse in origin and grape variety and take people on something of a wine tour!

How should a customer go about maximising the relationship with a Sommelier?

The most important thing is to interact with the sommelier.  The old fashioned idea that the sommelier is there to hit your purse is not true.  The passion for the subject and the accrued knowledge is there at the disposal of the guest.

So give the sommelier an indication of what you like and don’t be afraid to discuss budget.  With a little guidance to the sommelier the likely response will be to perhaps surprise with something special that you may never have otherwise tried.  The satisfaction of the sommelier is dependent on the feeling of having added value to the customer.  So the more the two interact the more likely both parties are to be happy in the experience.

No doubt to some it is still intimidating to talk to a sommelier but in no way is the sommelier there to judge someone on their level (or lack of) wine knowledge but more to impart some of their understanding and passion.  Maybe if the customer points to two bottles on the list at top and bottom of their price range and says “this is what I like now surprise me” then that customer will get quality, value, fun and enjoyment from the relationship with the sommelier.

How do you go about pricing, determining mark ups?

We follow a company policy in determining price but the customer should know that in sourcing carefully the underrated appellations and native/indigenous grape varieties we deliver quality and value.

Silversea’s Relais & Chateaux Lunch: Michael Caines Presiding

Posted on: August 25th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


For those with a passion for the Art De Vivre and Haute Cuisine, few occasions could match the gala lunch held on 4th August 2014 to celebrate jointly the 20th anniversary of Silversea and the 60th anniversary of Relais & Chateaux. These Rolls Royce brands in their respective markets of ultra-luxury cruising and high end hotels and gourmet restaurants have enjoyed a reputation for quality and service that is second to none.

With a host of accolades including Best Cruise Line, granted twice by The Guardian and The Observer Travel Awards, and Best Luxury Cruise Provider from Travel Bulletin Star Awards (5 times), Silversea Cruises, with its intimate, all suite vessels, combines “large ship amenities…with an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance.”

Its fleet now comprises five classic and three expeditionary ships, with itineraries embracing all seven continents, including the polar regions, with over 450 destinations.

In a press briefing, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, Chairman of  Silversea, commented on the expansion in cruising which is no longer viewed purely as the ideal retirement holiday. The average age of guests has fallen from 60 to 47, with all age groups viewing cruising as very good value for money. In the light of these factors, together with Silversea’s continued success, plans for a new classic vessel are in their initial stages.

At the same briefing Jean-François Ferret, CEO of Relais & Châteaux, spoke of its shared values and increasing partnership with Silversea, including restaurants, cookery lessons, and chef invitation programmes.  Avoiding the terms “luxury” and “expensive,” which fail to do justice to the Relais &Chateaux experience, he stressed instead the “authenticity… unique moments.. …and  exceptional harmony” in accommodation and fine dining.   Certainly, with 320 Michelin stars to be found in the 500 establishments located across 60 countries, the gastronomic credentials of Relais & Chateaux are beyond doubt. Moreover, the collaboration with Silversea offers an unparalleled opportunity to complete R & C innovative collection of Routes du Bonheur itineraries by sea.

Sharing the same target clientele, the partnership of land and sea brands is manifest in the Collection du Monde, signature dishes of the Grands Chefs – the finest across the world honoured by Relais &Chateaux – served in the main dining rooms across the Silversea’s fleet. Uniquely, a separate Relais & Châteaux restaurant, Le Champagne, is also to be found on each ship. In this alternative dining venue, seasonally inspired, carefully sourced dishes, flavoured to reflect the voyages’ destinations, are served to discerning guests.


The setting for the gala lunch was the Silver Cloud, the first ship in the Silversea fleet. Moored alongside HMS Belfast, next to Tower Bridge, with the towering pinnacle of the Shard in the background, guests were ferried across the Thames from Tower Pier, accessing the cruise liner via the Second World War battleship. They were given a tour of the accommodation and public areas of the vessel, which even twenty years ago represented the height of ultra-luxurious cruising, before a champagne reception followed by an exceptional lunch. This was prepared by double Michelin starred and Grand Chef Michael Caines, MBE, Executive Chef of Gidleigh Park in Devon, and Rudi Scholdis, Culinary Director of Silversea cruises. Both welcomed guests with short impromptu speeches.

On a hot summer’s day, chilled Gazpacho proved an ideal first course. Served in a martini glass – just the right amount for a starter – this light, intensely flavoured and highly refreshing soup was lifted by a judicious addition of basil oil, which accentuated the marriage of tomato with the fragrant herb. Tiny cucumber balls enlivened this Spanish classic with a crisp, contrasting texture.

