Archive for October, 2015

Restaurant Review: Marwell Hotel, Hants (Oct 2015)

Posted on: October 22nd, 2015 by Simon Carter


If you go down to the zoo today you’re in for a big surprise! Marwell Zoo that is, or more precisely, the adjacent Marwell Hotel where Phil Yeomans is cooking.  During our visit, Phil Yeomans emerged from the kitchen looking a young 36 years. The hard work, long hours and stress had not carved his face with premature age lines. After a particularly active summer with busy services in the restaurant and an average of two weddings a week, one might expect him to look drained and exhausted.  Instead he exudes a healthy glow, masking his enthusiasm under a self-effacing, mild mannered and softly spoken persona.

MarwellPhilYeomanswebAs our conversation progressed, it became clear that the freedom as Executive Chef had reignited his passion for food. Time off before starting at Marwell also allowed him to spend more time with his family, giving a work-life balance so rarely encountered in this pressurised industry.  Phil’s impressive CV includes experience in some of London’s top kitchens, spells in the USA and Bermuda, and eight years at Lainston House where his food achieved critical acclaim, including  three AA rosettes and 5/10 in the Good Food Guide.

In 2014 Phil accepted an offer he couldn’t refuse from the Bastion Brothers, owners of Marwell Hotel. As Executive Chef, his brief was to transform the Zavanna dining room from one serving adequate but unexciting food, eaten in somewhat soulless, functional surroundings, and delivered with perfunctory service into a fine dining restaurant staffed by a strong brigade in the kitchen and a more professional front of house team.

Such an ambitious project, with huge potential, has been challenging but highly rewarding. Progress was ahead of schedule so that within his first year the kitchen has been redesigned – always a chef’s dream and an essential prerequisite for gastronomic success. This also enabled Phil to offer a tasting menu beyond the normal three course carte.  A team of ten chefs, including two colleagues who followed him to Marwell, has been established.

As Phil says, “Unusually, the back of the house has been done before the front of the house.” The arrival of a good pastry chef will enhance that part of the offering, whilst he is able to train his mainly young team to master the basic skills which can be so lacking amongst aspiring chefs joining the profession – before progressing to more demanding techniques.

With major investment at every stage of the process, including refurbishment in some of the hotel’s rooms, it is hoped to launch a new look dining room, with its high pitched roof, by Easter 2016.

Phil appreciates the importance of building a strong front of house team, capable of liaising effectively with both kitchen and diners.  This is his next priority. The downfall of many otherwise good restaurants, diners are more likely not to return if they suffer poor service than disappointing food.  On the gastronomic front, Phil deserves more exposure, although he prefers to wait until the project is complete before inviting full media coverage.

Nevertheless, his cooking has already been well received and is certainly attracting much local attention, with the restaurant averaging 50-60 covers mid-week and 70 at weekends. One important reason for this is its lack of pretension.  Although elements of experimental/molecular technique are evident, these are now used in moderation and where used are integral to the success of the dish rather than mere garnishes. Many dishes are now stripped back, employing classical techniques to maximise clarity of flavour and balance of texture.  The apparent simplicity of dishes, making them more accessible to the diner, belies the creativity, flair and technical skill in their conception and execution. Happily, the presentation still features clean lines with a conscious sense of artistry.

The menu, which changes frequently, uses local ingredients wherever possible, sourced from the same suppliers he used previously. As a leading member of Hampshire Food Fair and Farmers’ Market – the largest in England – Phil is passionate about the sourcing of high quality regional produce. Dishes might include ingredients like squid and rabbit, commonly used in the capital but seen less frequently elsewhere. Here is a modest attempt to expand the conservative tastes of some of his provincial diners.

Fundamentally however, his aim is to “offer simple, good value food at a good price” in relaxed and unintimidating surroundings. Whilst this underplays the complexity of his dishes, his success in attracting custom is clearly evident.
The very fair pricing is another bonus. The carte, offering a choice of five starters, mains and desserts is £24.50 for two courses, £32 for three, whilst the five course Tasting Menu (seven including amuse and pre dessert) is £49 or £76 with matching wines. At these prices, it is not surprising that a strong local following, enjoying a standard of cooking that competes easily with many Michelin starred establishments, has developed.

Whilst Phil does not cook primarily for the guides, he aims to achieve at least three AA rosettes to match those he gained at Lainston Country House hotel. Ultimately, he hopes the increased popularity of his cooking will enable the restaurant to stand alone in its own right. Not that the restaurant is the only place where his cooking can be sampled. The stylish Zanzibar lounge offers a good choice bar menu of freshly cooked dishes that attracts families and those who prefer a lighter meal.

Given the embarrassment of choice – I wanted to try everything – I opted for the tasting menu, which includes dishes from the carte. The multi component ingredients are understated, allowing for a surprise element revealed as they are presented.

The mini white, brown and fennel loaves, fresh from the oven, immediately created a good impression with their yeasty aroma, crisp crusts and delicate crumb.

An ethereally light amuse bouche of shitake, artichoke espuma, black olive and parmesan was a happy marriage of subtle and strong flavours which served its purpose of exciting the palate.

The first course of seared scallops was accurately timed to produce a caramelised crust and succulent flesh. The surprise ingredient and a real revelation was the oyster leaf, which, far from being decorative, gave the dish another dimension, as if eating a whole ozone infused oyster. A light crab bisque added a rich crustacean flavour without being overpowering whilst sauvignon poached pear gave a contrasting sweetness. Lemon pearls – one of the few molecular elements on the whole menu and here used to good effect –  provided the acidity the dish needed. (Wine: Bola prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOC)


A well flavoured and accurately seasoned terrine of rabbit came next, the meat retaining its moist texture and delicate flavour.  Offset by a quenelle of not over sweet Mirabelle plum chutney and dressed with frisse salad, shimeji mushrooms and a scattering of crushed hazelnuts, this was well balanced, classically based dish. (Wine: Friulano, Grave del Friuli, Borgo Tesis, Fantinel)


The lightly crusted, thick plaice fillet was perfectly cooked to enhance its lively flavour. It worked well with the accompaniments of braised aubergine, mussels and squid ink farfalle, giving a Mediterranean –  Middle Eastern twist, emphasised by a judicious, surprise addition of harissa which lifted the whole dish. Crisp baby broccoli added freshness, colour and texture. (Wine: Sancerre, La Graveliere, Joseph Mellot)


Lamb rump was cooked to a blushing pink, doing full justice to the cut, whereas the shoulder meat benefitted from long, slow cooking.  Classic accompaniments included a smooth garlic confit and a tranche of boulangere potatoes. (There might have been more of this as it was so delicious!) The surprise element which really raised this dish to lofty heights was the gremolata, giving a herby, lemony punch to balance the sweet meat. (Wine: Portillo Malbec, Bodegas Salentein, Mendoza)


A tropically themed pre dessert featured tangy passion fruit curd,  refreshing pineapple sorbet of velvety consistency, guava espuma and crumble for contrasting texture.  This on its own in a larger portion would have made a pleasurable course in its own right – I could have eaten a bowlful –  but it was a mere prelude for the riches to come.


