21 West Café Bistro

21 West Café Bistro
21 West Town Road,
Backwell,
North Somerset BS48 3HA

01275 463 744
21-west.co.uk

21west

It was a new experience for me for this issue, as I headed to Backwell for the first time for a Saturday night meal with my partner at 21 West Café Bistro. The two-year-old venue is easily accessible by train from Bristol, and offers two very different settings: a lively local cafe by day, an intimate neighbourhood bistro by night. Manager Jayne and her team have obviously put a great deal of love and attention into the feel of the place.

The front door led us into a cosy bar area, from which we were taken round the corner, past the semi-open plan kitchen and into a long and narrow low-lit dining area which was quiet when we arrived, but quickly filled up as the evening went on. Tables are adorned with matching white linen tablecloths and napkins, the walls smartly decorated with paintings and mirrors. We were also treated to entertainment from a young singer with a guitar, whose soothing voice was the perfect accompaniment for a quiet Saturday date night. While browsing the menus, we took in the blackboards on the walls that highlighted the midweek specials, house cocktails and an upcoming New York jazz evening. It’s certainly a venue that offers something for everyone and the custom-decorated Gromit that is hidden around the restaurant for customers to find, with the aim to raise money for the Grand Appeal, is a lovely touch. The daily changing menus are reasonably priced for a bistro meal, with a three-course meal on a Saturday night priced, on average, at just over £25 a head. Using local and seasonal ingredients, and with everything freshly prepared on site, the menu is predominantly British but pays homage to a range of cultures in individual elements of many dishes.

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Reviews I had read before our visit were unanimous in their praise of the 21 fishcakes, so my choice of starter was a no-brainer. The two fishcakes were enormous, filled with meaty chunks of salmon and flecked with dill and capers. Although served with a sweet chilli sauce, this really wasn’t needed; the combination of flavours within the breadcrumbs was fantastic on its own, and the sauce was a little overpowering. For my partner, the whitebait; again, a portion that could almost have doubled as a main course. Thickly breaded, the fish were perfectly cooked, and served with a seriously potent garlic mayonnaise – the coarsely cut raw garlic was a hit in our book, but may be best avoided on a first date…

He continued his meal with the confit duck leg, the meat falling off the bone, the red wine and thyme jus lovely and rich. The bed of seasonal vegetables and potatoes on which the duck was served still retained a lovely crunch too – a definite winner. Luckily, this man’s appetite is endless, and he was able to help me finish my incredibly generous sole gremolata main. I was a little perplexed to see that it was breaded, as I was expecting a fresh fillet of fish topped with a zesty herby condiment. Although different, it was absolutely fantastic and served with a side of beautifully crunchy fries.

It would have been rude not to sample the dessert menu, and so C opted for Jayne’s recommendation of the hot chocolate fondant – well worth the 10-minute wait.

Any chocolate fondant order comes with the nail-biting moment when you first cut through the shell…but he was rewarded with the sight of the centre oozing perfectly onto the plate. The smile on his face said it all.

Sticky toffee pudding seemed like the perfect warming end to the meal for me, and it was everything a sticky toffee pudding should be: rich, dense, swimming in a hot toffee sauce… it was delicious, but I was glad of the scoop of clotted cream to cut through the flavour.

Service throughout our meal was near enough perfect: it’s increasingly rare to have a bottle of water brought to your table without the need to ask, and our servers struck exactly the right balance between friendly and professional. Although I’d never even considered a trip out to Backwell before, it’s good to know now that I have a reason to go back.







Elite Hotels

elite

Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa
The Mansion House Luton Hoo
Luton
Bedfordshire
LU1 3TQ

01582 734437
www.lutonhoo.com


Tylney Hall Hotel
Rotherwick
Hook
Hampshire
RG27 9AZ

01256 764881
www.tylneyhall.com


The Grand Hotel
King Edwards Parade Eastbourne
East Sussex
BN21 4EQ

01323 412345
www.grandeastbourne.com


Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club
Wych Cross, Nr Forest Row East Sussex
RH18 5JR

01342 824988
www.ashdownpark.com

Emily Knight visits all four of the group’s country house hotels in a day

Distinctive hotels, distinctive experiences and distinctive locations are how Elite Hotels market their four properties, all to be found in the South East of England. And they’re right. Their aim is to exceed your expectations of a country house hotel, creating unique experiences for their guests in properties that have been chosen for their charm and character, and which have been lovingly restored to produce luxury hotels that are full of character but have a relaxed and friendly environment.