A warm salad of native lobster was perfectly timed to retain the inherent sweet and succulent qualities of the shellfish.  A dressing of cardamom, lime and mango vinaigrette was well balanced, showing consummate skill in the use of spicing. This was also seen in the curried mayonnaise which, in less judicious hands, could easily have overpowered the whole dish. A light bodied Pinot Grigio del Venezie 2013, soft and light on the palate, with its tropical fruit notes was a good match for this luxurious but light salad.


The main course of Dartmoor beef comprised a medium rare fillet paired with a slow cooked, meltingly unctuous cheek. The differing textures and flavours of these cuts complemented each other perfectly, providing a real celebration of first rate regional produce. Celeriac puree, horseradish confit and wild mushrooms, added rich, earthy elements, whilst a deeply flavoured but not over-reduced red wine sauce brought these harmonious components together. The medium bodied Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2011tasting of redcurrant, cherry and spicy oak, was both easy to drink and complex, making it an ideal match with the beef.

SS beef

Finally, a visually stunning assiette of raspberry desserts showed all the skills expected of a kitchen at this level. A creamy, delicate mousse of ethereal lightness was topped with an intense miroir gel which balanced sweetness and acidity in equal measure. A crisp macaroon and a velvety smooth quenelle of raspberry sorbet gave contrasting textures and temperatures, with garnishes of pistachio cream nodules and crushed nuts completing this tour de force of dessert.

SS raspberry

Good coffee and petits fours completed this memorable meal, worthy of the occasion and a testament to the unimpeachable skills and creativity of the chefs. Fine Dining Guide was delighted and privileged to be invited to this prestigious event and is confident both organisations will move from strength to strength, celebrating major joint anniversaries in years to come

Restaurant Review: Story, London (August 2014)

Posted on: August 25th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

It’s all about the food at Restaurant Story. It has been ever since it opened over a year ago under the watchful eye of chef Tom Sellers. Attracting reviews at either end of the gastronomic spectrum, it is a restaurant that one simply cannot ignore.


It’s certainly not about the location. Situated just south of Tower Bridge, in a narrow space between Tooley and Druid Streets, two noisy and busy carriageways, it is easily missed by taxi drivers, even when stationary at the traffic lights with Tower Bridge Road.

Nor is it about the design. This single story building, costing an amazing £2,000,000 and on a site of a Victorian public loo, has a slatted wood and glass frontage, modest entrance and a tiny name plaque. This understatement is not unique, but it lacks the attraction of some of its nearby competitors housed in converted warehouses with river frontages oozing industrial chic. The well lit Scandinavian style interior, with its partially open kitchen behind a glass screen, well-spaced wooden tables, leather backed chairs , spotlighting and lanterns, is not displeasing, but nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, there are few distractions if the view of the Shard from the floor to ceiling glass wall is ignored.


So it’s all about the food. And what food it is! Having opened Restaurant Story at the relatively young age of 26, Tom Sellers displays an ambitious, inexhaustible creativity.  At the cutting edge of the gastronomy, his CV includes stints at Per Se, Noma, Trinity and Tom Aiken, the last being where he really cut his teeth. This varied experience has produced a veritable cornucopia of dishes reflecting the influence of his mentors but indisputably bearing his unique stamp. Behind the snazzy modern techniques, novel combinations, whacky descriptors and playful interpretations there lies a culinary intelligence which respects the seasons and ingredients, blossoming into dishes which reveal precise execution, minute attention to detail, exquisite presentation, clean tastes and harmonious textures. Mercifully, foraged ingredients play a relatively minor role in the repertoire.

The brigade of 11 young chefs produces two tasting menus – 6 courses for £65, 10 for £85. There is also a set lunch at £35. Given the number of pre course “snacks”, the labour intensity of preparation and the quality of ingredients, all these represent very good value for money. The multiplicity of courses requires the front of house team to be both efficient and knowledgeable. In this capacity, the mainly young team had been well trained and briefed in detail on the dishes. They coped admirably with a demanding service.

The wine list of just over 200 bottles, with prices ranging from the mid £20s to £700 pays homage to the classics, especially big red, without ignoring the New World.

Fine Dining Guide visited Restaurant Story on a busy weekday lunch, finding much to admire in the food offered.

No chef takes as much care over its amuse bouches, here called “snacks” as Tom Sellers. Both in quantity and quality these visually stunning mouthfuls made an impressive start to this culinary adventure.

