It is indeed a park, and a world-renowned 27-hole golf course set in landscaped grounds. Lots of facilities for club members, as well as for those taking advantage of day-membership and hospitality packages. But there is a stunning little corner of Stoke Park which is open to the general public and at a price that will surprise and delight.
Humphry Repton (1752 –1818) is considered the last great English landscape designer of the eighteenth century. He has been described as the successor to the celebrated Capability Brown. He gives his name to the restaurant which has a view of the bridge across the lake, which he designed. It’s a testament to enduring British quality, and so is the restaurant. Humphry worked with trees rather than truffles; chef Chris Wheeler still maintains those timeless high standards at Humphry’s Restaurant.
Chris is a member of the Craft Guild of Chefs and his culinary CV is creditable, as one would expect for a man at the helm of such a prestigious restaurant. Chris was Group Head Chef of Jean-Christophe Novelli’s empire. Chris has worked in various Michelin-star restaurants and in 2005 Jean-Christophe invited Chris to appear with him on TV’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. Chris joined Stoke Park in 2003 and has built a reputation around using only fresh and, where possible, British ingredients. Humphry’s has been awarded 2 AA Rosettes in recognition of its outstanding food and customer service. Now this fine dining restaurant is open to everybody. The prices are remarkably reasonable for such food and ambiance, although it’s a friendly restaurant which gives every visitor a warm welcome.
Humphry’s is every inch an 18th century dining room. High ceilings, gold-papered panels, and windows overlooking that eponymous bridge, which is shown to greatest advantage at night when it is flood-lit. This is indeed an ideal spot for a romantic dining interlude. Chandeliers twinkle and illuminate one of the most striking restaurants you are likely to find anywhere. The background music will make diners of ‘a certain age’ smile – a selection of tracks that would have been familiar to those guests in the 1920s and 30s, when such places were the private domain of well-heeled flappers and the plus-foured set. (I’m sure I heard the mellow crooning of a youthful Louis Armstrong.) Ordinary sorts are now welcomed, without an invitation from a club member or the need for a hyphenated surname. The menu changes frequently but every evening will offer dishes that showcase the best from land and sea.
Chris comes from Dorset so it was no surprise to find crab from his home county: a starter of Dorset Crab, King Prawns and Avocado Tian with Cucumber, Soft-Boiled Quails Egg and Pink Grapefruit Segments – a beautiful presentation and a light start to our substantial feast. The citrus fruit gave a fresh tang to the sweet seafood.‘Grilled Fillet of Sea Bass with Potato Puree, Samphire, Clams and Teign Mussels Nage’: that sounds cheffy, but a nage is simply stock used for poaching delicate seafood. It’s usually flavoured with white wine, vegetables, and herbs, then reduced and thickened with cream or butter. The broth was delicious but the bass was the star, with tender flesh and crispy skin.
Spiced Poached Baby Pears with Deep-fried Cardamom Rice Pudding, Home-made Plum Jam, Almond Ice Cream and Spicy Bread Crisp was my guest’s aromatic choice for dessert, and illustrated why folks dine out. One could make a stab at the bass main course at home, but this dessert had several elements that only a confident cook would tackle. Come to Humphry’s and enjoy the efforts of the professionals. Yes, it’s a smart place but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Chris offers a whimsical dessert, or more accurately a slew of individual bites, called Humphry’s ‘Snickers’ – Milk Chocolate and Peanut Mousse, Salted Chocolate Caramel, Caramel Foam, Peanut Tuile. If you are a lover of that moreish chocolate bar then you will delight in this deconstructed and very classy version here. All those original flavours and textures are moulded and mounded to give a truly sophisticated dessert that could even constitute a small sharing platter, if you are filled to near capacity by the previously-consumed savouries.
Whilst it’s true that Humphry’s restaurant is refined with all the polish for which one would hope, the staff are attentive but unobtrusive. They are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their bill of fare and able to give advice not only on the food but on suitable wine pairings, should you need some support. Humphry’s is the sort of place that one might have expected to reserve only for very special occasions, anniversaries and birthdays, but in fact it’s an accessible and friendly fine-dining restaurant that will encourage one to return just because it’s affordable luxury.
Humphry’s restaurant is open to the public for:
Lunch 12.00pm – 2.30pm
Dinner 7.00pm – 10.00pm
Humphry’s restaurant – Stoke Park
Park Road, Stoke Poges
Buckinghamshire SL2 4PG
Tel: 01753 717171
Fax: 01753 717181
View all that Stoke Park has to offer here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018