Simon Wittenberg ventures to the renowned Hertfordshire hotel to sample the latest seasonal dinner menu put together by the AA Rosette restaurant’s Head Chef, Gopi Chandran.
The Restaurant is located in the original part of the 18th Century Georgian manor house which forms part of today’s Sopwell House hotel. Opened by Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, it serves modern British and European cuisine, with the menu changing with the seasons, and as was evident by our visit, this venue attracts a diverse range of resident and visiting clientele, namely couples, groups and those celebrating.
This elegant and airy eatery seats around 65 people at a time across its mezzanine and lower ground levels which back on to the hotel’s Conservatory Bar. The round tables, which are dressed in white linen tablecloths and comfortable deep maroon leather chairs, are arranged quite close together, thereby making for an intimate setting.
Although not comprehensive, the à la carte menu (costing £39.50 per person for three courses and £35 each for two on a Saturday night) offers diners enough choice to tempt their taste buds, and any dietary requirements are very well catered for. There is a combination of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes on offer, and before we the chance to tuck into our opening chapters, we were given a selection of fresh brown and white bread, plus an amuse bouche of salt and vinegar popcorn and dill wafers with beetroot ketchup, an interesting and tangy combination. This was closely followed by a shot glass of soup and a small green leaf salad interspersed with morsels of pickled carrot.
There is an extensive red and white wine list at The Restaurant, and the hosts will suggest suitable pairings, but as we were driving, we opted for the Virgin Pina Colada and Romance cocktails (priced at £8.50 per beverage) which disappeared with ease. On to the starters, and I headed for the tomato and roast pepper soup which is artistically poured on to the awaiting aubergine caviar which then reveals itself again as you make your way towards the bottom of the bowl. It was very nicely prepared and set the scene nicely. My dining partner opted for the salad of roast butternut squash salad with gem hearts and Caesar dressing. Despite being a bit sparse in quantity, it was nevertheless very tasty and nicely presented.
For the mains, there is everything from chicken, to risotto, to Lemon Sole. Being a lover of fish, I was presented with a filling and generous portion of moist halibut which lay on a bed of samphire and deliciously creamy potato. It was surrounded by pak choi and encased by a herb chowder which complemented every bite perfectly. My other half decided on the Cannon of Salt Marsh lamb which oozed Middle Eastern flavours. The deliciously tender sliced meat was decorated with cubes of finely cut red pepper and was joined by shallot onions and a Moroccan couscous in a delicate red pepper jus.
When it came to the sweets, there was just enough space to squeeze this in. I wanted to try something a little different that wasn’t chocolate themed, so my eyes settled on the rhubarb crumble which came with compressed rhubarb with ginger and a helping of creamy vanilla ice cream. This was a cake-like dessert, rather than what you would expect from a traditional crumble, and was dressed in almond flakes and flanked by small pieces of red jelly. I was satisfied with my choice. My guest completed her meal with a refreshing palate-cleansing trio of sorbets, namely grapefruit and mint (a firm favourite), pineapple and mango.
If you are looking to enjoy lunch or dinner in sophisticated surroundings to mark a special occasion, or for an evening out with family or friends, then The Restaurant at Sopwell House is definitely worthy of consideration.
The Restaurant at Sopwell House – Where and How?
The Restaurant is open for lunch from 12.30pm to 2.30pm Wednesday to Friday, and 12.30pm to 3pm on Sundays. Dinner is served from 7pm until 10pm from Wednesday to Saturday.