Crispy cod skin, almost a sine qua non of Scandinavian menus, came on crisp bread with piped dots of gently smoked cod roe emulsion, frilly carrot tops and a dressing of gin botanicals (juniper) which gave a herbal lift to the dish.

A “snack” of orange Nasturtium flowers with oyster sabayon was an inspired lively combination of produce from earth and sea.

An elegant study in green and black saw impeccably fresh English peas, with their slight nuttiness, alternated with piped dots of fragrant truffle mayonnaise. These sweet and earthy flavours complemented each other well.

In a playful savoury interpretation of a popular American confection,   Storeo biscuits comprised squid ink wafers dusted with vinegar powder sandwiching smoked eel mousse. Meltingly soft, this imaginative dish scored more on texture and presentation than on flavour.

Story Snacks Part I

Razor clam, crispy barley and champagne “snow” proved a veritable mini explosion of temperatures, textures and tastes.

Rabbit sandwich, packed with flavoursome leg meat, had a stuffing of tarragon cream and a dressing of paper thin slices of three different carrots pickled with bergamot. These aniseed and citrus notes enhanced the mild gaminess of the meat.

Tiny, crisp sweetcorn beignets worked well both in flavour and texture with a creamy buttermilk emulsion.

Story Snacks Part II

Of the ten courses proper, Bread and Dripping, which has become Tom Seller’s signature, was truly original in conception and execution. The edible candle, lit at the table and left ot burn, left a rich pool of beef dripping in the base of the candlestick, providing a dip for the dense rye sourdough. The warm bread, presented in a leather pouch, arrived with a bowl of finely cubed veal tongue, jellied chicken consommé, celery and pickled horseradish which proved an earthy mix of strong and piquant flavours and soft, fatty textures. What a bold statement to start the succession of main dishes!


Onion, apple and old Tom, saw baby Roscoff onions cooked in three contrasting ways:  caramelised to bitter sweetness, braised to a melting softness in stout, and crisped to wafer thinness. Decorated with chickweed, which it did not need, the dish was completed with a dressing of apple consommé flavoured with Old Tom gin and lemon thyme. Again, all the flavours and textures were carefully judged to produce a fragrant, well balanced dish.

Heritage potato, peas, broad beans and coal was another star vegetarian dish. Pureed to a velvety smooth puree, this rich dish probably had at least equal amounts of butter and vegetable, although the potato flavour shone through. Topped with hollandaise made with sharp dandelion vinegar, and balanced by a signature anointment of oil infused with hot coal, these dressings complemented rather than overwhelmed the sweet and nutty qualities of the potato. Fresh peas and broad beans provided an appropriate seasonal garnish.


Tale of a quail was a composite dish served in three stages. First came a sparkling clear, fully flavoured consommé. Next, served in a casserole lined with hay and heather, was a trio comprising soft boiled eggs, legs coated in a barbeque sauce and a kebab of the liver, heart and thigh. As if this was not enough, we were surprised by a final serving of the breast paired with corn puree. The sheer playful inventiveness of this dish, coupled with the precise timing of cooking which did full justice to each of the components, elevated this usually dull game bird into a spectacular, mouth-watering dish. It did, indeed, tell the “story” of its habitat, food and culinary preparation.


Raw beef, apple and summer truffle was a preparation that had the least cooking but most in terms of levels of flavour. A hollowed out apple encased layers of truffle mayonnaise covered with creamy, well flavoured beef tartare. This was mixed with tiny cubes of apple which cut through the richness, and crisp bacon which added flavour and texture. These in turn were topped with apple jelly, rye grains and grated white truffle. This luxurious element, which commanded a hefty supplement, was not an expensive superfluous flourish but an essential element, totally integrated into the composition, adding a heady fragrance which lifted the other elements. The choice of apple, with its balanced sweetness and acidity, neither of which overwhelmed the beef, also contributed to the success of this simply presented but wonderfully flavoured dish.


Lamb, grilled salad and sheep’s yogurt, as with the quail dish, showed the deft use of various parts of the animal. These comprised a strip of loin, cooked to a blushing pink which captured its tender, succulent qualities, crisp skinned, slow cooked belly – surely the most under rated parts of the animal – and a ballotine of head cheese. The richness of these elements was cut by the grilled salad and sheep’s yogurt, the latter piped alternately with an intense lemon balm puree which complemented the lamb well.


