Andre Garrett @ Cliveden
Loved by Meghan (we're on first name terms), loved by Muddy. The André Garrett is Deco fabulous.
Straddling the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, the Italianate mansion Cliveden House Hotel, set in 376 acres, oozes glamour and naughtiness from every blade of grass, squishy sofa and chandelier. It’s a grand party palace where misbehaving rock stars, actors, writers, royalty, politicians and party girls have rubbed shoulders and, ahem, more. It’s Meghan Markle’s favourite luxury hangout – she spent her pre-wedding night here, adding an extra layer of Hollywood and royal lustre to the brickwork.
Cliveden”s greatest claim to fame is its association with the Profumo Affair. If you need a brief history lesson: ‘Showgirl’ Christine Keeler met Sir John Profumo, then Secretary of State for War, during one of Bill Astor’s infamous parties (he’d inherited the estate from his parents Waldorf and Nancy). A wild affair followed, but Christine’s doing her bit for international relations and was also cavorting with the Russians at the same time. Pillow talk was pretty potent back then, and it all got a bit messy and political. Suffice to say it was a big story.
On to The André Garrett. This restaurant is a vision of Art Deco loveliness – lots of sumptuous velvet upholstery, antique mirrors and dreamy silk drapes, with breathtaking views across the pareterre gardens. It is goooooorgeous and a bit quirky. too. If you’re in for lunch you’ll be sharing that vista with the coach loads of National Trust visitors. Something you’re reminded of frequently as you lock eyes with the visitors drifting around, kids rolling down the slope to the perfectly striped lawn. But this sums up the whole vibe. Elegant, but welcoming to all. Park your preconceived ideas of snobbery, it’s not stuffy in the slightest.
Chef André Garrett arrived at Cliveden in 2013 from London and set about creating a menu to reflect his passion for seasonal English ingredients, used in classic dishes that that have been given a Garrett makeover – modern, beautiful but ultimately packing a punch in the flavour department. His food is seriously top notch – fine dining without being poncey.
Scoff & quaff
There is so much goodness on the menu it is hard to know where to start. You have the choice of the A La Carte or the Market Menu (an incredibly good value £36 for 3 courses). I plumped for the garden beetroot salad with ewes yogurt, fennel pollen and ice wine dressing (mindful I’ll be having to bear fish in public soon).
Ma Muddy – my date and lover of the finer things in life – opted for the spiced Dorset Crab with quinoa crackers. There’s no hiding place for something as simple as a beetroot salad, but if a plate of food tasted as good as it looked, this was it. The crab was got the thumbs up too – lots of texture and beautifully seasoned. Clean plates all round. Nuff said.
On to the mains. it was a toss up between the fillet of cod with peas and smoked mussels or the English Rose veal loin with truffles curd, hispi cabbage and gremolata – so we ordered both. The veal was rich with a sauce so lush I would happily bathe in it, while the cod was met in the mouth perfection. We added a couple of sides of spinach and boulangerie potatoes but to be honest, there was more than enough on my plate to enjoy.
It’s worth noting, the portion sizes are good. You would not be doing a drive by to the kebab van on the way home. Small, delicate dishes are lovely, you just need a lot of them. So a big Muddy thumbs up from a slightly greedy gal who wants her roomy pants to go to good use when she’s dining out.
Shall we squeeze in a pud? Might as well while we’re here. I opted for 50 shades of pineapple (it’s not called that) but it involved sorbet, dehydrated pineapple, . Sweet, refreshing – the perfect summer dessert served with poppy seeds. Mum keeping old school chose a pimped up rice pudding. It was far cry from the sloppy school dinners I remember. Pretty and served with dollop of clotted cream.
I’m going to throw it out there, kids are welcome and there’s special menu so you don’t have to worry about them navigating the menu or paying through the nose for a meal they probably won’t appreciate. Bitt harsh? Maybe, but fair where my offspring are concerned,
Out & about
While you’re here, you might as well have a mooch around. The grounds are vast and varied, with a lovely mix of manicured gardens and wild woodland. You’ll find British sculptor Lynn Chadwick’s works dotted around the grounds, semi abstract pieces inspired by human figures and animals . If you fancy pooling down the river too, a boat ride could be fun and it is one of the the most beautiful stretches of the Thames. For me? Take me to the spa or lose me forever. You’ll find me parked up on a lounger taking the occasional dip in this awesome grade II listed outdoor pool.– the scene of Profumo’s heavy petting crimes.
Good for: Anyone with tastebuds! Andre Garrett’s cooking will put a smile on your face and leave you wanting to come back for more. Special-occasion meals, afternoon tea with your mum; lunch with the girls; anyone who loves good food.
Not for: Small children; lovers of more casual dining – this is definitely crisp white tablecloth territory. And despite Cliveden’s raucous past, a rowdy sesh will not fly in the dining room. The André Garrett has a serene atmosphere that you’ll want to savour.
£££: Prices are reasonable for this level of quality. You could really go for it on the food and the wine and splash some serious cash, but the three different menus cater for all tastes and budgets. You definitely get what you pay for though – the restaurant has 3 AA Rosettes, and you’re made to feel very special by the staff. Perfect for a birthday treat, anniversary etc. but the lunch and dinner prices are so reasonable I’d suggest it for lunch with the girls (plus Cliveden’s newly-refurbished Spa)
André Garrett, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire SL6. Tel: 01628 668561. clivedenhouse.co.uk
Lunch: 12.15pm to 2.30pm; Dinner: 6.30pm to 9.45pm (last orders for the Tasting menu, 9pm)