I was lucky enough to enjoy a whistle- stop tour of all four hotels in one day, beginning with an overnight stay at the Luton Hoo Hotel just outside Luton Airport.

You’d never know that the M1 was just a stone’s throw away: with 1,065 acres of land, Elite Hotels have been working for the last 10 years using old plans, maps and paintings of Luton Hoo to piece together the history and layout of the mansion and its grounds; a history which is so impressive that there has even been a book published about the estate.

Luton Hoo features 228 bedrooms and suites, split between the Mansion, the Parkland Wing and the Flower Garden Wing. A short drive (or longer walk!) through the estate from the main house is the Robert Adam building: a Grade II listed stable building which features a spa, 18-metre pool, a brasserie and a bar; Warren Weir – a purpose-built five star meeting and conferencing space; plus a golf course, tennis courts and more.

We enjoyed an overnight stay in a room that looked out onto the beautiful fountains in the garden behind the Mansion: a stunning room that offered a comfortable night’s sleep and an enormous bathroom with complimentary Molton Brown toiletries. The following morning, we enjoyed breakfast in the Grinling Gibbons room – part of the hotel’s Wernher Restaurant, which also includes an incredibly grand State Dining Room with opulent marble walls and beautiful chandeliers.

Executive Chef Kevin Clark combines adventurous dishes with traditional British classics in his menus, producing the likes of Gloucester Old Spot pork cutlet with braised cabbage and apple compote alongside a pressed terrine of potato, rabbit and Cumbrian ham with Champagne- infused raisin and shallot vinaigrette on his menu. Local produce and seasonal game feature on Luton Hoo’s menus, with fish also sourced from sustainable fish stocks.

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After breakfast and a tour of Luton Hoo, we departed for our lunch stop, Tylney Hall Hotel, situated just outside Hook, in Hampshire: a stunning Grade II listed mansion house within 66 acres. We were lucky enough with the weather to enjoy a drink on the terrace before lunch, before heading inside to The Oak Room Restaurant for lunch: a wonderful panelled room that I imagine would be very cosy in winter.

Head Chef Stephen Hine’s menu changes seasonally, depending heavily on local produce. My smoked duck and walnut salad, followed by a beautifully poached fillet of smoked haddock with a poached egg and chive butter sauce, showcased the talents of the kitchen team perfectly, and was followed by some amazing sorbets. Delicious!

Lunch was followed by a tour of the gardens, stopping by the picturesque lake to take in the scenery, and learning about how the garden team are working to restore areas of the land to its former glory, as documented in the history of the building.

For afternoon tea, a trip to the seaside and The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne: the only five-star rated seaside hotel in England. The 152-bedroom hotel is a grand Victorian building at the western end of Eastbourne’s promenade, a stone’s throw from the sea. Most rooms overlook either the seafront or the South Downs and, nicknamed the ‘White Palace’, The Grand is an imposing landmark that often welcomes back several generations year after year.

The whole building is imposing but with a relaxed feel, designed to appeal to leisure visitors who wish to explore the seafront or the South Downs, and also business visitors who can take advantage of their wide range of business facilities. In addition to an outdoor swimming pool, The Grand has its own spa facilities, open to both hotel residents and the public.

We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon tea in The Grand’s Presidential Suite, taking advantage of the sun on its large balcony overlooking the sea. We were truly spoilt with a range of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes (the chocolate and cherry slice being a highlight): a treat that gave an indication of the quality to expect in the hotel’s two restaurants.

Our final stop was the Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club in the heart of the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, reportedly the forest that inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh stories, with the Pooh Sticks Bridge a popular attraction. Ashdown Park is one of the smallest of the Elite Hotels group, set in 186 acres of countryside which includes a par 3, 18-hole golf course, various jogging routes, an on-site country club and a beautiful converted chapel which features original stained glass windows, and is available to hire for all manner of events.

All of Ashdown Park’s 106 bedrooms and suites are completely different: some with stained glass windows and wooden beams, some with great views of the gardens, lakes and forest. Our room for the night was very well appointed, with great views of the gardens, a comfortable seating area and a sizeable bathroom with Jacuzzi bath, separate shower and plenty of Molton Brown toiletries.