A platter of artisan cheeses, all in perfect condition, included Cornish Blue, Langres, and St Nicholas.  Damson jelly, melba fruit and  mini white loaf loaves were appropriate accompaniments.

Four desserts showed the same levels of skill, precision and creativity as the preceding courses. Fruit paired and dairy products or herbs reflect a Nordic influence, whilst ice creams and sorbets are a particular strength, revealing intensity of flavour, silky smoothness of texture, and dexterity in being shaped into perfect quenelles.

English strawberry, camomile and sweet cicely, matched ripe fruit, jelly and sorbet with traditional herbs judiciously used as garnishes. Another dessert with a more familiar combination of flavours comprised a “soil” of dark chocolate, an intense cassis sorbet, and wild berries covered in “snow” of buttermilk. A “snow,” this time of white chocolate, also garnished an accurately set lemon parfait and milk ice cream. Perhaps best of all was Almond and dill, which saw well flavoured almond ice cream, almond crumble and flaked almonds, set against a vibrantly coloured dill “snow”, dill oil and violet flowers. The subtle milky and strong herbal flavours, along with the stunning presentation, made for a memorably refined dessert.


Good coffee and even more food – raspberry coulis and rose meringue teacakes – completed this remarkable culinary journey.

This was a meal which was the result of painstakingly skilled preparation, artistic presentation and gastronomic vision. Clearly, Tom Sellers is a chef who doesn’t do things by halves, his food revealing a depth and breadth of creativity tempered with a realistic sense in extending the frontiers of contemporary cuisine. Having achieved a Michelin star in less than a year, with high marks in the other major guides, one senses that he has far more to give, that he has not reached the height of his powers. The Michelin Guide comes out at the end of September 2014, and Fine Dining Guide will watch his progress with eager anticipation.

Hotel Review: Tudor Farmhouse Hotel, (Aug 2014)

Posted on: August 13th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


For those who seek the peace and tranquillity of the countryside combined with stylish accommodation, gastronomic dining and unstuffy service, a stay at Tudor Farmhouse Hotel in Clearwell, in heart of the Royal Forest of Dean, is hard to beat. Husband and wife team Colin and Hari Fell have spent 11 years lovingly converting this once working farm come bed and breakfast into a delightful rural escape. Now, with 25 full and part time staff servicing 21 bedrooms, two suites and a critically acclaimed restaurant, they maintain a hands-on approach to all aspects of the hotel. Their clear vision, sustained enthusiasm and attention to detail, as shown, for instance, in their sharing of duty shifts and their design of new rooms, are impressive. That they had no previous experience in the hospitality industry makes their achievement, recognised in the AA and Good Hotel Guides, Alastair Sawdays Special Places to Stay, and numerous other publications, all the more remarkable. One of their most recent accolades is Winner of the Hotel of the Year 2013 – Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards

Hari & Colin Fell

Husband and Wife Team, Hari and Colin Fell


This does not mean they are content to rest on their laurels. Encouraged by return bookings, many from London and the South East – just two and a half hours’ drive away – and an increase in international visitors, plans are afoot for more changes which will improve the quality whilst actually decreasing total guest accommodation from 23 to 20. Overall, the aim is to encourage stays for two to three night stays so guests can appreciate fully what Tudor Farmhouse and its surroundings in the Wye Valley have to offer. The latter includes numerous walks – including the 14 acres of the hotel’s land – foraging, which can be arranged with a local expert, cycling, or visiting historic monuments such as Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle (the last two within easy driving distance of Clearwell)

Colin Fell describes Tudor Farmhouse as a “former working farm with a sense of place.” Indeed, its three distinct accommodation blocks – the farmhouse, cider house and barn – do not fit the stereotypical country house hotel plan but nevertheless add to its character. The gabled stone façade, slate roof and mullioned windows of the farmhouse and cider house reflect their 16th century origins. Inside, the low oak beamed ceilings, exposed stone walls, flagstone flooring and inglenook fireplaces add to the romantic, unspoilt charm. Not that modern comfort and convenience have been sacrificed.


The modern, well-lit conservatory with its upholstered wicker armchairs, and the darker, cosy lounge, cool in summer, warm with its roaring fire in winter, are peaceful places to relax. Both dining rooms, with their well-spaced tables and leather upholstered chairs, are attractive place to eat. In good weather, such as the day I visited, meals and drinks taken at shaded tables in the delightful garden with its trickling water feature is a popular alternative.

Tudor House Hotel, Clearwell, Gloucestershire.

