LADY HARRIS (aka Gill) enjoys the finer things in life at Restaurant 56 in Faringdon
Restaurant 56 at Sudbury House Hotel
56 London Street,
Faringdon SN7 7AA
Tel: 01367 241272 firstname.lastname@example.org
“I’M not sure we're posh enough,” I said to my dining companion ahead of our meal at the Sudbury House Hotel.
For the lady on the phone when I’d rung to book, while extremely polite and efficient, had left me rather intimidated. Added to the usual name, date, time of booking and contact number were a string of questions – any special dietary requirements, were we celebrating something, what was my email address and would we arrive about half an hour early... the confirmation email would explain why. Yikes – I half expected to be asked if I’d chosen what I’d be wearing yet.
The email revealed that guests are asked to arrive early so they can enjoy canapes in the garden room – and on arrival at Sudbury House, I could see why.
Of course, we were late, having taken a couple of wrong turns, but the waiter was at the door to greet us and show us into the garden room, an airy Georgian parlour, complete with huge fireplace, comfy sofas and doors leading out on to the garden. It had a lovely home from home feel to it – if you were from a different era and a different class.
All the stress of a day at work and those pesky wrong turns slipped away and I began to feel a little bit Upstairs Downstairs as our young and rather excellent waiter (the butler, by now, in my head) brought us aperitifs and a tray of little melt-in-your-mouth gorgeous things to nibble on while we perused the menu. This was the life.
Having ordered our meals, we were left to wander on the lawn (I fancied myself the lady of the house by this point) and relax in the garden room until our waiter announced our table was ready. This restored Grade II listed Georgian wing of the hotel, once home to Sir William Glock, the BBC Controller of Music, is also a treasure trove of original artworks and worth a browse in its own right.
Once seated in the sumptuous dining room, our meal began with an amuse bouche of a nut gazpacho; light, frothy and quite honestly out of this world. I’ve never tasted anything quite so extraordinary or seen a dish quite so pretty.
Our starters arrived in due course and again looked stunning. My date had gone for quail Scotch egg with piccalilli puree, white onion soup, girolles and onion ash (£14) and again, the chef had lifted the humble Scotch egg to a whole new level; light, full of so many delicate flavours... imagine if the Greek gods had chowed down on Scotch eggs, this would be it.
My starter of Whelford wood pigeon and foie gras, turnip, chicory jam, pickled walnut and orange (£15) was another hit. The pigeon melted in my mouth and all the elements came together to create a flavour explosion that I would never have dreamed possible.
For mains, my companion had Argyll halibut, Fowey mussel and stout pearl barley, globe artichokes and Dijon mayonnaise (£27.50). As I’m sure you can imagine by now, it was a visual delight, eveything was perfectly cooked and every element worked with the next to create heaven in the mouth.
My main course was duo of Kelmscott pork, pine nut polenta, nettles, dry sherry and creme fraiche sauce (£26). This food is so unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before, as though the chef had sprinkled a little fairy dust over everything and waved a magic wand, transforming familiar ingredients into ambrosia from the heavens, that I simply don’t have the vocabulary to describe it so I’ll just say this: nomnomnom.
We decided against dessert to let the flavours of our meals linger in our mouths, but a selection are available for around the £10 mark. Instead, I had a coffee – which arrived with one final surprise: a little plate of heavenly petit fours. I could get used to this life.
As well as being utterly delicious, one of the great things about the meal for me was that each portion was perfectly judged in terms of size, so we felt satisfied but at no point overloaded and unable to tackle the next course. The high class service and all those little extra touches made this more of a dining experience than just a straightforward meal out. And to experience food of this standard is a treat not to be missed – even with the recipe, these are dishes I could never reproduce at home.
And it’s all thanks to head chef Andrew Scott, who has a track record of working in Michelin-starred kitchens, and gained one earlier this year for his work at Curlew restaurant in East Sussex. Surely another will follow at Sudbury House?
In total, our bill came to £83.80 (we had a voucher for 25 per cent off our mains) which included two mineral waters, a glass of wine and a gin and tonic. And given the extras of canapes, amuse bouches and petit fours, I think that’s excellent value.
So if you fancy shedding the cares and worries of 21st century life and having a taste of incredible food – and life Upstairs – you know where to go.
But don’t be late.