Flagship restaurant of Penny Hill Park Hotel now (as of 2017) with Matt Worswick as head chef gaining its Michelin star for the 2018 Michelin guide.
This is my first experience of The Latymer with Matt Worswick at the helm since he stepped in to the large shoes left behind by Michael Wignall, after the latter left Penny Hill Park and took over the fort at Gidleigh Park in 2016. The headline for this visit is that I genuinely enjoyed the control of the flavours throughout all the dishes and it was also a very nice bonus to see somewhere newly awarded with a star that definitely deserves it and with gusto from my lens. Full details of this 7 course tasting menu (£95) are at the expansion button as always (there’s an alternate evening five course version for £75 and a set £35 three course option for lunch) and the bottom line is it was obvious I was in good hands here, from both the kitchen and the floor staff – very often it can be only one or the other. Definitely worthy of a romantic occasion or celebration.
The meal started with delicate nibbles, the first being a mini cone of smoked baba ghanoush, cardamom yoghurt and Bombay mix which was very smooth but with good spice in a pleasingly light pastry. A parmesan and truffle beignet had a lovely, warm truffle flavour (not too strong) and a pig’s trotter coquette with piccalilli gel was also satisfying. Home-made sour dough was similar in style to previous visits, but this version came with an enhanced, brittle crust (resulting in an amusing cascade of debris on the table). Salted butter was joined by a Wagyu dripping dip with onion powder and whilst I thought this was straying close to the limit of saltiness, it was luxurious and good to have at the same time.
Galician octopus to start came with pickled kohlrabi and sesame and had absolutely beautifully handled miso gel. The handling of the aromats was lovely in support and was a very pleasant way to begin. The salt-baked celeriac, remoulade, lovage & nasturtium leaves with truffle sorbet (made from French perigord truffles) and shavings of winter truffles from Australia was utterly fresh. The truffle sorbet I thought was superb here and this was a lovely way to have an otherwise, underused vegetable (celeriac) and actually represented very high levels of how to make a salad dish imaginative and enjoyable, on par with the greatest salad I have had at 2 Michelin starred The Ledbury.
Eel brushed with apple came with pickled turnip, lemon grass and Japanese stock from pork and chicken using dashi mushrooms and this was another corker. The eel was perfectly soft and sweet with the apple glaze (eel can be unbearably salty at times). The fragrant stock with an almost lemongrass quality from the dashi mushrooms was a light dish and again, all very enjoyable.
Risotto with wild mushrooms, parmesan crisp and chestnut shavings was another example of making something quite simple of greater interest than normal. There was good depth to the mushrooms with an interesting take on the chestnut looking like cheese shavings (albeit with the same sort of texture to coconut which is not my personal favourite) but the Parmesan crisp was a lovely add on with its light crunch and good cheese flavour in addition to make a warming dish.
The Goosnargh duck was superb, plain and simple. The quality of the duck was extremely good, perfectly cooked and with a decent amount of rendered fat (but not too much at the same time). The roasted duck breast came with sautéed duck liver, salt-baked beetroot, roasted raspberries, beetroot gel and a gorgeously soft dauphinoise potato which all worked well together. The red wine jus was very well done red wine jus, clever crunch of granola and the sweet of the raspberries had been toned down very well.
A mini doughnut with cox apples and Douglas fir was a warm, comforting mini doughnut with lovely combination and pop in the mouth interlude for a pre-dessert. Dessert itself came in the form of salted chocolate délice, with milk crumble and yoghurt sorbet. This was straightforward and restrained, with lovely crunch from the milk crumble and very dense chocolate offset nicely by the slightly sour yoghurt sorbet and resembled a competent dessert. Canelés happen to be among my favourite petit fours and these were done very well with the customary crunchy and slightly sticky exterior with soft, moist interior and with vanilla.
Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable meal and it was refreshing that the staff balanced the line between topping up and being unobtrusive as well during service. Bar only one or two brief moments, I enjoyed every element of this meal and that is an impressive level of consistency. The higher ends of this meal were frankly brushing in to the 2 Michelin starred swimming lane and I’m looking forward to plotting the excuse to return already.
Food Grade: 86%
This is my second visit to (at time of writing) Michael Wignall’s The Latymer at Penny Hill Park and a great pleasure to get back to, not least since its promotion to 2 Michelin stars. It would be remiss of me not to mention that the restaurant had done a little research and was aware of my blog before my arrival on this visit but even though this was the case, the service was as graceful and unobtrusive to myself as it was to the tables and guests I observed being looked after. All the staff clearly knew their subject matter and it was evident to me that they were all pleased to be in their role at their restaurant and this says a lot in itself has the knock on effect of making the guest feel equally happy.
Put simply was a truly sublime meal where the skill and technical design were second to none and I was delighted that the flavours really were hitting all the pleasure valves they can throughout. The lowest point this meal simmered at very pleasant and did not dip beneath this at any point through the whole journey, which makes for exceedingly consistent cooking. Every course was exquisite and there were moments where I was lost in another world of happiness. From the moment the linseed crisp with trout caviar and taramasalata amuse bouche washed away the other, highly wonderful bites, I was entirely and utterly happy. I adored the trout with burnt butter, following an already impressive and fresh langoustine starter.
All dishes were a total pleasure but the wigeon dish and horlicks dessert deserve a special mention as the former was one of the nicest dishes I have ever had and this dish joins a special folder in my head where the mere mention of a restaurant evokes the memory of that dish immediately and for the long term. The horlicks dessert simply took me back to childhood happiness which was another very pleasant trip to go on – I was always the boy at school that no one understood why I liked the skin on top of the semolina (for example) and now, years later with the good fortune to be able to enjoy this sort of thing in this fashion, I still love these oddities and was truly happy with the fabulous Jersey milk skin, chocolate caramel, malt and yeast dessert which was frankly a knock out finish.
You are in utterly professional hands here, by staff who are entirely attentive and caring for the guest experience without searching for self-glory and I loved the understated and warm hospitality that shone through the staff. I was especially grateful to meet the man himself afterwards who kindly gave the time for a quick hello and, as usual, was a treat to meet the man behind the creations and actually be able to say how much certain ones at the ozone layer of delight. Tea in front of the fire with the paper afterwards topped the occasion in a beautiful and homely way.
This is a quality venue and my sincere thanks to all the staff at the Latymer for their hospitality yesterday, a far cry from my average, working day. I very much look forward to the next opportunity to enjoy this restaurant again in a group for a bigger occasion. Michael Wignall leaves a superb legacy for The Latymer at Penny Hill Park and I am very pleased it gained its much deserved second Michelin star. Congratulations to the team and onward wishes to Mr Wignall at Gidleigh Park in the New Year where I know he will also be very much at home.
Food Grade: 92%
I had lunch here with my Dad at the time it was a 1 Michelin star and was frankly blown away by how it was so clearly in the upper echelon of 1 stars in terms of style. The dishes had superb design and for a set menu lunch which was already very reasonable in price, there were imaginative amuse bouches, pre-desserts and petits fours included in the price.
The menu was varied and the flavours were definitely pleasing. It is a shame I have not been able to get back and it is very high on the hit list to retry and see the difference between 2011 with 1 star and now with its promotion. I’m tempted to do their set menu again as that will be a true comparison and the show whether the mark of quality creator is there by making the normal spectacular again.
At the time of visiting the set menu was £29 for three courses which was on a half price promotion and we enjoyed an amazing set meal for £15 each! Now that it has gained its second Michelin star, I see that there has been an corresponding rise to £38 per person. I will need to and indeed look forward to another visit as soon as I can to assess the increase, but I can easily believe that it will still be good value for money for what is received.
Food Grade: 84%
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