The sympathetic conversion of the listed farm buildings, combining  traditional with contemporary features, is seen at its best in the Loft suite where I stayed.  Comprising the upper floor of one wing of the original cider house, it was designed by the owners employing sustainable oak for its magnificent vaulted roof. Its own steps and entrance beneath a gabled frontage led to a large bedroom with sitting area, the décor in soft pastel shades of cream and green which was particularly pleasing. Lit partly by skylights opening from the sloping ceiling, the room had a light, airy feel. The finest materials had been  employed in the furniture and fittings, notably the supremely comfortable bed, the wooden bedside tales and lamps, the dressing table / desk, the two seater settee upholstered in wool and the stylish Roman blinds. Even the sisal matting worked well with the other natural materials. Modern conveniences and attention to detail were seen the large flat screen television, Ipod station, nespresso coffee maker and a refrigerator containing fresh milk.

Tudor House Hotel, Clearwell, Gloucestershire.

However, taking centre stage behind the wide double doors leading to the wooden floored bathroom was the roll top, claw foot bath. Luxuriating in this before dinner was a relaxingly indulgent experience. Behind a Perspex partition, a walk in monsoon shower provided the more contemporary facility, ideal for a stimulating wake up before breakfast. Designer toiletries and fluffy towels and bathrobe added to the decadent enjoyment!

Tudor House Hotel, Clearwell, Gloucestershire.

All this would count for little if the service was not up to scratch. At Tudor Farmhouse it was welcoming, helpful and relaxed, immediately putting visitors at their ease. Check in, very much a headache in many hotels, was seamless – I was shown to my room within five minutes without labourious form filling. Service at dinner and breakfast was engaging and informative, the cheerful young staff clearly enjoying their roles. The personal but unobtrusive touches made one feel special, this approach doubtless encouraging repeat custom as guests feel “home from home.”

Overall a stay at Tudor Farmhouse, which included smoked salmon with soft and creamy scrambled eggs  – from the hotel’s own chickens – and a variety of local fruit juices for breakfast – was a real joy. From beginning to end the accommodation, service and cuisine enhanced the inherent beauty and romantic feel of this gem of a rural retreat. Fine Dining Guide will certainly return, confident in the knowledge that it will go from strength to strength in making the guest’s experience truly memorable.

Restaurant Review: Tudor Farmhouse (Aug 2014)

Posted on: August 13th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
Head Chef Martin Adams

Head Chef Martin Adams


Overseeing the brigade of three in the kitchen is head chef Martin Adams. Surprisingly relaxed after a busy evening’s service, he was kind enough to spare the time to chat about his career. This has included working with Michelin starred chefs Nathan Outlaw and Chris Eden and in the kitchens of big hotels including the Bristol Swallow, followed by the Fowey and Carylon Bay hotels in Cornwall. His present position, although in a much smaller establishment, nevertheless gives him a free rein in developing his style of cooking, which he describes as “modern English with a “fresh, exciting” feel.

With minimum of gadgetry and a preference for the classical techniques in which he was trained, his seasonally changing menu is executed with an “eye for presentation” and “solid skills.” These qualities, which include accuracy in timing, harmonious combination of ingredients with well-considered balance of tastes, textures and temperatures, were commended on Masterchef the Professionals, where he reached the quarter finals in 2012. More importantly, his cooking has gained Tudor Farmhouse two AA rosettes, inclusion in the Michelin and Good Hotel Guides, and Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay. In 2013 it was winner of the Hotel of the Year in Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards and has been listed in the Tatler Restaurant Guide, 2014.

Regionality and seasonality are particular important in Martin’s food philosophy. Most of the produce is sourced within a radius of 20 miles. For instance, poultry comes from Madgetts Farm overlooking the Wye Valley and game and venison from Lyndley Park, just three miles away. Even fruit juices, cider, real ale and local wines are supplied by dealers in Ross on Wye, Monmouth and Tintern respectively. Foraged produce comes from Raoul van den Broucke a “local legend” based in Monmouth. The hotel’s own kitchen garden has expanded, giving more immediate supplies, although Martin’s love of seafood cookery, nurtured in his time in Cornwall, means fish and shellfish are inevitably sourced from that more distant county. On his current menu, skate is a best seller. (see food review )

The a la carte menu of six starters, (£7-£9), mains, (£14-£22) and desserts, including a cheese option, (£8-10) presents a generous choice not usually encountered in smaller country house hotels. This is supplemented by daily specials and a six course tasting menu (£60), with an option flight of wines, (£30).Considering the impeccable quality of the produce and the skills employed in cooking, these prices are realistic and fair. Portions are large by dainty London appetites, if not for local ones, and menu descriptions are detailed but still understated, giving an element of surprise when dishes arrive. Occasionally this generosity of spirit can lead to busy plates. Foraged herbs and leaves together with edible flower petals are used in moderation as garnishes.