We enjoyed a beautiful dinner courtesy of Executive Head Chef Andrew Wilson in one of the hotel’s private dining rooms, including a perfectly cooked lamb dish with caramelised sweetbread, a truffled carrot purée and a potato raviolo, before settling down to an incredibly comfortable night’s sleep.

Although all very different in terms of style and surroundings, Elite’s four hotels do share something in common: their ability to blend luxurious surroundings and top-notch service with a truly relaxed feel. The perfect choice for a break from the stresses of everyday life.







Goodfellows, Wells

Goodfellows Seafood Restaurant
5-5b Sadler Street
Wells BA5 2RR

01749 673866
goodfellowswells.co.uk

goodfellows

Emily Knight enjoys chef/owner Adam Fellows’ tasting menu

It’s very rare that I’ll go out for a meal where I can’t find a single fault – one of the downsides of writing about food for a living, I guess. Every element is carefully scrutinised, which does sometimes take the enjoyment out of going out for dinner. Goodfellows, on the other hand, was an entirely different experience; and one where every single thing was no less than perfect.

Adam Fellows and his wife Martine opened Goodfellows in Wells in 2004. Chef Adam has a great deal of experience under his belt; a Michelin-starred stint at Charlton House, and employment in the kitchens of two fish restaurants before opening Goodfellows. The premises is set over two buildings: on one side, a brasserie offering breakfasts, coffee and lunch, and on the other side the award-winning seafood restaurant where we dined.

Diners can choose to enjoy a more private and quiet dining experience upstairs, or opt for the hustle and bustle of the downstairs dining room where our memorable evening took place. Tables are clustered round an open-plan kitchen where diners can watch Adam and his team at work – and if you’re sitting with your back to him, handily located screens on the wall in front of you will show you what’s going on at the pass.

While you can choose from the Market Menu, priced at £42 for three courses, or the À La Carte which is roughly £40 per head, we enjoyed Adam’s Chef’s Table seven-course tasting menu. At £65 per head, it’s not cheap – especially if you choose to add the wine flight at £30 for glasses to accompany five of the courses. However, it’s a great way to experience a wide range of dishes, and the portion sizes have been judged just right.

From a beautifully fresh gazpacho with chunks of cucumber and flaked Brixham crab we progressed to one of my favourite courses – thick and meaty slices of tuna sashimi, which were served with cubes of soy jelly, pickled mooli and a wonderful wasabi crème fraiche to bring a fairly standard Japanese dish up to fine dining standards.

A perfectly cooked fillet of seabass was perched on a bed of diced Mediterranean vegetables and a slice of saffron braised fennel, and topped with a chunky tapenade that added just the right amount of salt to the dish. This was followed by one of the most novel scallop dishes I’ve ever eaten: two meaty little blighters served in a retro scallop shell, surrounded by a richly spiced curry sauce and an apple and vanilla pastry which, perhaps surprisingly, worked. The end of our savoury courses was heralded with a well-presented slate starring a chunky fillet of turbot served with a carrot and star anise purée and a wonderfully autumnal slow gin reduction, with a bundle of pancetta and truffle-stuffed cabbage also signalling the progression into colder months. Two desserts made up courses six and seven, starting with a vanilla-flecked panna cotta surrounded by berries and a berry jus, and topped with a quenelle of a seriously strong but sweet grappa sorbet. A great fresh and light touch before a rich dessert to end our meal – Adam’s take on Black Forest gateau. His rich chocolate and cherry cake was enclosed by two sheets of milk chocolate, with both fresh and marinated cherries, cherry purée and the freshest of cherry sorbets lightening the whole dish. With the combination of a fantastically put-together meal, attentive service and the theatre of the chef’s table experience, I can honestly say that this is one of the best meals I’ve recently had the pleasure of enjoying. And, for someone who eats for a living, that really is saying something.







Filini

filini

Filini Bar & Restaurant
Radisson Blu Hotel Broad Quay
Bristol BS1 4BY

0117 945 8605
filinirestaurant.com

Dining at the restaurant of a hotel that is part of a large chain may not be the first choice that springs to mind when organising an evening out, but Filini at the Radisson Blu is a little different. The Italian restaurant is just one of seven Filini-branded restaurants that can be found at Radisson Blu hotels all over the UK – and you’ll also find them in countries such as Egypt, Italy, Germany… and even Zambia.