A delicate, thin tube of dark chocolate encasing a luscious banana mousse was dressed with salted caramel and paired with a fragrant almond ice cream. These balanced flavour combinations and the beautifully restrained presentation were a triumph of dessert cookery.


Equally accomplished was the cherry and pistachio delice, dressed with a pistachio coulis, fresh pistachios and an intense Morello cherry sorbet.  Again, the flavours and textures worked in harmony with one another. (Wine: Brown Brothers Late Harvest, Orange Muscat, Flora Victoria)


Clearly, these three desserts amply demonstrated  the strengths of the pastry section. Good coffee and petit fours – jellies, truffles and fudge – completed a memorable meal, made all the more enjoyable  by the knowledgeable, engaging  and unobtrusive service headed by Roberto.

Phil Yeomans has clearly made a strong impression in the last year at Marwell Hotel whose owners were clearly right to place their trust in him.  Although his task is unfinished, it has already helped the hotel go from strength to strength. Hampshire is not blessed with an abundance of good restaurants, so Marwell with help fill gap. Fine Dining Guide wishes him every success and will follow his progress with interest.

Michelin Guide GB&I 2016 Press Release

Posted on: October 10th, 2015 by Simon Carter

Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2016.  17 September 2015.

The Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2016 is published today priced at  £15.99 (€16.99 in Ireland).

There are 15 new One Stars and 2 new Two Stars in this year’s guide.

The new Two Stars are both Japanese restaurants: Araki and Umu. “It is a great compliment to London that when Sushi Master Mitsuhiro Araki closed his Three Star counter restaurant in Tokyo it was because he wanted to come to the UK to challenge himself in a different culture”, said Rebecca Burr, Editor of the Michelin Guide. “Umu is a very different style of Japanese restaurant – chef Yoshinori Ishii has steadily been improving the food and he has taken it to a whole new level”.  The new One Stars in London incluide Lyle’s, Bonhams, Portland and the Dining Room at the Goring, and in Leeds there’s a Star for The Man Behind the Curtain. “The next generation of chefs are really coming through to give the established chefs a run for their money. They all have their own individual style and their ability – coupled with their confidence – looks set to lead them on to great things”, she added.

There’s a Star for John’s House near Loughborough – where chef John Duffin cooks at the family farm where he grew up. In Scotland, The Cellar in Anstruther receives a Star, as do Eipic and OX in Belfast, the Greenhouse in Dublin and Loam in Galway.

Our Bib Gourmand award is now rightly considered by our readers to be as important as our Stars. This award recognises establishments offering good food at affordable prices (the limit being £28 for three courses, €40 in Ireland). This year there are 25 new ‘Bibs’. Among them are the White Swan in Fence, Oli’s Thai in Oxford, Tom Kerridge’s pub The Coach in Marlow and Nuno Mendes’ Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields.

“Stars and Bib Gourmands are annual awards. Each year we seek out new candidates and reassess our existing award restaurants. Consistency is a key part of our selection process and it is important for our readers that the standard of cooking is maintained”, said Ms Burr.

(Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant ‘The Fat Duck’ will be absent for this edition of the guide, as following a temporary move to Australia, it did not reopen in time for us to assess it.)  Also published today is the Michelin Guide London 2016, priced at £11.99 (€12.99 in Ireland). This guide provides extended text on London’s restaurants, with additional photographs and information on all Starred establishments, as well as a pull-out map. It also includes a selection of London’s best hotels, across all categories of comfort.

Both guides can be purchased from bookshops and at

AA Restaurant Guide 2016 (Oct 2015) New Rosette Awards

Posted on: October 10th, 2015 by Simon Carter

AA Announces New 3,4 and 5 Rosette Awarded Restaurants

The AA last night announced which of the nation’s restaurants have been awarded new multi rosettes, with two restaurants achieving the highest rating of five AA Rosettes.  In addition, seven restaurants have achieved four Rosettes and 20 have been awarded three Rosettes.

To obtain five AA Rosettes restaurants have soon that their cooking stands comparison with the best in the world with highly individual cook, breathtaking culinary skills and set the standards to which other aspire.  The four Rosette establishments also show intense ambition, a passion for excellence, superb technical skills and an appreciation of culinary traditions combined with a desire for exploration and improvement while restaurants with three AA Rosettes have shown that they are outstanding and demand recognition well beyond their local area.


  • The Kitchin, Edinburgh
  • Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London

This award makes Tom Kitchin’s Edinburgh restaurant, The Kitchin, the only five Rossetted restaurant in Scotland while Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’s award takes the total of five Rosetted restaurants in London to five.


  • Plas Ynyshir Hall Hotel, Eglwys Fach
  • Stovell’s, Chobham
  • The Westbury Hotel, London
  • Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac
  • Claridge’s, London
  • The Ledbury, London
  • Fraiche, Birkenhead


  • Old Downtown Lodge, Ludlow
  • The Cellar, Anstruther
  • EIPIC, Belfast
  • The Boathouse Restaurant, Bangor
  • Galgorm Resort and Spa, Ballymena
  • Cail Bruich, Glasgow
  • Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen
  • Sudbury House, Faringdon
  • Lickfolk Inn, Lickfold
  • Amaya, London
  • The Horn of Plenty, Tavistock
  • Lavenham Great House Restaurant with Rooms, Lavenham
  • Rockliffe Hall, Darlington
  • The Coach, Marlow
  • L’Ortolan, Shinfield
  • Marmadukes Town House Hotel, York
  • The Kingham Plough, Kingham
  • Sosban & The Old Butcher’s Restaurant, Menai Bridge
  • Macdonald Complete Angler, Marlow
  • Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth

The new Rosettes were awarded at the AA Hospitality Awards held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.  The awards, often referred to as the industry’s ‘Oscars’, were hosted by Fiona Bruce and guests were treated to a sensational gourmet meal created by 2014 AA Chefs’ Chef, Nathan Outlaw.

The award event also sees the launch of the 2016 AA guides to UK hotels, restaurants, pubs and B&Bs which contain details of all the winning establishments.

The Kitchin

78 Commercial Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6LX

A former whiskey warehouse in Leith’s old dockside is home to one of Scotland’s most dynamic chefs – Tom Kitchin. Designed around original stone and wood features, the dining room is intimate and cosy in grey and silvery colour tones throughout. The walls are a striking turquoise and purple with wallpaper designs by Timorous Beasties. The atmosphere is relaxed giving diners the opportunity to unwind and enjoy the theatre of cooking through the glass window to the kitchen. The professionalism of the staff is obvious without being intrusive and guest satisfaction is important to the team.

