I drive along a long and winding road and over a tiny bridge, passing fields and a golf course, and then a large impressive building comes into view – The Grove.
The five star hotel is now firmly established on various ‘best hotel’ lists around the world, but I am going to its fine dining restaurant – Colette’s, which has yet to become as famous.
Its head chef Russell Bateman agrees.
“People know of The Grove and they know of The Stables and The Glasshouse restaurants, but they don’t know of Colette’s,” he tells me.
Russell, who has been at Colette’s since 2009 and has recently been awarded three AA Rosettes in the 2011 AA Restaurant Guide, is sharpening his chef’s knives and getting his creative juices going to change that. He has devised an intriguing menu. As well as an à la carte menu, there is also a ten-course taster and taste of the market menu.
Russel found a passion for food when he helped his grandmother bake cakes, but he learnt his trade by working for some of the best chefs in the world – Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and Marc Veyrat.
Now as head chef at Colette’s, he feels he has one advantage over his contemporaries – the walled garden at The Grove.
“I’m very excited that I can grow our organic vegetables and fruit in the walled garden and I want to grow more there every year,” he enthuses.
My evening begins by perusing his menu in the lounge area of the restaurant, which has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it with oversized and oddly-shaped chairs and a collection of broken plates on the wall. Walking into the restaurant, I get a sense of drama from its décor with its mustard coloured walls, on which a 5ft- long painting of a pumpkin hangs.
I and my companion opt for the taste of the market menu, where each course has been carefully balanced in taste and texture by Russell.
Our meal begins with an appetiser of pickled apples (from the garden) with a hazelnut froth, which is light and refreshing. The first course of home-made ricotta with Jerusalem artichoke, watercress and truffle vinaigrette is beautifully presented and the contrasting flavours blend perfectly.
Next is the fish course – Cornish skate wing, with pumpkin (again from the garden), capers and golden raisins. My companion remarks, to his delight, that the skate is surprisingly meaty and bone-free. Russell lets us in on his little secret – he has asked the fishermen to pick out the fattest skate for him.
The main course is breast of guinea fowl with Maris Piper terrine and poultry jus. Although this is rich, it is not heavy and the guinea fowl is perfectly cooked and tender.
To end our meal, and yes we still had room, Russell has created his own favourite custard tart with crushed apples from the garden.
With each dish, the sommelier is very helpful in choosing the right wine from a comprehensive wine list, much of which is from family-run vineyards.
I found by choosing the Taste of the Garden menu I had dishes I wouldn’t normally go for – it made the evening fun and enjoyable, more of a celebration than going out for a meal.
Russell certainly has the skills of an excellent chef and the ideas to create interesting cosmopolitan dishes – so he should put Colette’s on the gastronomic map.
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