The wine list impresses in terms of range – a combination of Old and New Worlds supplemented with British artisan producers – and price, where mark ups are reasonable. There is also a good selection by the glass and carafe. Useful notes, including those on a special list of Pinot Noir, show a deep and passionate interest. Not that other beverages are neglected, as shown in the list of local beers and ciders and the specialist tea menu.

Unable to decide from the embarrassment of choice, I opted for the logical option – the tasting menu with wines. This would also show the breadth and depth of Martin Adam’s repertoire.

The two types of bread were baked well: the crisp white roll had a light, fluffy crumb whilst the country style bread was fuller flavoured with a denser texture.

An amuse bouche of duck and black pudding fritter, crumbed and deep fried, was rich and succulent. This was a clever use of the leg meat which worked well with earthy black pudding. Melon chutney gave the required touch of moist sweetness.

The first dish comprised freshly cooked crab cakes, bursting with the rich full flavour of brown meat – so often ignored by chefs – and given a herby lift with a generous addition of coriander. Balancing this was a quenelle of crab salad, featuring the delicate flakes of sweet white meat, which provided a good contrast of flavour, texture and temperature. A dressing of sweetcorn and chilli jam which added sweetness and lively heat, brought the elements of this visually stunning dish together. The crisp white – Royal Tokaji Dry Furmit 2011 – with rich honey notes and plenty of acidity did full justice to the seafood.

Tudor crab cakes

The next dish of rabbit fritter – Martin seems to be like this way of preparation – was hot, well-seasoned and with a spicy kick.  A kebab of loin was soft and melting, not overcooked as is so easily done with rabbit. Whilst the garlic aioli might have been a little thicker, it did not lack flavour. The bitterness of curly endive leaves was balanced by the astringency of tiny pickled peppers which was the surprise element of the dish. The gently oaked matching red wine – Pinot Noir, Esterhazy 2011  –  with its strawberry and cherry scent, was a well- judged pairing.


Poached skate with beurre noisette was a classic dish given a new twist. The precisely timed wing had been perfectly cooked and deboned, the delicate flesh rolled and perched on soft, buttery crushed new potatoes. Accompaniments of smoked cockles, confit celery and crisp sea vegetables including samphire added flavour and texture, with extra richness given by a herb butter. Carrot puree added sweetness and colour, but was not needed to make this a successful dish. Here was a fish course that worked well with red wine – the same light Pinot Noir


Pan fried duck breast, timed to a blushing pink, had crisp skin, well rendered fat and moist flesh. The leg meat was combined in a crisp spring roll, whilst the overall richness was cut by caramelised pineapple. Sweet potato fondant proved a meltingly delicious accompaniment, wilted bok choi added freshness, cashews and burnt coconut added crunch, and a light jus rounded off the composition. This dish of strong flavours deserved an equally bold wine: the Chianti Classico ( Isole e Olena) 2010, with its tobacco and spice notes, fitted the bill perfectly.

Given the vogue for deconstructing desserts, it was pleasing to be served lemon meringue pie which had not been taken apart as to be unrecognisable. This frozen version, with piped nodules of crisp meringue on top of a tangy lemon filling, was enhanced by a even sharper lime curd. A raspberry sorbet of velvety smoothness and intense flavour, and a dusting of orange sherbet completed this refined dessert. The citrus spiked Australian Riesling proved a refreshing wine match.

In true British fashion cheeses came after dessert. A selection of goat’s, hard and blue, all in the perfect condition and sourced from artisan producers, came with a lively tomato chutney, savoury biscuits, celery, apple and a glass of rich ruby port.

Tudor cheese

Double expresso and petit fours – fudge and chocolate truffle cups – completed a memorable meal, made even more enjoyable by the welcoming, efficient service of Manager Laura Adams, cheerfully and knowledgeably assisted by Georgina Parker.

Overall, Martin Adams and his team have created an accomplished fine dining restaurant, a real foodie destination of which they can be justifiably proud, and fully deserving of the accolades already heaped on it. And yet one feels this is a chef who has still not reached the peak of his powers, whose potential augurs well for the future. Fine Dining Guide will watch his career with interest.