With TV appearances and books to his name, Tom has been a rising star since he and his wife Michaela opened the Kitchin in 2006. Prior to that Tom worked with some of the greats, including Alain Ducasse and Pierre Koffman, where he gained a wealth of classical experience and training.

Tom’s philosophy is to bring nature to the plate and this is not just lip service – he is dedicated to using the best ingredients at the very best time of year. All of the meat and fish is bought in whole and the butchering and filleting is done in house. Superb ingredients from Scotland’s natural larder arrive fresh at the door daily. They are then transformed into beautiful plates of food that spark with clever ideas and technical craft.

In Food and Beverage Director Philippe Nublat and Maître d’ Sylvain Rance, Tom and Michaela have an excellent team behind them, but it is the passion and ambition of this husband-and-wife team that has created a fantastic restaurant that could not be more worthy of this prestigious accolade.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

114 Tottenham Court Rd, London W1T 5AQ

The mothership of the Gordon Ramsay’s empire, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay opened in 1998 when 31-year-old Gordon got the keys to his first restaurant. Clare Smyth has been in charge of the kitchen since 2008 and now holds the title of Chef Patron.

Gordon has a reputation for nurturing talent and giving his chefs the scope to develop and Clare has really made the restaurant her own. Clare was born in County Antrim and left home at just 16 to study catering at a Hampshire college. Completing her studies, she worked for brief stints at Bibendum in London, Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and the Roux brothers’ Waterside Inn. This was followed by a six month catering job in Australia. By the time she was 29, she was the Head Chef at one of the most famous restaurants in the UK.

Internally the restaurant shows contemporary elegance with an art deco feel that creates an air of exclusivity. The service, led by Jean-Claude Breton is a stand-out feature and it remains charming, gracious and extremely proficient.

There are a host of menus to choose from, starting with a set lunch and extending up to the 7 course ‘Seasonal Inspiration’ tasting menu. Clare has developed Ramsay’s modern French cuisine with luxury ingredients of outstanding quality. The food is complimented by an exceptional wine list with entries from the world’s top producers.   

AA Hospitality Awards 2016 Press Release (Oct 2015)

Posted on: October 10th, 2015 by Simon Carter

A veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the hospitality world were in attendance at last week’s AA Hospitality Awards.  With 23 coveted awards presented, the winners were all celebrating at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s Park Lane.

The AA Hospitality Awards are considered to be the industry’s own ‘Oscars’ and is one of the unique times when the hospitality industry come together to recognise the achievements of the nations’ best hoteliers, restaurateurs and publicans.   Drawing on the unrivalled knowledge and expertise of the AA inspectorate and other industry professionals involved in the judging process, winners are selected in recognition of excellence and success within their chosen category, having shown a significant improvement in the preceding 12 – 18 months and proving their dedication to raising industry standards and enhancing both their guest and diner experiences.  From top hotels and restaurants to the best of British pubs the AA Hospitality Awards celebrate everything that is great in British hospitality.  All the winners will appear in the latest edition of the 2016 AA Hotel, Restaurant and Pub Guides which were launched at the event.

Guests at the event, hosted by Fiona Bruce, were treated to a gastronomic menu created the 2014 AA Chef’s Chef, Nathan Outlaw.

Last night’s winners included:

AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year 2015 (sponsored by

A unique award that offers all AA Rosette-awarded chefs the chance to decide which of their peers deserves the ultimate recognition.

Winner – Daniel Clifford

Daniel is one of the countries most respected chefs, and rightfully so. His background in working in some of the best restaurants in the UK and France has led to an absolute focus on purity of flavour in his cooking.

Quietly going about his business and committed to the stove, his food and Midsummer House has evolved and matured into one of this country’s finest restaurants.

Daniel’s pursuit of continual development, sheer dedication for perfection and exemplary belief in his craft, has made him an inspiration to so many chefs at all levels.

AA Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner – Robin Hutson

This year’s decision to award Robin Hutson with the Lifetime Achievement Award was an easy one to make. The award recognises professionals within the hospitality industry who have committed their lives to the pursuit of perfection within their discipline and there is no doubt that Robin has the midas touch when it comes to hospitality.

Robin’s career began with on the Savoy Group’s management training programme including periods at Claridge’s, The Berkeley and Hotel de Crillon in Paris. He then went on to work for the Five Star Elbow Beach Hotel in Bermuda for two years before being offered the General Managers position at Chewton Glen in the New Forest. He would spend the next eight years there leaving as the Managing Director.

Robin then co-founded the highly successful Hotel Du Vin group which is generally recognised as the vanguard of the UK boutique hotel movement.  After just ten years they sold the Hotel Du Vin group and Robin joined the Soho House Group as Executive Chairman. During his time the group doubled in size and was later sold for £105M.

A return to the New Forest beckoned having been approached by Jim Ratcliffe who was developing Parkhill, and in 2009 Lime Wood was unveiled. It quickly became established as one of the UK’s top country house hotels, winning many awards including the AA Hotel of the Year for England in 2012.

Now as executive chairman of the group, he has focused on developing Home Grown Hotels and created The PIG chain, a relaxed country house concept based around kitchen garden produce. The PIG in the forest opened with much critical acclaim and it was clear to see that he had created yet another ground-breaking hotel with broad consumer appeal and universal praise from his industry peers.

Two more PIGS have followed in quick succession – The PIG on the Beach  and The PIG near Bath with a fourth site in Devon recently been acquired. All of his hotels have achieved three AA Red Stars this year and continue to deliver an excellent level of consistency, made even more impressive given the high level of occupancy and the tremendous food and beverage turnover that each property generates.

AA Hotel of the Year

Introduced in 1992, and awarded to hotels that are recognised as being outstanding examples in their particular market.

Winner, England (sponsored by Temple Spa) – Cliveden, Taplow

Winner, Wales (sponsored by Avanti Gas) – St George’s Hotel, Llandudno

Winner, Scotland (sponsored by PSL – the food professionals) – Rufflets Country House, St Andrews

Winner, London (sponsored by BriefYourMarket) – Corinthia Hotel, London

Winner, Northern Ireland – Galgorm Resort and Spa, Ballymena

AA Restaurant of the Year

While the standard of cuisine is at the very heart of the selection criteria for these awards, innovation, ambience, and hospitality are all part of the equation that determines the eventual winners.

Winner, England – House of Tides, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Winner, Wales – Coast Restaurant, Saundersfoot

Winner, Scotland – The Gannet, Glasgow

Winner, London (sponsored by Food & Travel Magazine) – Tredwell’s London

AA Wine Award (sponsored by Matthew Clark)

Nominees are judged on the quality of their wine list and their ability to inspire customers to make wider and more adventurous choices.

