Restaurant review: Coworth Park, AscotBy Tom Fahey
March 25, 2011
‘Not that Tom Fahey again. I hate this bloke’s reviews. No doubt they’ve packed him off to some haute cuisine place again where he’ll give us 600 words of waffle about frar grar (sic) and foam.
Doesn’t he know what a credit crunch is? Does he think people are made of money? Why can’t they just send that lovely Sarah Dave to The Oracle or pack Creighton off for a curry? At least they know what normal people eat.”
Oh dear. Is this the best time to mention that I’m at Coworth Park in Ascot, a hotel set in 200 acres of polo country and owned by The Dorchester? How about that dinner comes courtesy of double-Michelin star winner John Campbell?
That the tasting menu I’m enjoying is £80 a head for eight courses? No? Ok, would it help if I said Cheryl Cole and Will I Am had a spot of afternoon tea here…?
Now look, while this £80 tasting menu features such delights as pigeon breast with apple blossom and confit pumpkin, spice-roasted monkfish with aubergine and yogurt, or roasted pork chop, grilled leek, bacon and mushroom puree; and while the Coworth Park surrounds are truly stunning, yet eminently more quirky than you’d expect from The Dorchester, I also acknowledge it’s a lot to spend on dinner.
But never let it be said this reviewer isn’t in touch with Joe Average. Whether prince or pauper, the reason John Campbell at Coworth Park deserves your attention is because of its Shire menu. This is offered at lunch and is £30 for three courses, champagne, the best pork scratchings you’ve ever tasted and, for the greedy, as much homemade bread (there are four types) as you can cram in.
Why ‘Shire’? Because produce is sourced only from farms in our shire and those adjacent to it. That’s Hampshire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Not Surrey. That’s not a shire.
I’ve sampled pork terrine with fennel puree and pear chutney. There are many terrines in Berkshire, this is the most delicate and accomplished of them.
Crayfish ravioli in watercress soup is the single best treatment ever perpetrated on the clawed American invader currently destroying our rivers. Silky pasta packed with puffy crayfish mousse spiked with slippery nuggets of flesh, and a peppery soup that’s pure chlorophyll.
For those of a non-meat persuasion, the Campbell kitchen works magic with duck eggs, poaching them at a low temperature then somehow char-searing the exterior to create smokiness that’s balanced by an earthy puree of ceps, petals of poached onion, savoy cabbage and a deeply savoury Parmesan foam.
Blade of beef takes a very long dip in low-temperature dripping, transforming it from tough-as-old-boots to soft-as-mallow, yet somehow retaining a juicy, pink centre. Alongside it, ethereal horseradish mash, a grilled shallot, strips of salsify and a meaty sauce that positively glistens.
There’s a perfectly wobbly panna cotta with winter fruits, apple sorbet and a carpaccio of jelly-embedded apple for pudding. Or try Barkham Blue as you’ve never seen if before with sweet onion puree, radishes and beetroot syrup.
The quality of produce and man hours employed for £30 is quite staggering; particularly in surroundings luxurious enough to for Cheryl and Will to judge X Factor from. For a taste of how the other half (me) live without the special-occasion price tag, John Campbell at Coworth Park’s Shire menu is an unmissable treat.
And for those who do enjoy a splurge, that tasting menu’s really is very good value as well.
No, honestly, it is.
- Telephone: 01491 628400
- Website: www.coworthpark.com
- Address: Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Ascot