All Filini restaurants aim to provide simple yet tasty Italian food with flourish and flair in an unpretentious environment. It’s an aim that is certainly achieved at the Bristol restaurant, which sits on the first floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel on Broad Quay: an environment that features simple, uncluttered tables, white linen and expansive windows that look out onto the hustle and bustle of Bristol’s city centre.

The menu offers a great range of courses and dishes to suit all tastes and diets, with vegetarian options clearly labelled. Bristol head chef Dean Milburn is in charge of a predominantly Italian menu, but also includes a nod to Sardinia in his choice of dishes, giving diners a range of options that aren’t available as widely as the standard Italian fare. Antipasti options include platters to share alongside a large selection of individual dishes, while mains can be taken from the risotto and pasta, secondi or pizza menus. Filini also offer a pre-theatre menu between 12pm and 6pm, where diners can enjoy two courses from a set menu for just £7.50.

On the day of our visit, we were also presented with the ‘starter specials’ menu, from which my partner chose his first course of a fritto misto: a portion of crispy, deep-fried squid (including tentacles rather than just squid rings, which he was glad to see), prawns and white fish. This was served with a lovely tangy lemon and anchovy mayonnaise and a slice of lemon: the whole thing was cooked to perfection and beautifully presented in a smart black box.

I chose from the standard menu, having been recommended to try the squid salad by one of the waiters. One of the lighter starter options on Filini’s menu, I was presented with a large bowl of mixed leaves, sliced tomato and chunks of Jerusalem artichoke, mixed with large slices of gently cooked squid. While the squid could have done with a little more seasoning, it was perfectly cooked and a lovely lighter option before the mammoth pizza that made up my main course…

I’m a sucker for anything on a menu that gives tasters of a range of different dishes, and so it was not difficult to choose the Filini taster pizza as my main. I’d already spied the thin crust pizzas being delivered to other diners, and the sight and smell was too hard to resist.

The Filini taster pizza offers a base with a different topping on every quarter: margherita on one, peperoni on another, quattro formaggi on the third and, on the fourth, the Filini pizza, comprising tomato, mozzarella, pecorino, prosciutto and rocket. As a main course for one (certainly as part of a three-course meal) the size of the pizza was incredibly generous, with a crispy-edged, thin base that was the perfect support to very high-quality and again, generous, toppings. The pizza was so lavish in its proportions, in fact, that I had to plead for my leftovers to be packaged up to take home…

For my partner, it was the swordfish linguine that stood out from the pasta menu, as a fish that he doesn’t often have the opportunity to enjoy. Meaty chunks of swordfish had been twirled with the linguine, whole pistachios and an anchovy dressing before being plated and sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts: not a dish that you’d find on the menu in many Italian restaurants, but a dish that certainly satisfied. Although by now getting rather full, we had spied the Filini tiramisu on the menu and couldn’t resist. A wise decision! The dessert was attractively presented in a tall glass, the traditional flavours of the cream, sponge, coffee and chocolate all perfectly combined to make a dessert that we polished off in no time at all.

Service throughout our meal was attentive, with our waiting staff knowledgeable about the menu and incredibly helpful throughout. The quality of the ingredients is high, and although the restaurant does have a bit of a hotel restaurant feel to it, it’s a relaxed environment in which to enjoy a good quality Italian meal – and if you get a spot by the window, it’s great for people watching too. If you’ve been on the hunt for a decent Italian in Bristol, Filini is definitely worth a visit.







The Elder Statesman

The Director of The Ivy and The Club at The Ivy shares his wisdom with Flavour’s Emily Knight

Ivy

BIOGRAPHY:
Fernando Peire is on the Board of Caprice Holdings and is Director of The Ivy Restaurant and Private Room, and The Club at The Ivy.

After reading Law and French at Manchester University, he worked for the French Government for a year before deciding on a career in restaurants.

Fernando joined The Ivy in 1990 as Senior Maître d’, a position he held for eight years before leaving to re-launch Quo Vadis in Soho and undertaking consultancy work with clients such as Morton’s Club and The Halcyon Hotel.