Winner, England and Overall – The Sun Inn, Dedham

Winner, Wales – Walnut Tree, Abergavenny

Winner, Scotland – Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow

AA Pub of the Year

Combining the provision of enjoyable food, a great pub atmosphere, and a warm welcome with a high standard of management

Winner, England – The Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold

Winner, Wales – Kinmel Arms, Abergele

Winner, Scotland – The Scran and Scallie, Edinburgh

AA Hotel Group of the Year (sponsored by Beacon)

A hugely prestigious award presented in recognition of the hotel group that has a proven track record of striving to ensure the very best levels of service, food and accommodation across the range of properties. Attention to detail is imperative and a committed and structured approach to future development is essential.

Winner – Brend Hotels

AA Eco Hotel and Eco Hotel Group of the Year

These awards recognises a clear commitment to sustainability, demonstrated through good practice and policy to make a positive contribution to reducing impact on the environment

Winner, Eco Hotel – The Savoy, London

Winner, Eco Hotel Group – Exclusive Hotels and Venues

AA Food Service Award

The AA Food Service Award recognises establishments who not only deliver excellent standards of restaurant service and hospitality but also have technical service skills, food and beverage knowledge of the highest standard and a clear commitment to staff training and development.

Winner – Belmond Le Manoir aux Quats’ Saisons

AA Housekeeper of the Year Award (sponsored by Northmace & Hendon)

The award recognises outstanding commitment and performance, identifying a Housekeeper who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Winner – Sarah Middlemas – The Old Course Hotel, St Andrew

AA Spirit Award (sponsored by The Balvenie)

This award was introduced in 2014 to recognise the professional promotion, education and service of spirits in the hospitality industry.

Winner – The Churchill Bar and Terrace, London

AA Hotel of the Year

Winner, England (sponsored by Temple Spa) – Cliveden, Taplow

This award is the ultimate accolade for an English hotel and the 2015 winner could not be more deserving. Built in 1661, the story of Cliveden stretches back over 300 years of power, politics and memorable parties.

Cliveden was originally built by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham as a hunting lodge where he could entertain his friends. Since then the house has been destroyed by fires twice, played host to virtually every British monarch after George I, frequented by the likes of Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin and used as a set for the Beatles movie Help. The elite parties continued into the 1960s where John Profumo famously met Christine Keeler, igniting the biggest political scandal in British political history.

In 1985, Cliveden became a luxury hotel and has recently undergone a 16-month renovation of its public spaces, suites and bedrooms.   A manor house of grandeur set amid 376 acres of magnificent National Trust graded gardens and woodland, boasting 5 AA Red Stars and 3 AA Rosettes, Cliveden is now one of the UK’s finest Country House hotels. With General Manager Sue Williams at the helm, stunning cooking from Head Chef Andre Garrett and the direction and support of Managing Director Andrew Stembridge, this iconic hotel is very much back on the hospitality industry map and has never looked or performed better. Cliveden will continue to make history as a place no one could resist an invitation to stay.

Winner, Wales – St George’s Hotel, Llandudno

This striking hotel located on the seafront of Llandudno stands out from the crowd. It is the commanding exterior and lavish interior of St Georges along with the high calibre staff that make it the worthy winner of this prestigious award.

St Georges Hotel was built in 1854 by 24-year-old Isaiah Davies. At 19, Isaiah inherited the Kings Head pub after marrying Anne Owen, the pub owner’s daughter. Isaiah later acquired the land he would later build St Georges on by exchanging the drinking debts from the Kings Head with John Williams, who was the agent for a wealthy land owner Lord Mostyn. Since then St Georges has been host to infamous guests such as Winston Churchill, Napoleon III and seven British Prime Ministers.

From the moment they arrive guests are welcomed by St Georges Victorian elegance, with highly polished brass work and red carpeted outside steps. The bedrooms are modern and stylish and many boast beautiful views over Llandudno bay.

Members of staff have perfected the balance between friendliness and efficiency, ensuring each guest feels welcome and well looked after. The team at St Georges show a commendable commitment to the hotel’s environmental policy, trying to minimise any detrimental effects as a result of the hotels business. This efficient collaborative ethos within the hotel is further complimented by the hotel achieving the investors in people standard in 2011.

Winner, Scotland – Rufflets Country House, St Andrews

One of the oldest country house hotels in Scotland, Rufflets is a charming turreted property set in extensive well-tendered gardens. These award-winning gardens are one of Rufflets most prized assets, providing fresh vegetables that are later prepared in the kitchen and fresh cut flowers to decorate the tables. It is the attention to detail and the warm welcome you receive from staff that makes Rufflets the deserving winner of this prestigious award, hotel of the year for Scotland.

Local records, stretching back more than 350 years, indicate that the land was once owned by the Priory of St Andrews and was known as ‘Ruch Fletsm’, meaning rough flat lands. The house itself was built in 1924 as a private home for Mrs Anne Brydon Gilroy, the widow of a prominent Dundee jute baron. Rufflets was designed by a well-known Dundee architect, Donald Mills. Mrs Gilroy’s initials, ABG 1924, can still be found engraved on the key-stone above the door leading to the formal south garden.

Since 1952 the house has been privately owned by three generations of the same family. The hotel is now owned by Ann Murray-Smith, the daughter of one of the original founders. Ann and two of her sons, Mark and Christopher, became partners in 2001. Since then they have invested significantly in refurbishing the bedrooms and public areas, building a new banqueting and conference suite and developing three new lodges in the grounds. These recent improvements along with the great levels of hospitality and 2 AA Rosette cooking have taken Rufflets to another level.

Winner, London (sponsored by BriefYourMarket) – Corinthia Hotel, London

Situated in the very heart of London, close to the river Thames and moments from Westminster, this grand Victorian building dates back to 1885 and is a worthy winner of this prestigious award.

In 2011, the hotel reopened with a new lease of life, a beautiful transformation of this grand Victorian building. All 294 guest rooms, 40 suites and 7 imaginative penthouses combine traditional grandeur with modern freshness. Each room offers 21st-century luxury with a Loewe HD TV, Nespresso coffee machine, media hub and high speed WiFi.

Both restaurants within the Corinthia are to rosette standard. Massimo Restaurant offers its own taste of Italy and the Northall celebrates the great British kitchen. Evenings at the Corinthia can be spent in the Bassoon, a London bar with attitude. Art deco design, jazz inspired art and 1920s music makes Bassoon a luxurious drinking den. Here fine Champagnes, bespoke cocktails and boutique spirits are served in elegant replicas of Queen Victoria’s glassware.

Set in a space of iconic beauty, ESPA spa is the next generation of spas. Spread over four floors, the spa features 17 treatment rooms, a private spa suite, nail studio, indoor swimming pool, vitality pool, amphitheatre sauna, ice fountain, marble heated loungers and private sleep pods.

