Restaurant Review: Hillfield, Chef Adam Fisher, Pennyhill Park Hotel (May 2023)

Posted on: May 28th, 2023 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
Adam Fisher

[Chef Adam Fisher]

Hillfield Restaurant at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot is now in the capable hands of Chef Adam Fisher.  His diverse experience, ranging from the Ginger Fox in Brighton to the German Embassy in Belgravia, and most recently the Barn at Coworth Park, has amply prepared him for his current position.

He is now free to focus more on the fundamentals of seasonality, sustainability, “hyper-locality” and “farm to fork, nose to tail” in his cooking. With the ultimate aim of gaining a Michelin Green Star, produce from the Pennyhill Park estate, Surrey Hills, and the extensive kitchen garden will greatly assist in the drive to lower the restaurant’s carbon footprint. Indeed, the aim is to source most of its products, including foraged items, from a 25-mile radius. The provenance of the main ingredients, such as Windsor Great Park rabbit or Haverstock Park buffalo mozzarella, is proudly acknowledged on the menu.

Firmly grounded in the techniques of classical cuisine, Adam Fisher’s tasty dishes are often playful and imaginative yet can be complex in their preparation. The precise timing of meat and fish, the balance of flavours and textures in harmonious combinations, and attention to detail are evident in abundance. The presentation is clean and precise, without superfluous garnishes. Many fine dining elements are present, although the chef modestly prefers to see his cuisine as a transition from classic brasserie style to touches of high gastronomy through accomplished restaurant cooking.

The à la carte menu offers a good range of starters, mains and desserts with realistic prices to reflect the excellent quality of the ingredients and the skills and creativity demonstrated in the kitchen.

A delightful tartlet of crisp, thin pastry, and sweet white crab meat garnished with caviar provided the perfect accompaniment to our aperitif.

Two starters showcased both classical and contemporary approaches to Adam’s cuisine.

A generous slice of a dense, three-layered terrine, featured the deep, smoky gentle saltiness of ham hock, the well-seasoned, moist, soft texture of Cotswold White chicken, and the unashamedly silky richness of duck liver, perfectly marinated using the Ritz recipe. Finished with chorizo jam which balanced the savoury elements, this was a highly accomplished dish

Equally appetising but more innovative was Adam’s signature dish – a savoury éclair. Crisp choux pastry was filled with sticky, slow-cooked beef short rib enriched with bone marrow. Truffle hollandaise added a creamy texture and contrasting flavour while pickled mushrooms gave the necessary acidic element which cut the dish’s overall richness. A generous shaving of truffle added a heady fragrance to this unapologetically decadent, truly creative offering.

A special offered also revealed an imaginative approach based on Bunny chow, the popular South African street food. Here, a crisp bread roll was hollowed out and filled with plump mussels, shallots, chives, garlic, sea vegetables and a little cream to bind them together. This flavoursome seafood dish showed how relatively humble ingredients could be elevated to high end satisfaction and standards.

Meat cookery continued the theme of skilful and thoughtful cooking.

A saddle of Muntjak deer was precisely cooked and rested to maximise the flavour of its fine-grained, lean meat. A faggot created from the leg meat provided a contrasting texture and richer flavour, while baby turnips, barbequed carrots and leeks with their own purees gave deep, earthy accompaniments. Finished with a lip-smacking barbeque sauce based on reduced veal jus, this dish was ideal for a game lover.

The neck of lamb, appropriately slow-roasted for this muscular cut, was strong and slightly gamey in its flavour. It worked well with the herbal notes of cooked lovage, and the robust qualities of beer-braised onion. A delicate celeriac gratin with its puree added to the earthiness of the garnishes and a punchy port jus brought all the elements together with a touch of sweetness. Too full to sample the desserts, which we would confidently expect to reach the same standards as the savoury courses, we reflected on how satisfying was the visit to Hillfield at Pennyhill Park. The experience was enhanced by the relaxed, spacious and comfortable dining room, the highly knowledgeable and unobtrusive service, and the opportunity to chat with Adam Fisher. We wish him well in his ambitions and will follow his career with interest.