Christopher Wren Hotel
Stroks Restaurant

Sir Christopher Wren's House Hotel
Thames Street, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1PX

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Business is good in Windsor at the moment with the news that Prince Charles is thinking about moving there, and that the Queen's garden parties will be staged there in the future. Windsor Castle The town is not really known as a Mecca for foodies with only about five restaurants worth mentioning in any kind of food guide. However, the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel in the town is a real find, with the restaurant called Stroks named after a Croatian racing driver from the sixties who also happens to own the place. There is of course plenty to do in Windsor like cruising the Thames in the hotel's own boat sipping champagne, but that is another story as it is the food we want to talk about.

Chef Phillip Wild lives up to his name with a fiery temperament, but his loyal brigade serve up quality food with a flair and fusion style which came as an unexpected surprise. Wild has laboured away for years without any rosettes or stars which is so important for the morale of a team. That all changed a few months away with recognition from the AA, but it is the Michelin star that he really wants. The young French sommelier is knowledgeable about wine almost to the point of obsession, and it can only be a matter of time before he is grabbed up by some fancy hotel in London.

A small example of what you might get served would be the appetizer of marinated tuna with spicy couscous. Very cold and savory and an ideal start to the meal. The dining room by the way is very spacious and conducive to fine dining, with atmosphere provided by the modern jazz music. The breads unfortunately were a real disappointment as is always the case when there is no in-house bakery. The starter of seared scallops with Parma ham and celeriac on a crispy base was however in a different class and typical of the chefs innovative fusion style and attractive presentation with hints of Californian influence. Scallops need a medium dry white and the Pouilly-Fuisse from the 1997 vintage was an inspired choice.

My baked saddle of venison with a Herb Crust, pickled pears and roasted parsnips (16.95) came in a simple but perfectly blended sauce. This has to be the way I would prefer to eat venison in the future, as I have found it to be a bland and uninspiring dish in the wrong hands. One of my guests had lamb with foie gras, baby aubergines and a baby red bell pepper on top. The accompanying reduction of port wine sauce and madeira was delightful. She was quite a world traveller having stayed in posh hotels all over the world, and she claimed it was the best lamb she had ever had. My wife had her favourite monkfish on a bed of sweet potato risotto. Shallots, garlic and parmesan rounded out the dish that was tender, juicy and also quite substantial. The Vougeot Clos du Pierre 1995 is a burgundy with a delicate balance of complexity and lightness making it a versatile partner for both fish and meat.

Desserts looked interesting enough, especially the warm chocolate soup served with spiced bread and chocolate ice-cream. Very light and tasty and certainly different enough. My wife found her classic glazed lemon tart with citrus sorbet and a puree of fresh raspberries too bland, but the selection of English cheeses including Celtic promise, Stilton, St. Andrews and Whitmore organic all went down well.

Windsor is really a great heritage destination with the castle and it's beautiful Chapel of St. George, home of a great choir. Eton is also there just across the river, and the Queen can wave from the castle terraces to her grandsons who are both pupils at the school, founded in the fifteenth century by King Henry the Sixth.

It's nice to know that one does not necessarily have to rush off somewhere else to get a decent meal at the end of a perfect day.

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Average price of dinner per person 35
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This article reprinted from Dine Online

Michael Hepworth