A couple of weeks ago we were invited to pop along to Cliveden for lunch – how could we say no? Since Andre Garrett’s arrival a couple of years ago this has been on my list of essential places to dine, I just never found an occasion worthy of such refinery and general decadence. I was keen to see if what I imagined was in fact true.
As we swung into the long drive Mr Foxy was rather impressed with the grandeur of the house and it’s palatial surroundings. I am no stranger to Cliveden as my mother would regale tales of how this great house had been a magnificent home to the Astor family, how it had been at the centre of one of our biggest political scandals. I am still a frequent visitor as there is something about this magnificent house that keeps drawing me back. I remember when it became a hotel in the 80’s and when more recently in 2012 it became the sister hotel of the equally stunning Chewton Glen.
I was born here, well that is what I tell people. I was actually born in the grounds, there used to be a Red Cross Hospital which was built by the Astor’s in 1914 on their polo field for the Canadian WW1 wounded. Sadly the hospital is now gone and replaced with luxury living but the fondness is still with me and the rather tall tale.
Once we had parked our Land Rover (country girl) in amongst some of the finest and most stylish cars ever seen (honestly even the car park would get Jeremy Clarkson slightly excited) we met our hosts and made our way to the rather splendid dining area which overlooks the beautiful landscaped gardens.
As I was the designated driver (how did that happen?) I was unable to partake of any alcoholic refreshment so plumped for the Lady Astor cocktail (sounded very refreshing with apple and lime). I was not expecting a glass of blue to be put on the table, looking a little out of place with the menu I was currently purveying; more in keeping with some very cool nights I have had in downtown NY! This glass of blue is however very delicious and refreshing! If I can’t have champagne then this is almost the next best thing. I love my wine and whilst feeling slightly perturbed that I would not be able to sample any due to my Parker duties, this cheeky Lady Astor was the perfect substitute.
Now onto some serious menus, the kind that make you read not just once but several times. So much temptation but I had to go for my favourite – crab, whilst Mr Foxy went for my second favourite – scallops. For our mains we both have a passion for excellent meat so both went for the beef. Both ordering rare, although mine not so it would still be scampering around the plate and true to tradition, My Foxy orders blue (his most favourite thing).
We sat admiring our palatial surroundings and observed fellow diners and the staff, the latter being most attentive and almost with military precision re-filling water glasses, wines etc. As we sat awaiting our starters we were brought the most delicious taramasalata and onion bread as a little appetiser, a teaser of what was to come! This was so delicious that as Mr Foxy had his head in a book reading all about the history of the house, he almost missed out! In fact it was so delicious our waiter asked if I wanted more bread – had I really devoured this in such a way that I must have resembled Tom Hanks in Castaway. I was not ravenous just this was soooo good!
Next came our starters! These were beyond expectation and literally taste explosions. Crab and scallops are amongst our favourite things to eat yet we are constantly disappointed by their unimaginative usage, taste and presentation – neither of these were a disappointment BOTH were so delicious! Please believe me when I say, it is worth going just for these two dishes alone. Heaven, pure heaven!
After being totally spoilt with our first course, we were now a little intrigued to see how good our mains would be. We wished we had not both ordered the beef as were feeling silly for not choosing differently so we could share a little (as we had done with our first course). Anyway, deed is done and we sit back and await our mains……oh my! Oh my is literally all I can say. We like to think we are beef experts in our house, always looking for that perfect piece of meat and the best way to cook it. Whether we be investing 8 hours in our endeavour or opting for a quick flash fry, Mr Foxy is literally a connoisseur of the cow (he is a farm boy).
Our mains arrived and we almost cried with the first mouthful. This must be the best beef we have ever tasted, ever! No offence to Mr F but even his cooking is not this good but then given he is not a trained chef that is hardly surprising. Cooked to perfection my beef was perfectly pink whilst Mr Foxy was extremely happy to discover the kitchen did understand the true meaning of blue. We have found our Utopia and it is Longhorn Beef at Cliveden on a Saturday lunchtime. The last time I ate food this good was courtesy of a certain Raymond Blanc!
Having eaten the most delicious meal, ever (official). We sat back to contemplate the fine food that had been placed before us. We do this little 0/10 rating wherever we go regarding the food, accommodation, location, staff etc and we decided that although we were not staying we would apply the same scoring methodology to our dining experience. Well the cuisine was a huge 10/10, the location has to be 10/10 as we are sat in a gorgeous dining room in a most palatial house surrounded by the most beautiful landscaped gardens in one of the most beautiful areas in the county and indeed in the whole UK. Staff unsurprisingly 10/10 – from their knowledge of the food served to their attention to detail and friendly demeanour.
We decided there and then that we would have to return, not even for a special occasion but we would ensure we came back every couple of months just for a treat. We estimated that for the two of us we could dine quite comfortably with wine for under £100 per head, and I would rather eat here once every couple of months than squander the odd £30/40 here on a takeaway fortnightly.
We were offered the most amazing desserts but had to decline, we were completely full and to eat anymore would have been a complete overload. I do not eat chocolate and had been eyeing up the cheeseboard – well I say board, it is in fact a complete decadent tray of cheese that is wheeled to your table so you can choose what you would like. Devastated that I could not even fit in the tiniest piece of cheesy goodness for fear of exploding we settled upon coffees. The staff then presented us with a couple of small dishes with sweetie delights, not wishing to be rude we indulged – well Mr Foxy did as he has a much larger capacity for food than I.
Following our totally indulgent lazy lunch we went for a wander around the grounds. We needed to walk, we were compelled to get up and move otherwise our Saturday would have simply morphed into us sitting in the restaurant in a self-absorbed state of decadence.
The grounds at Cliveden are amazing (well they are not going to be anything other than). It truly is the most amazing place, no wonder this great house attracts the occasional celebrity wedding. You can imagine couples saying their vows in this grand house and then coming outside to have the most fabulous pictures capturing the special day.
Accommodation we will explore on another day as this house seems full of secrets; they even have a cottage you can rent down by the water for a more secluded stay.
Would we recommend the Andre Garratt Restaurant to our readers? A resounding 100% yes! Yes it is not cheap but it is certainly not that expensive either. I cannot wait to come back and trust me next time I will NOT be driving! Whilst you are there take a leisurely walk around this most magnificent and splendiferous house.
We will keep you up-to-date with regular events including the Pop-Up Cinema and the opening of their new SPA this year. And please remember at all times, I was born here, that is my lawn you are walking on.
Love Miss Foxy xx