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Michael Wignall at The Latymer review
September 8, 2014
Nestled away in the secluded vacuum that is the Pennyhill Park Hotel estate – a five-star hotel and spa amalgamation of 19th century housing and rather alarmingly unattractive modern facades, perched on top of 123 acres of forestry in Bagshot, Surrey – is the five AA Rosettes-winning restaurant, The Latymer, run by two Michelin star awarded chef, Michael Wignall.
As with the peculiarly stilted pairing of old and new witnessed in the hotel and spa architecture, the dining room struck us as a surprising venue for Wignall to showcase his highly contemporary and innovative cuisine in. However, here the union was not jarring but pleasant: the low dark wooden-beamed ceilings, shaded wall-lamps, and heritage colour scheme work well to provide a beautiful contrast to the two gourmet tasting menus on offer, and for the first time since arriving, we witnessed a harmony between the elements of contemporary and tradition.
Both the 10-course tasting and the 8-course market menus see traditional British dishes twisted into epicurean fancies which change according to seasonal produce and which are – to quote the chef himself – ‘complex, carefully crafted and very technical but not intimidating.’ Each dish is beautifully constructed both visually – with each course arriving on different dishware to complete the concept – and taste-wise – with flavours, textures, smells and temperatures working wonderfully within each plate and through the course of the meal itself.
The tuna tartare starter encompassed both a cylindrical tube of sashimi, wrapped in a kohlrabi, and a perfectly seared disc of minute steak, along with cubed watermelon, brown butter emulsion, chop suey cress, pureed pea and teriyaki hen of the wood mushrooms, all finished with salted nuts, spring onion rings and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The sharpness of the kohlrabi along with its crisp crunch contrasted the delicate flavour and softness of the tartare. The saltiness of the nuts, the rich marinade of the mushrooms, the creaminess of the pea and the gentle sweetness of the melon all played a part in making the dish come to life.
The Yorkshire grouse breast and confit, with beeswax-cooked beetroot, sage and horseradish sponge, choucroute, blackberries, finished with bread and bay sauce, was another palate-pleaser. The bird was perfectly cooked; the sweetness of the blackberry, while sharp at times, sat peacefully alongside the sour choucroute. The traditional bread sauce was infused with bay leaf and remained creamy yet light.
At times throughout the meal, the flavours didn’t quite balance. The anchovies in the John Dory dish – a strong flavour in itself – were made a little overpowering when coupled with the jerk salsify. The smoked sweetcorn which accompanied them tempered this slightly, as did the mild fish. However, the English rose veal course, along with the tough smoked tongue, floury sweetbread and bland parsley root puree, was an unfortunate let-down.
The desserts of Pimms “Our way” – mint panacotta, Pimms & lemonade espuma, candied strawberry, oranges, and cucumber snow – and raspberry crémeux with aero chocolate, nitro yogurt rocks and micro mint, were inventive and pleasant but not as successful as the first few courses. The cheese course is highly recommended as the fantastically knowledgeable and refreshingly relaxed staff take you through the inordinate number of choices on offer.
All in all, The Latymer, with its location in Pennyhill Park, is a surprising destination for such culinary innovation. While the hotel is very lovely in many ways, The Latymer is where it all comes together; there is a sense of the timeless and the novel in Wignall’s artistry and it is the feather in the cap of the hotel.
Vicky Ilankovan – Lifestyle Editor