Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House

4 Jan

I’ve been meaning to write about this wonderful experience for a while now, but as I’m sure is the case with all of you, Christmas planning has been rather manic! I’m back at home with the family now, and while everyone else is snuggled up in bed I am sat in the kitchen listening to gale force wind and rain outside, and tip tapping away on my little computer…instead of going out for a run. I think I’m going to wait for the weather to get at least a little bit better before I venture out – at this point I think I might take off and land in Belgium if a gust of wind hit me in the right direction.

Anyway – Adam Simmonds. I was very lucky to be taken (very generously) to Danesfield House in Marlow for a birthday treat by PD. It was such a wonderful escape from London; Danesfield House is set just on the outskirts of Marlow, smack bang in the countryside, and sits atop a lovely green hill. With around 65 acres of land (very GREEN land – not a tube or red bus in sight), it provides a perfect weekend retreat from London. Although this post is about the restaurant, I must say that the hotel itself is spectacular also. You feel sort of like royalty; the room which we were in was vast, with beautiful views of the landscape outside.

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But the restaurant is the focus of the review, so here we go.

Taken from Danesfield House website:

“Earlier this year, Adam retained a Michelin Star in the current edition of the Great Britain and Ireland Guide, which is one of many accolades achieved by Adam and his Brigade in the last few years. The Good Food Guide rates the restaurant with an impressive 8/10, placing it as the 13th top restaurant in the country. The AA Restaurant Guide 2012 confirmed four prestigious rosettes, for the fifth year running.”

The restaurant itself appears rather unassuming from the outside – mainly because all you see past the hotel reception is a door. There is no pompousness associated with Adam Simmonds, bar a few framed accolades on the wall next to the smartly presented person checking reservations by the door. The room is small, it must seat only around 5-6 tables of 6-8, but it’s high ceilings and Renaissance designs make it feel much larger. It was decorated beautifully, and had an incredible sense of grandeur (I must admit, I did move my seating arrangement a little closer to Pat, as I felt a little far away on our 6 person table – it seems that there weren’t any tables only for two, but perhaps this was only on this particular day).

The servers made us feel very at home straight away, and had the perfect balance of friendly and familiar versus leaving us to enjoy our special night. It wasn’t intrusive at all, yet very attentive. The first course was an amuse bouche of a tomato mousse with a vodka granitee. It was a wonderful introduction to the tasting menu – light, but full of flavour, and presented beautifully. We chose to have the matching wines, which had been very cleverly matched the particular flavours in the food. It definitely added another dimension to the meal (and possibly a few tipsy giggles by the end of the many courses!).

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The second amuse bouche was an interesting rendition of what I think of as thick pea and ham soup (erwt soup, back here in Holland), it had all of the flavours of a pea and ham, but was light and frothy. Again, a lovely introduction to what was going to be a fantastic meal.

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The first course was langoustine and caviar, with mackarel, anchovy, pickled cucumbers and English wasabi. The flavour combinations in this dish were absolutely wonderful, and complemented each other perfectly. The only nitpicky criticism we could come up with, would be that the pickled cucumber could have been a little more thinly sliced. As the langoustine was quite a delicate flavour, matched with the milder English wasabi, the pickle came through a tinsy winsy bit too strongly at times. It was matched with a 2008 Pinot Cuvee Silver Lake Willi Opitz from Austria.

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The second dish was confit foie gras with frog legs, a duck consomme, compressed apple and pickled turnip.  The consomme for me was the highlight of this dish – it completely lifted the flavours, and the apple added a slight sweetness against the very savoury duck. Beautifully cooked, and wonderful flavours. This was definitely one of my favourites taste-wise. Again, it matched the wine (same as above) perfectly.

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The following dish was by far the stand out dish of the night. Cod was served with shavings of truffle, leek puree, goat’s cheese and a truffle bouillon.  The flavour combination was fantastically memorable, and matched to the wine (2010 Chablis Domaine Colette Gros) the dish was one of my favourite dishes of all time!

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The following treat was roasted breast and leg of chicken prepared in various ways, with onion puree and yeast potatoes. It was all wonderfully prepared and beautifully cooked, and was served with a 1998 Urbina Rioja, Reserva Especial from Spain.

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We opted for the cheese course, and when the trolley rolled round I was initially a little disappointed. Having been completely overwhelmed by the size of the cheese trolley at Le Gavroche, I was rather underwhelmed by the size of this one. How silly I was! The cheeses had all been very carefully selected (both French and British), and each came with a very carefully thought out and designed accompaniment. Do not miss this dish if you’re going; the flavour combinations were so clever in this course, and although each was so different, the matching wine (a 2011 Gruner Veltlinel from the Kremstal region of Austria) complemented each flavour. This course made it particularly clear that Adam Simmonds puts a great deal of thought into his dishes. The highlight of this plate was the cheddar with chocolate coated hazlenut – delicious, yet a little bizarre on paper…!

