The house, dating from 1540, was a private country club in the 1930's. Nearby Elstree Studios (East Enders is filmed nearby and the property has featured in Hammer House of Horror movies etc.) ensure a regular traffic of television and movie stars (e.g. Jerry Hall, Tom Cruise, Sophia Loren).
This 3 star hotel's restaurant enjoys 3 AA Rosettes. The atmosphere was warm and friendly making me feel quite comfortable, though dining alone. The mock Tudor/Edwardian interior provides the restaurant with a relaxing atmosphere, which is emphasized by the quiet background music. A young couple, spooning in the corner were quite in place, under the cherubs carved into the restaurant's wooden beam structure.
The menu is full and varied but nicely balanced. It is in two parts, "Plain and Simple", and the "Cavendish Menu". This approach provides a good selection for varied guests. Breads are of course cooked fresh on the premises. The wine menu was a little disappointing (featuring a lot of Sutter Home) but is to be improved in the near future.
My meal commenced with a starter consisting of chopped onions in Gruyère cheese on a pastry base and surrounded with a rich chicken stock and horseradish sauce. Though not on the menu, I recommend you request this delight of the chef.
A vegetable herb broth with lobster and langoustines followed this. This had a good consistency and a delicious flavor, nicely enhanced with a selection of domestic herbs (Parsley, Thyme, Coriander etc.). If I hadn't had to drive, I might have enjoyed a good, white Burgundy with this.
The main course of breast of duck with pot-roasted beetroot and orange with boulangere potato and fennel has me salivating even the morning after, though there was a tad more wine in the sauce than I'd have liked. The beetroot gave the meal a wonderful earthy flavor. The chef really must be commended for his originality with this dish. For my palate, the wine (Montaroil Vin de Pays d'Oc Merlot, Domaines Virginie) was a little dry for this dish.
The dessert, a specialty of the house was Vanilla Fruit Salad, The Tequilla soaked Brioche seemed a little heavy for a dessert made up of Creme Fraiche Ice and - a delightful, brightening touch - Spearmint. Another original dish the chef should be complimented for.
And a final note for the businessman looking for a meeting venue outside London. There are facilities (such as conference and syndicate rooms)for business meetings. These are primarily in the new wing, which has a more modern, less luxurious, decor. These facilities would be fine for smaller to medium sized businesses but are not really equipped for the high profile or high technology executives who'd need high speed telecommunications and laptop projection facilities.
Wally Robertson, October 1999
+44 (0)181 953 8227
+44 (0)181 207 3668
Price for dinner for two with wine £90
Nearest British Rail station: Elstree & Borehamwood (35 mins Paddington)