Corinthia is a physically stunning hotel with rosette standard food and impressive staffing levels that over the last 4 years has evolved into a top class London hotel able to compete with the very best.

Winner, Northern Ireland – Galgorm Resort and Spa, Ballymena

Originally a gentleman’s club in the 18th century, Galgorm Resort & Spa is set in 163 acres of beautiful parkland with views over the River Maine. Established as a hotel in 1991, it has undergone significant restoration and improvement which is still ongoing. In September this year, Galgorm will see the unveiling of its newest project, a £15 million extension providing 48 deluxe rooms and suites and a unique indoor and outdoor thermal village spa.

Several dining options are available – Gillies provides casual dining and Frateli’s offers Italian favourites in a relaxed environment. The River Room, the fine dining option, has a clear focus on quality local produce and a high standard of cooking that is recognised this year in the achievement of three AA Rosettes.

The resort also includes four bars, a stand-alone banqueting facility and an award-winning spa. Galgorm emanates an overwhelming feeling of quality and luxuriousness. Investment has not only been made in the fabric of the property but also into staff training and development. Tailored training programs have been implemented to ensure that the quality of service matches the fantastic standard of the facilities.

Hospitality and customer care is really strong. The friendly team have that all-important can-do attitude and always go that extra mile to ensure that guests feel at home; it typifies great Irish hospitality. This impressive hotel has gone from strength to strength over the last few years and is a worthy winner of AA Hotel of the Year for Northern Ireland.

AA Restaurant of the Year

Winner, England – House of Tides, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Dating back to the 16th century, this merchant’s townhouse is now occupied by Kenny Atkinson and his new venture, House of Tides. Located on the Quayside, the rustic feel of the exterior is continued inside with flagstone floors, exposed beams and cast-iron columns.

Aperitifs are served on the ground floor while the dining experience continues on the upper floor. The dishes served are visual and imaginative, incorporating a sense of theatre. The produce is locally sourced wherever possible with foraged fare featuring heavily.

Chef Patron Kenny Atkinson has enjoyed much success throughout his career building up great experience in properties such as The Chester Grosvenor, Mandarin Oriental London, The Greenway, St Martins on the Isle, Seaham Hall and Rockliffe Hall. Add to that great success on The Great British Menu and various other television appearances, and there is the recipe for great success.

From the relative security of senior positions in large well-established 5 Star hotels, Kenny decided to open his own restaurant in his home city of Newcastle. Fifteen months on, the House of Tides continues to flourish well beyond the immediate attention of its opening.

Kenny has done an outstanding job establishing a great reputation in such a short space of time. The quality and calibre is extremely impressive and most definitely a deserving winner of this year’s Restaurant of the Year for England.

Winner, Wales – Coast Restaurant, Saundersfoot

This year’s restaurant of the year has been awarded to the outstanding Coast restaurant in the tranquil location of Saundersfoot. Just metres from the shoreline, this purpose built curvaceous wooden structure with huge floor-to-ceiling windows enjoys the beautiful views across Carmarthen Bay.

The interior has a relaxed feel to it with wooden floors, seating and tables with sliding doors that lead onto a decked balcony.

Before undertaking his current role, Head Chef Will Holland has previously worked at L’Ortolan and La Becasse and participated in The Great British Menu. Will works closely with local suppliers of meat, fruit and vegetables to reduce the food miles and to ensure seasonal, local produce is utilised on his menus. As you would expect from somewhere so close to the sea, local Pembrokeshire fish plays a big role on the menu. A nibbles list including a tankard of prawns or crispy pigs ears to wet your taste buds before you start on the main menu.

This great restaurant is a welcome addition to the Welsh dining scene and makes an excellent AA Restaurant of the Year for Wales

Winner, Scotland – The Gannet, Glasgow

Named after Scotland’s iconic seabird and a cheeky reference to those with large appetites, The Gannet was christened. Ivan Stein and Peter McKenna opened The Gannet in 2013 after realising a common aim to own a restaurant that reflected the best of Scottish produce prepared with passion and served in a relaxed contemporary style.

With exposed brickwork walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and a mezzanine dining area, the old tenement building in which the Gannet took up residence was vacant for almost a decade before Peter and Ivan lovingly transformed it into the modern setting for the Scottish bar and restaurant. The exciting flavours, lively venue and relaxed, friendly staff meant The Gannet quickly established itself as one of the best restaurants in Glasgow and a worthy winner of the restaurant of the year for Scotland award.

The strong relationships that Ivan and Peter have built with their suppliers and staff show in the quality of the ingredients they cook and the loyalty of the staff who work so hard to deliver the great service and create such a fantastic atmosphere.  Whether you want to have a drink and a snack in the trendy bar area, a la carte dining or a banquet for larger groups, you can expect a modern take on classical cooking with the attention to detail that gives you the feeling that this is not just any old bar and restaurant.

Winner, London (sponsored by Food & Travel Magazine) – Tredwell’s London

This year’s London restaurant of the year has been won by the latest addition to Marcus Wareing’s empire. In the autumn of 2014, Marcus opened the doors to Tredwells. Split over three floors, the restaurant has a basement cocktail bar and two airy, retro-looking dining rooms lit by large windows, and done out with racing-green leather.

As well as the lower ground bar area, the restaurant also features an ‘eat at the bar’ arrangement on the ground floor. There is a selection of cocktails on offer created by Dav Eames and the wine list is global, selected by Michael Deschamp the Executive Sommelier.

Named after the butler in Agatha Christie’s novel, The Seven Dials, the restaurant is buzzing with a high-decibel West End vibe. The menu describes itself as ‘modern London cooking’ which translates as good-quality British ingredients mixed up with globetrotting flavours, aimed squarely at the comfort zone.

The food is fun, inventive and original. Flavours are big and punchy and there is a selection of dishes cooked on the Robata Grill. Tredwell’s also offers a variety of gluten free and vegan dishes.

It is certainly a refreshingly new concept addition to the Marcus Wareing group and will be a well-received winner of this prestigious accolade.

AA Wine Award (sponsored by Matthew Clark)

Winner, England and Overall – The Sun Inn, Dedham

The Sun Inn is situated in the picturesque heart of Constable country. It has been a watering hole for locals and a resting place for travellers for centuries. Built in the 15th century it has been lovingly restored by its current owner and proprietor Piers Baker. With its cosy open fire, beams and wood panelling the Sun Inn is a perfect place to eat great food, drink fine wine and relax.

The staff at the Sun Inn are highly trained and provide excellent customer care.

The menu is influenced by the season and locally sourced with homemade jam at breakfast and fresh baked scones for afternoon tea.