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I think this dish was probably one of PD’s favourites. In my mind it was a bit of a modern take on banoffee pie, but so, so much better! This wasn’t even on the menu…it was a ‘pre-dessert’. In my opinion, pre-desserts should be served with every meal as an excuse to eat more dessert. Yes please!

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The first actual dessert appeared a little like a deconstructed lemon meringue. It was lemon parfait, fennel pollen ice cream, lemon curd and some very accurately cubed olive oil jellies (or pate de fruit if we’re being posh). It was a very refreshing dish; all light flavours, and lovely variances of texture. The two desserts were matched to a 2009 Monbazillac, Domaine L’Ancienne Cure.

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The final dish (sob) was a frozen white chocolate mousse (methinks liquid nitrogen may have made an appearance in the kitchen for this one), blackberry puree and dehydrated white chocolate. I’m not sure what the dehydrated white chocolate was to be completely honest, as it was just like a very thin slice of white chocolate…however, I had had an awful lot of wine by this point so it may just have been that I wasn’t paying enough attention (and not that I was complaining, of course, I love white chocolate!). I didn’t want this dish to end – the frozen white chocolate mousse was absolutely divine!

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Finally we finished off with some coffee and chocolates. I don’t quite remember which coffee I ordered, but PD and I had two different types. They both came in a nice individual cafetiere, and I was really quite taken with my coffee. It had subtle chocolatey undertones and was really quite delicious. PD’s only slight criticism was that the coffee had been brewed with boiling water, whereas it should really be around 95C to preserve all of the flavour qualities. Apparently there is only one hot water tank in the kitchens with no way to regulate temperatures, so I’d advise the purchase of a temperature controlled kettle! (yes, these do exist…I wondered what on earth had replaced my much loved standard kettle which changed colour from blue to red when the water boiled – simple things – but it is a very clever new kettle. Despite the fact that it doesn’t change colour).

All in all this is a real treat for anyone looking for a fantastically intimate night out with incredible food, wine and service. I would most certainly recommend the weekend package; it was such a memorable weekend made all the more pleasurable with the countryside surroundings and beautiful scenery (not to mention the very relaxing spa!). I am unable to comment accurately on the price as I don’t know exactly how much it was (PD kept this from my prying eyes), but I know that the prices are available on the website…and from what I understand, it was great value for the quality. The wine arrangement wasn’t cheap, but it certainly added a spectacular dimension to the meal that we would have really missed out on had we decided not to go for it.

Danesfield House and Adam Simmonds – definitely my foodie highlight of 2012!

As a side point, if you do decide to follow in our footsteps and make your way over to the Danesfield, I can heartily recommend a nearby pub called the ‘Dog and Badger‘ which we visited on our second night (review below).

Dog and Badger, Marlow

We were looking for a good local country pub as we were spending a weekend at the Danesfield. The hotel recommended the Dog and Badger, and we’re so glad they did; upon walking in the atmosphere was cosy and familiar, with an open fire and beautiful comfy chairs. The bar is nicely laid out so that one has to pass the bar to reach a table, meaning that no one can be missed! The service was wonderful – friendly and warm from the moment we entered. Even the locals struck up a friendly chat; we felt very at home.

Having had a michelin starred dinner the night before, our food expectations were high and we were not disappointed. The duck spring rolls were incredibly tasty and presented wonderfully (lots of duck, too!). My boyfriend and I both had the steak to follow – great meat, tender and perfectly cooked as ordered. The chefs (I believe to be the owner’s son and friend) had been very thoughtful in the way in which the food was both prepared and presented, with little gems of bacon wrapped green beans which had been crumbed and fried, and delicious chips. Much to my dismay I popped to the ladies and returned to find that my other half had ordered dessert (thought I might be rolling home at this point…) however I am rather grateful that he did as the sticky toffee pudding was one of the best I’ve had out. The toffee sauce was perfect, and the pudding was spongy and light. The ice cream served alongside was a perfect accompaniment and very tasty (we were even given another scoop as we liked it so much!). 

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The experience surpassed my expectations and was the perfect end to such a wonderful weekend away. Everyone at the Dog and Badger is so lovely, and I was surprised to find out that the pub had only been running as it is for 20 months. It seems so well established and thought through, from the trivial pursuit cards on the table (provided hours of entertainment!) to the layout of the pub itself, and the fantastic food, this place is definitely worth a detour if you’re ever in the area and I hope to return again soon. 

I have also fallen in love with their beautiful and wonderfully well behaved 17 year old family ‘pup’, Judge, who came to make friends with me after a lot of coaxing. But don’t worry if you’re not too much of a dog lover – he’s small and quiet with a fabulous temperament, and only made a timid appearance after everyone was completely finished up with their meal!

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