The Beaverbrook Estate seems a quintessentially English retreat with a country house hotel, and that would obviously have a quintessentially English dining room and menu. Well, no: although the dining room looks rather English with a hint of cherry blossom, the food on offer at The Dining Room is authentically Japanese.
Head Chef Taiji Maruyama started his career rather young thanks to the fact that his dad owned a sushi restaurant in Fukushima. Maru (that’s Chef Taiji’s nickname) first learned how to make sushi when he was still a boy. He worked at the family business until 1999, then moved to a restaurant in Tokyo, staying there until 2005. He has worked at Nobu, initially as a sushi chef in London and then as executive sous-chef in Nobu in Monaco. Nothing shabby about the culinary pedigree of this inspiring chef.
The best food and sake to be found outside Japan
The Japanese Dining Room offers some of the best food and sake to be found outside Japan, but many of the ingredients for these striking plates come from a lot nearer. There is a kitchen garden on the Beaverbrook estate and that provides fresh seasonal salads and vegetables.
It might seem strange to have a Japanese restaurant on an English country estate, but it demonstrates good business acumen. There isn’t a noteworthy Japanese restaurant for miles around, but the area has a great many discerning diners who welcome the chance to enjoy such food without the need for a trip into central London.
If this is your first visit to The Dining Room and you are somewhat anxious about how to construct a Japanese meal from all the dishes on offer on this extraordinary menu, then I would suggest ordering a Tasting Menu. That introduces the diner to a great overview of the restaurant and its food.
We were offered a flight of Japanese Sake by the able sommelier. This is a wonderful opportunity to taste Japan’s national beverage under informed instruction. Pairing with food is a perfect masterclass.
A Peruvian dish of raw fish
Edamame was our first nibble. These beans are ubiquitous in Japanese restaurants. Perfect with our first flask of sake served on a bed of ice. Crispy Rice was a crunchy departure from the usual canapé and really quite addictive. Salmon Tartare with Masago fish roe and spicy mayonnaise was light and delicious and very Japanese. Yellow Tail Tiradito had a beautiful presentation. This is actually a Peruvian dish of raw fish but there has long been a Japanese community in that country. Yuzu and Aubergine was excellent, with pleasing heat from the Kizami wasabi which is chopped, fresh Japanese wasabi that is then marinated in soy sauce.
Beaverbrook Garden Salad does indeed come from the aforementioned Beaverbrook garden, so this was bound to be fresh. Shiso Dressing and Crunchy Shallots made an aromatic topping to this spring-like course. Shiso is also called perilla, and the green variety is commonly used in Japanese dishes.
Popcorn Shrimp, Spicy Mayonnaise and Butter Ponzu was moreish. Ponzu is a popular Japanese sauce made from the juice of yuzu – a Japanese citrus similar to lemon, lime or grapefruit. Beaverbrook Special Nigiri was a traditional platter of fresh and flavourful fish. This will be a familiar menu item to regular high-end Japanese restaurant-goers. The success of Nigiri is down to the quality of the fish.
A little triumph of both taste and texture
Grilled Corn-Fed Baby Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce and Sliced Truffle along with Broccoli with Korean Kimchi and Spicy Lemon Dressing was perhaps the star of this memorable meal. This is one of the best chicken dishes of any culinary genre that I have tasted in a long time. I eat out a lot so that accolade, although simple-sounding, is quite a tribute. A little triumph of both taste and texture, a must-try dish which will be enjoyed even by those who profess not to like Japanese food (‘Its all raw fish isn’t it?’).
Sorbet of Green Basil with Lemonade Foam followed as palate cleanser. This was a ‘cool’ winner and I don’t normally ‘warm’ to basil. This worked! The frozen theme continued with Japanese Mango and Yuzu Mochi ice cream.
This Tasting Menu offered authentic Japanese food with its array of wonderfully presented, balanced and delicious flavours. This was the best Japanese meal I have had outside Japan. Head Chef Taiji Maruyama deserves to be proud of his kitchen.
Dinner Opening Times:
Tues to Sat – 6pm to 10pm (Last orders 9.45pm)
Lunch Opening Times:
Tues to Fri – 12 noon to 3pm (Last orders 2.45pm)
Sat & Sun – 12.30pm to 3.30pm (Last orders 3.15pm)
The Dining Room is closed Sunday night for dinner, and is closed Monday for both lunch and dinner.
The House Japanese Grill
Phone: +44 (0)1372 571300