Oh Dear, Danesfield House Part 2

Because we couldn’t get into my first choice, the Hand and Flowers, a hop skip and a jump away from Danesfield House, we decided to try to get into Adam Simmonds’ restaurant.  Even though it has one Michelin star, we could get in without any difficulty on the day of booking.  Given that it probably has less than half the covers as the Hand and Flowers, (which now has to be booked about 3 years in advance) I think that speaks for itself.  It is of course, a somewhat different type of restaurant, a more formal and indeed a more expensive dining experience than the Hand, as I shall call it here, but it’s clearly aiming at a different market. The gin and Jaguar set I’d say, from the clientele.

We’ve been to the Hand three times and not been disappointed once.  As you will see from the earlier review of AS at DH, our first visit to was a great success and C said  that he  preferred it to you know where and that  he felt that we were dealing with a chef of real skill and subtlety.  I was not entirely myself at the time of the first review,  so perhaps I was not wearing my critical hat the right way round, but I certainly was entirely myself this time.

As they tell you on the website, it’s ranked 12th in the Good Food Guide.   Why is it then, that on the two occasions we have eaten there,  it has been almost empty?  I think that there are approximately thirty covers in the restaurant, but the first time we visited there were 4 people in the room and this time there were 10.  It’s not enough really,  for a Michelin-starred restaurant  in this affluent catchment area, starved as it is of very good restaurants (that is, of course, excepting the Hand – have I mentioned how much I liked it?) So, notwithstanding my surprise (again) at the emptiness of the room,  I was ready for an evening of dining delicacy and skilful cooking.

As you may have already picked up from other reviews,  I have a thing about bread and here, the sourdough was superb.  It was of the “Moro” variety, full of flavour, with an excellent texture .  I don’t agree with slicing it so thinly,  especially when it has such a wonderful crust;  it’s bread that deserves to be eaten in big greedy chunks with sea salted butter smeared over it,  not served in a row of uniform little slices, looking like bits of thin-sliced Hovis in a basket.

Having declined my third piece of bread  (and really, the other two were like one, so thin were they),  I started with the hen’s egg with autumn truffles and white asparagus.    It was delicate and interesting.   It had a little crunch and was a good, subtle combination of flavour.  The hen’s egg was slow-cooked (sous-vide?)  and  tasty, but you’re talking to a woman with five hens here,  so fresh eggs and deep yellow yolks don’t impress me much.

C had the crab salad and unusually, was quite keen to share it with me.  That was because it was bland and uninteresting.  “Same-y” he said,  “nothing stands out.” It looked pretty,  but it was without any depth of flavour and he was right,  it was same-y. Not at all bad, just a prettily presented, pretty average,  crab salad.

For our main course, we both ordered the brill,  which was to be accompanied by a “Parmesan macaroni.”  In fact we both liked the sound of that so much,  we bought the dish.

I’m glad they told me that it was “parmesan macaroni,”  because I would never have known from the taste.  I found a bit of macaroni.  I chewed it.  It tasted faintly of parmesan. That was it.  The parmesan macaroni.  I think we had both imagined  an upmarket macaroni-cheese sort-of concoction,  all parmesan-y, bubbly and rich.  Unfortunately not.  It was a few tubes of slightly parmesan-infused pasta.

On top of the fish was a foam with an indiscernible taste.   The fish was a little dry.  Brill it wasn’t. Underwhelming, it was.  There was some apple too.  It was chopped into tiny chunks.  Again the taste was just discernible, if you kept it in your mouth and chewed it. If I hadn’t have known, I wouldn’t have noticed.

C then went on to have the banana soufflé with salted caramel ice cream.   He was not enthusiastic about this dish.  Indeed, in his own words – it tasted plasticky and artificial, although I did notice that he managed to finish it.

I had a plate of perfect cheeses and special credit goes to the waitress who explained the cheeseboard beautifully and with enthusiasm.  She was sufficiently well-trained not to bat an eyelid at my selection of 8 cheeses (they were very small pieces, honest guv) all perfectly ripe and of the highest quality.

What C kept on saying (and he can do that, you know, keep on saying) was that the flavours weren’t differentiated at all. The flavours blended seamlessly into each other, which is fine; if you like baby food. Grown-up flavouring it wasn’t and compared to the place which we shall not mention, it was insipid and dull and what had previously  appeared skilful and sophisticated, seemed somewhat over-fussy and under-seasoned. .

They did make me a very nice Kir though, with lots of cassis. And it was a very generous glass. Which was nice. Personally though, if you’re going to make the effort to get to Marlow, I’d talk to the Hand.

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