This truly is a ‘garden’ house with the intimate character of a cosy cottage. (Read more about the Garden House here.) It’s part of the Beaverbrook Estate and the smaller of two hotels, the other being the lavish and imposing main house which was once the home of Lord Beaverbrook, one of the most influential men of the last century. There are only 11 bedrooms in The Garden House so guests have the best of personal service from friendly and attentive staff, and that care and attention to detail extends to the restaurant which is already gaining a reputation for quality.
The restaurant is charmingly furnished and contemporary but with accents of heritage and deceptively easy design. This offers a relaxed and unstuffy ambiance which encourages the guest to linger. Some of those guests are local, and they might well be regulars even though it’s been just a few months since The Garden House Restaurant opened its doors.
Head Chef Kaz Suzuki was born in Japan and moved to New Zealand at the age of 14. Cooking was his passion and he has worked as an international private chef as well as for established restaurants. He brings a unique flair to the Garden House Restaurant where he offers fresh and seasonal ingredients in both classic and innovative dishes.
Yes, those ingredients couldn’t be fresher and some have remarkably low air miles. In fact no miles of any description as they are harvested from the adjoining Kitchen Garden which blossoms in abundance just outside the back door. The menu changes with the availability of the best produce and it’s always evolving.
Head Chef Suzuki has created a menu that combines traditional British dishes along with Italian classics. The bill of fare is well-balanced and tempting and one visit will likely not be enough. There will always be something new and one runs the risk, without frequent visits, that the chicken Milanese one had one’s eye on for the next dinner might not be on …but then there might be the chop, which is just as delicious.
The wine list here is quite exceptional for a relatively small restaurant. It’s remarkable that The Garden House Restaurant can offer such fine wines by the glass – but there is a secret: the Coravin! This is a gadget which allows the sommelier, in this case Euan McColm, to keep the cork in the bottle until the last drop of wine has been enjoyed.
If wine is in contact with air the wine will soon oxidise and lose its character and freshness. So how does one get the wine out of the bottle? Coravin is a new needle-through-the-cork system that enables you to siphon wine out of bottles without spoiling what’s left. Once the needle is pushed through the cork, a trigger is pulled to introduce argon gas through the needle at a pressure of 24 pounds per square inch. When the bottle is pressurised, wine can be poured through the spout. The remaining wine never comes in contact with oxygen, and the cork reseals itself in just a few minutes. Thus diners at The Garden House Restaurant have the opportunity of trying some outstanding wines by the glass.
We ordered Sardinian Flatbread made with olive oil and rosemary. Apparently this is a really popular nibble at The Garden House Restaurant and it’s easy to see why. Pane carasau is sometimes called “piano paper” or carta di musica, referring to its paper-thinness. This isn’t easy to make as it’s a process of rolling thin and baking until the bread puffs up and then cutting it in two and giving it another quick bake. Don’t miss this savoury treat.
My first course was Rabbit Ragu and Pappardelle with Chorizo, Vine Tomatoes and Olives. Rabbit should be a more popular meat than it is. Perhaps it’s a combination of Watership Down, Walt Disney and myxomatosis which has put paid to our love for bunny in a culinary sense. It’s a mild meat and shown to great advantage in this dish.
Gnoccillini of Goats Cheese and Pumpkin with Date Purée, Pistachio and Sage was my guest’s choice and he was well-pleased with these. The date added sweetness to the tangy cheese. A twist on an Italian classic.
My companion followed his gnocchi with Hampshire Partridge served with a traditional accompaniment of Braised Red Cabbage, Red Wine and Thyme and a side of game chips – which should be sold by the bag! We love game in the UK and it’s always good to see it presented so well.
I enjoyed the aforementioned Chicken Milanese as it was indeed on the menu on this occasion. A simple dish but comforting when done correctly. Nothing fussy or over-garnished – this was just right in every regard.
We shared a Slow Baked Cheese Cake with Limoncello Sorbet to finish this memorable meal. Affogato – a coffee-based dessert of ice cream topped or “drowned” with a shot of hot espresso – was also available and that would have been an appropriate end to this Italian/British-inspired dinner; but I am saving that for next time.
Breakfast at The Garden House Restaurant is a treat with lots of options for anyone looking for a decent brekkie: a Proper Bacon Sandwich made with Crispy Streaky Bacon and Campaillou Bread – that’s a bread made with a mix of different flours; a Full English Breakfast of Egg, Bacon, Wild Boar and Apple Sausage and Vine Tomato should be on the wish-list of lovers of British fry-ups. But my guest chose a lighter option of Poached Duck Egg and Avocado served with Bacon Chutney and Hollandaise. He was so taken with the bacon chutney that he has been researching a recipe ever since! This is a winner of a breakfast.
The list continues with Home-Cured Oxfordshire Salmon and Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Haddock and Poached Egg, Boiled Egg and Soldiers, Pancake, Crispy Bacon with Maple Syrup and Caramelised Banana. There is also Egg White Omelette for those folks who only ever indulge in one finger of Kit-Kat.
The Garden House Restaurant is an appropriate partner to the hotel. It deserves to become a destination restaurant in the area. Its food is accessible and delicious, its wines are superb and the staff are friendly and professional. Looking forward to tasting more from this kitchen.
The Garden House Restaurant
The Garden House
Surrey KT22 8QX
Phone: +44 (0)1372 227670
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018