It is the attention to detail that has been given to creating the wine list that has made it an easy decision to award the Sun Inn with the Overall Wine Award. The Italian and French bias of the list allows guests to taste beyond Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Sauvignon, sampling wines from South West France and Italy. Piers pays special thanks to his friend Hamish Anderson whose help, advice and general good taste is invaluable in helping him shape the list.

Winner, Wales – Walnut Tree, Abergavenny

A famous inn and restaurant since the early 1960s, The Walnut Tree sits two miles east of Abergavenny. The whitewashed inn goes for an unaffected rustic look enlivened with contemporary local art as a backdrop. Offering great food and a fantastic wine list, the restaurant has an informal setting with 20 tables simply laid. The three-Rosette standard food is an eclectic mix based on chef proprietor Shaun Hill’s personal taste.

Shaun is one of the UK’s most exceptional chefs. He began his career in 1966 working for Robert Carrier in his Islington restaurant. He then went on to work in some of London’s most prestigious addresses including The Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge with Brian Turner and Blakes in South Kensington. The Merchant House, his much missed 24-seat restaurant in Ludlow was hailed as the 14th best in the world and turned the Shropshire market town into a gastronomic destination. His decade there from 1994 to 2005 will be remembered fondly by anyone who was lucky enough to have eaten his food.

Never one for chasing culinary fads and trends, Shaun prefers to keep it real, sourcing the best ingredients he can lay his hands on and unleashing his formidable, seemingly effortless technical skills on making it all look deceptively simple.
The intriguing wine list promises bottles from small artisan winemakers, and staff are impeccably helpful and attentive.

Winner, Scotland – Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow

The Ubiquitous Chip was opened by Ronnie Clydesdale on the 11th January 1971, at a time when chefs of the day knew only Italian or French cooking and Scottish cuisine was confined solely to the home. Aunties, grannies and even folklore have been the inspiration behind the Ubiquitous Chip’s cuisine, a trend that has now been embraced across the country.

Inside, the Chip is a warren of four dining areas including a brasserie, a mezzanine and the courtroom with its glass roof making it one of the most magical places to eat in the area. Intrinsic to good eating is good drinking. Complementing the restaurant are three bars, the Big Pub, The Corner Bar and lastly the Wee Pub (the smallest in Scotland).

The sommelier team has worked incredibly hard to continually develop the wine list, ensuring new and unusual wines are added. The wine list contains an immense range – from the finest of clarets to the most interesting boutique wineries of both the old and new world. The wine is important to the restaurant and it shows with added extras such as the wine flights, a monthly wine club, and regular wine dinners in the Restaurant, offering our guests the opportunity to meet the producers.

AA Pub of the Year

Winner, England – The Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold

The Porch House occupies a handsome, Grade-II listed, Cotswold-stone building, steeped in history. The oldest parts of the building, with its uneven ceilings and low door frames, date back to 947AD, and is thought to be the oldest inn in England.
Completely refurbished in 2014, the pub is an excellent example of how period properties can be brought into the 21st century without losing the character and charm of their former selves. Porch House manager Alex Davenport-Jones has gathered a great team around him and has devoted a good deal of time to training his friendly staff to provide the very best in customer service.

Full of character, the public areas, with flagstone floors and wood burning stoves, offer cosy lounge areas and an authentic bar with a great range of craft beer and real ales. The menu is simple yet robust, using the best locally sourced ingredients where possible. There is plenty of choice about where to enjoy your meal – the bar, lounge, dining room, conservatory or the pretty courtyard garden.

The 13 bedrooms are of a particularly high standard and all individually designed with no expense spared. The high quality beds and bedding, vintage radios and phones and the sleek modern bathrooms show the level of detail considered when Brakspear made the modernisations. The carefully selected bar range ensures a wide variety of spirits, beers and wines from all over the world. Special additions such as the Porch House Bloody Mary and Inn Made Lemonade are concocted using a 100-year-old recipe, making the bar menu that little bit special.
The Porch House is an exceptional example of a great English pub and a worthy winner of this year’s award.

Winner, Wales – Kinmel Arms, Abergele

Bought on Valentine’s Day 2002, owners Tim and Lynn had a vision. They wanted to create a peaceful place to eat, drink and rest. Nearly fourteen years on this is exactly what you can expect from the Kinmel Arms. As soon as you walk in you know you have arrived somewhere very special.

The beautiful 17th-century building with sandstone mullion windows is a direct contrast to the warm, modern interior. The buzzy bar with its open fire and some of the best wines, spirits and beers is popular with locals as well as staying guests. You can enjoy over twenty different house wines served by the glass and by the bottle or sample Tim and Lynn’s real passion – cask ales – for which they have recently won an award.

The two-Rosette standard restaurant is the reason for the Kinmel Arms existence; after all, it’s all about the food. Tim and Lynn pride themselves on sourcing good quality, fresh food with many of the ingredients being sourced locally. The varied menu has plenty to offer those who love local seafood and different types of meat.

Not only is there a great bar and a Rosette standard restaurant, but there are also four luxury rooms available. The upper floor rooms have lofty ceilings and skylights and are bright and airy while the ground floor offers the ultimate peaceful hideaway.

The Kinmel Arms is not only a pub, it is Tim and Lynn’s home and the team are a family. This makes the great customer service look effortless. When there is the warm welcome of the Kinmel Arms, with a great bar, fantastic food and luxurious rooms it makes St George the perfect place to get away.

Winner, Scotland – The Scran and Scallie, Edinburgh

The Scran and Scallie is a vibrant gastro pub that offers relaxed dining and menus showcasing great Scottish food. The food, coupled with a range of traditionally brewed ales, is served in a relaxed, cosy setting full of charm and character.

The vision Tom Kitchin and his business partner, Dominic Jack, had when they opened The Scran and Scallie was to bring ‘nature to the plate’. With the help of head chef James Chapman, they created menus that demonstrate their passion and knowledge using the very best produce Scotland has to offer. A map in the pub shows the locations of where produce is sourced so guests get a true understanding of how local their ingredients really are.

Overseeing the operations and front of house are co-owners and Directors Michaela Kitchin and Philippe Nublat along with Restaurant Manager Levi Sweeney-McGrath. The excellent customer care received by the highly skilled and knowledgeable staff at the Scran and Scallie are one of the key strengths of the operation.

The charming interior of the pub features many of the original aspects of the building. Furnishings are distressed and reclaimed with tartan and tweeds adding character and bringing the original interior back to life. The menu has fresh, modern dishes alongside some forgotten favourites, such as sheeps heid, scotch broth and traditional cottage pie. Having served 2,353 portions of ham, egg and chips from the al’la carte menu, The Scran and Scallie is testament to how good, honest and comforting food in a great pub is still a nation’s favourite.

AA Hotel Group of the Year

Winner – Brend Hotels

Brend Hotels is a family-owned hotel group with a collection of unique luxury hotels in Devon and Cornwall. Since the first hotel was purchased by Percy Brend over 50 years ago, the group has steadily evolved and grown into one of the top 150 employers in the South West.

The company is still family owned and run, with the second and third generation of the Brend family now directors and the fourth generation being trained for future management. The directors play a hands-on role and are often out front welcoming guests and listening to what they have to say. For Brend Hotels, the personal touch and the genuine feel of a family business has been a hallmark of the business.

The Brend Hotel Group has grown through the purchase and restoration of carefully selected distinctive hotels, some with outstanding coastal locations and some at the heart of Devon market towns. The collection now includes eleven luxury hotels in Devon and Cornwall, eighteen restaurants, five spas and a Championship Golf Course.

The directors’ hands-on and enthusiastic approach sets the tone for the way the team approach their work. Their passion for excellence means that their staff go the extra mile for customers as a matter of course. Investment into top quality training and the Brend training academy has led to some of the highest staff retention in the industry. Brend are loyal to their staff and in return their staff are loyal to them.

The traditional values of impeccable quality and customer service have created a following of loyal guests to the Brend Hotels. Often many have been visiting for decades for that personal touch and ‘home from home’ experience they wouldn’t get in any other hotel.

AA Eco Hotel and Eco Hotel Group of the Year

Winner, Eco Hotel – The Savoy London

One of the London’s most famous landmark hotels, The Savoy is a great example of how a five-star hotel can successfully be sustainable, environmentally responsible and luxurious. Previously shortlisted for this award, it recognises the hard work, dedication and overall commitment to sustainability of the whole team at The Savoy.

The hotel and team have achieved a host of other environmental awards in the past few years including Gold Award status with Green Business Tourism, best food waste strategy with Sustainable Restaurant Association and Sustainable Hotel of the Year in successive years within their own group, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. It demonstrates that with the creation of their Sustainability Partnership Programme, sustainability has become integral to the hotel culture, importantly making an impact and a real difference.

Results, which are clearly measured and monitored, include a significant reduction in their energy baseline involving CO2 footprint, electricity and gas consumption and LED lighting retro-fit. Water efficiencies have been created by a variety of initiatives including their own in-house water bottling plant. There are many initiatives to educate, train and motivate which result in the team’s pro-active approach. These have included active membership of the Northbank Business Improvement District Organisation, launch of central London’s ‘River of Flowers’, the gift of a ‘bee hotel’ to Canada House and much local charitable fundraising.

Their totally inclusive approach to sustainability, great creativity and innovation, clear and regular communication, both internally and externally, is bound together by the clear passion and commitment from all the team. This makes The Savoy a great winner.

Winner, Eco Hotel Group – Exclusive Hotels and Venues

A family-owned group, Exclusive Hotels and Venues was established in 1981 when their first hotel, Pennyhill Park, was bought. The group now has six luxury, award-winning hotels led by Managing Director and current Hotelier of the Year, Danny Pecorelli.

This award recognises the success of the group’s ‘Exclusively Green Programme’, which has delivered a cohesive platform to establish a pro-active and responsible approach to sustainability. The group has taken strong measures in order to reduce the impact on the environment and therefore delivers products and services that are as environmentally friendly as possible. Energy initiatives include investment into biomass boilers, firewood from the hotels’ own trees that have naturally fallen, together with a replanting programme and air-source heat pumps and induction fuelling both the new cookery school and banqueting kitchens at Lainston House.

As the group’s ‘Exclusively Green Programme’ is companywide, there have been a number of new initiatives over the last 12 months. These include replacing the spa’s 40,000 slippers that once went to landfill with flip flops that are now donated to the Salvation Army. All departments are represented on Green Committees that meet once a month to discuss, present and solve issues concerning waste-management schemes. Particularly impressive is the autonomy given to all employees so they can suggest and implement ideas in order to maintain sustainability.

Another strong focus is on food initiatives via the promotion of ‘Food Heroes’, a group-wide programme to support and promote local suppliers in tandem with the increasing harvest from their own kitchen gardens at each hotel. Several hotels have installed rocket composters, including two at Pennyhill Park which have helped greatly towards their goal of achieving 95% waste diverted from landfill. The compost created is used on the kitchen gardens, creating a ‘closed loop’ from plate to garden and back to plate

AA Food Service Award

Winner – Belmond Le Manoir aux Quats’ Saisons

One of the UK’s most celebrated gastronomic destinations, created by Raymond Blanc in 1984. Here he realised his personal vision of creating a harmonious hotel and restaurant where guests would find perfection in food, comfort and service. Completely self-taught, his significant influence on British cuisine has brought scores of awards and he is the only chef to have achieved and held five AA Rosettes since their inception in 1991.

It comes as no surprise that Raymond’s passion and attention to detail extends far beyond the kitchen and is reflected across the whole of Le Manoir, in particular in the immaculate levels of service and professionalism that the team deliver in the restaurant. Mourad Ben Tekfa, Master of Culinary Arts, started at Le Manoir in 1994 and after a few stints away at L’Ortolan and Hambleton Hall, returned in 2010 to succeed Alain Desenclos as Restaurant Director.

A fundamental part of Raymond’s philosophy is a strong commitment to training and development which is clear to see throughout the whole of the structured restaurant team. Personal presentation, product knowledge, customer care and technical service skills are consistently first class. It is then no surprise that year on year the team excel in well-established industry skills awards such as from the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts.

Le Manoir is a beacon of excellence for all things food and beverage. It delivers a seamless guest experience where genuine customer care combines with technical skills of the highest order.

AA Housekeeper of the Year 2015(sponsored by Northmace & Hendon)

Winner – Sarah Middlemas – The Old Course Hotel, St Andrews

The five Red Star Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa borders St Andrews, one of the world’s most famous golf courses. The iconic resort with 35 suites designed by Jacques Garcier, 144 luxurious rooms and state-of-the-art conference wing employs up to four hundred staff that work across different areas of the resort. Each member of staff is trained and empowered to go the extra mile to ensure that every guest receives nothing but VIP treatment.

This year’s winner of the Housekeeper of the Year Award, Sarah Middlemass, has proved her ability to motivate and manage a team that maintains a first class standard. Not just happy with that, Sarah has gone the extra mile by taking the time to focus on the wider guest experience. In recent months, she has been working on the development of products for ‘Kohler at Home’. This innovative project gives guests the opportunity to take the Kholer Spa experience home with them.

Drawing on her previous experience of high profile events, Sarah also plays a lead strategic role in preparing the team for The Open golf championship. Not only did she and her team maintain the five red star standards of housekeeping throughout, but she also did a piece for ESPN who were filming at the resort ahead of the open.

This award recognises the hard work and dedication of those integral members of staff that work behind the scenes. There is no doubt that when the time comes, Sarah will leave a strong legacy of first class housekeeping at the Old Course Hotel.

AA Spirit Award (sponsored by The Balvenie)

Winner – The Churchill Bar and Terrace, London

The Hyatt Regency Churchill is a well-established AA 5 Star hotel enjoying a great central location on Portman Square. Named after Sir Winston Churchill who stayed at the hotel, the bar in particular pays homage to its famous guest complete with a specially commissioned life-size bronze of a young Churchill entitled “In Conversation” in its terrace. 

The Churchill Bar & Terrace has clearly become a destination in its own right, which comes as no surprise given the strong focus and attention to detail. Re-launched in December 2012, the bar has a strong commitment to its team and their training. Highly skilled mixologists ensure high standards of service and product knowledge are delivered with flair and fluency in equal measure. Training not only involves regular contact with brand ambassadors, distillery visits and competitions, but also photography and social media, which they use to promote services and products to followers.

The excellent bar list is full of character and innovation and is reviewed seasonally to ensure the spirits vary according to the time of year. This has featured a range of hot chocolate cocktails in the winter in collaboration with organic chocolate brand Green & Black’s and their own take on British cocktail classics in the summer such as Pimms and the G&T.

The cocktail list is unique featuring its own Churchill Craft Gin and homemade tonics. A nod to British suppliers is clearly evident with Nyetimber as the house sparkling and the majority of the bars liquors coming from UK based Sacred and Sipsmith distillers.

In their own words, “The Churchill Bar & Terrace is not a place where a cocktail is just delivered to guests; it is a place where cocktails have stories that are told upon delivery”. It is this passion that resonates throughout everything they do that makes them the 2015 AA Spirit Award winners.

Restaurant Review: The Pheasant Inn Nr Hungerford (Sept 2015)

Posted on: October 7th, 2015 by Simon Carter

Pheasant Inn Web

The Pheasant Inn, only a minute from Junction 14 of the M4, was found nestled between Newbury and Swindon, at Shefford Woodlands, near to Hungerford.  While the pub may proudly trace its origins back to the sixteenth century, the building has been modernised with a twentieth century extension. Perhaps a relatively local mentality establishment pre-M4, the motorway has opened up a greater potential audience.  It has a rustic interior, with a flagstone floor, low beamed ceiling, sash windows with Roman blinds. The tables are old school dark wood, of various shapes and sizes.

In keeping with the close proximity to Lambourn and Newbury, the walls are dominated by the Sport of Kings. Horse racing is indeed a staple of the area, a fact that has encouraged a regular racing fraternity. The Pheasant Inn proprietors are themselves passionate about the sport, to the point that they enjoy owner status, thereby feeding the local as well as traveling band of race going public.  fine dining guide was eager to discover the extent to which the quality of offering extended the attraction beyond these circles.

There were two dining areas – a pub area and a separate, more formal dining room that appeared to be utilised when busy. The combined space took as many as seventy covers, which required a staff of around five in the kitchen.

fine dining guide attended on a Monday evening in September, typically a quiet service in the restaurant trade, however The Pheasant Inn was found to be relatively bustling.  Chris Hodgson proved an engaging host and managed a well run team (some with longevity of service in the pub front of house – a good sign for the regulars!)

So, to the food: there was a good range of  seven starters including a daily soup and a luxurious Seafood Board – Tiger prawns, Smoked Salmon, Atlantic prawn cocktail, crispy squid, smoked mackerel pate and crab  – a relative bargain  at just over £10 per person.  Bread – the modern day equivalent of a cover charge – was £3.50, partially let down by quality but also by the ubiquitous balsamic and olive oil dip, which in this case was out of keeping given no Italian style breads were provided.  As it transpired the bread was of limited relevance as the size of food portions were such that this was not an essential part of a meal.

One of the starters chosen was salt and pepper squid with garlic aioli. It was freshly cooked, crisp and served with a light batter. Delicious and moreish, it would have been even better with a squeeze of citrus and a stronger hit of garlic in the mayonnaise.

The other chosen starter, chicken liver parfait, came with onion marmalade and toasted brioche. Smooth, well-seasoned and marinated, with a coating of clarified butter, it was a model of its kind. The buttery brioche was also well crafted and the marmalade made a good foil for the richness of the parfait, adding the element of sweetness which the dish needed.

There are also seven main courses, including pub classics such as a gigantic beer battered haddock – and a 9oz beef burger.

Venison came three ways. This was an accomplished dish with strong flavours comprising accurately timed loin, slow cooked shoulder which melted in the mouth, and, star of the show, an intensely flavoured venison sausage, succulent with herbs and spices. Accompaniments of butternut squash fondant, wilted Cavolo Nero, shitake mushrooms and chestnuts added a deep earthiness, whilst a flourish of parsnip crisps added a contrasting texture. A rich red wine jus successfully brought these elements together.

Pheasant Inn Venison
The 10 oz rib eye steak was also precisely timed, as requested, to a medium rare, its superior flavour being enhanced by rich marbling and by being cooked on the bone. Classic garnishes of hand cut chips, with crisp coats and soft, fluffy interiors, watercress , herbed roasted tomatoes and a small jug of peppercorn sauce. The last might have been improved if a little thicker. For the large appetite, extra sides are £3.50, but as all dishes come fully garnished there is little need for extra vegetables.

Pheasant Rb Eye
For pudding there was a cheese option (£8) or five desserts including an intriguing “Plate of sweet treats” – tea cake, fudge, blackcurrant pastilles, cola marshmallow and Apple sherbet, which were a palatable version of petits fours. The sticky toffee pudding was predictably rich, but not over-sweet nor heavy and cloying, as seen in inferior versions. An equally generous portion of silky smooth salted caramel ice cream partnered the pudding well – giving contrasting texture and temperature.

Sticky Toffee
Another dessert comprised three portions of Jude’s Ice cream – pistachio, stem ginger and salted caramel – all of which tasted wonderful.  A distinguished brand, it was only correct that this was acknowledged on the menu.

It is also worthy of note that there were many seasonal ingredients, with the chef doing much of his own butchery. The menu changes monthly and dishes are freshly prepared and well seasoned.  Portions are very generous indeed. It would be difficult to leave still hungry. The price point is very fair: starters £5-50 to £10.50, mains £13.50 to £20; desserts £3.50 to £6.50, to which the busy Monday night offered witness.

The wine list includes a wide range of Old and New Worlds, with plenty of choice by the glass without greedy mark ups.

Overall, The Pheasant is an unpretentious, good value eatery with a standard well above that of typical pub grub. The levels of satisfaction, both in the cooking and the service by the very helpful Sylvia, were high. We will hopefully return in due course to sample a wider range of dishes and perhaps enjoy a stay in one of the 11 en suite rooms.