In March 2007, Fernando was lured back to the group as Director of The Ivy. He also oversaw the opening of private members’ club The Club at the Ivy in September 2008. He is also recognisable as having fronted the Channel 5 series The Restaurant Inspector in 2011 and 2012.

Ivy2The industry has changed unimaginably since I started. We have the minimum wage now and customers are prepared to pay a proper service charge, so it is no longer the slave trade it was in the Seventies. Restaurant food in this country, and particularly in London, has improved no end since the late Eighties and restaurants can be so profitable when successful that most groups are now owned by venture capital and private equity firms. I’m not sure that this is such a good thing. I still think we are an immature business and there are not enough professional managers for the number of restaurants that have sprung up. I am forever conscious of how badly so many restaurants are run.

Those just starting out in the industry should work hard, strive to learn new things every day, always seek to improve their skills and to become an expert; don’t compromise or cut corners, listen well, be honest.

I have always been a naturally trusting person and I only wish I could have been more cynical and less trusting of others. The restaurant business seems to attract some of the most dishonest people on earth but I think that I am pretty good at spotting them now. I am lucky to have found a person I can work so well with in Richard Caring.

From Chris Corbin I learned that you can be very successful in this business and still remain a down-to-earth, genuinely nice person with time for everyone. He is my only true living restaurant mentor; the other one was the man I first worked for in the suburbs of North London, John Morley of L’Escargot in Enfield, but he died tragically young.

More and more restaurants are run purely as a business these days, with way too much focus on the bottom line. My view is that if you run your restaurant with professionalism, passion and soul, the profits will come. Too many restaurants are managed by accountants; there is often too much style over very little substance. In London we are still fortunate enough to have some very affordable restaurants run by very good people. Try the new, smaller, proprietor- run restaurants of Soho for example.

In my TV series The Restaurant Inspector I tried to show the thinking behind how restaurants could and should be run. Too many television series have shown only the chefs’ perspective and this can only ever show you half of the picture. I still think there is a long way to go before television informs the public in a genuinely useful way about restaurants and how they operate, how to navigate them and how to get the best out of them. In my view too many customers still don’t even know how to ‘complain’ in an effective and productive way; a letter or email should really only be the last resort.

It’s great that people are talking about restaurants more than ever before but I have to admit to being a little cynical about some aspects of social and digital media. You can visit some restaurants these days and find, literally, that on every other table someone is photographing their food or tweeting about slow service. As for those websites where people are encouraged to post their own ‘reviews’ suddenly everyone is an expert; you really have to read a number of them carefully, and between the lines, before you can make an informed decision.

My top tips for running a restaurant? Get to know your customers, break down all barriers between the different groups of people you work with – kitchen and front of house; staff and management; staff and customers. Create harmony around you. Know your product. Choose the right staff and train them well. Empower your manager and head chef. Try to forget your ego; it’s not about you, it’s about everyone else.

www.the-ivy.co.uk

The Ivy is open all day, all week.







Kilted Chef, Bath

Kilted Chef
7a Kingsmead Square,
Bath BA1 2AB

Call 01225 466 688
tasty@kiltedchef.co.uk
www.kiltedchef.co.uk

“We cook for you, our customers, and not for accolades,” proclaim Bath’s Kilted Chef. The dream team of interior designer Sue Chalmers as front of house director and chef Dougie Bonar in the kitchen are certainly working wonders in the basement restaurant, formerly the home of the Michelin-starred Moody Goose.

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Chef Dougie Bonar has certainly come to Bath with a wealth of experience. His great-grandmother was pastry chef to the Queen Mother at Glamis Castle, and a passion for great food is obviously a family trait. Dougie’s career history includes at stint at The Savoy in London, before opening his own Edinburgh restaurant in the mid-’90s, where he gained a Michelin Red M and double rosettes.

Sue’s interior design background has transformed the vaulted venue beneath Kingsmead Square into a chic and stylish dining area, full of muted tones and feature walls, and a nod to Dougie’s heritage in the wall lights fashioned from what appear to be antlers. Smaller dining areas offer the opportunity of private dining, with exclusive use of the restaurant also available for private functions.

Menus range from the pre-theatre lunch option to full à la carte, with a taster menu also available if pre-booked. Dougie’s Sunday brunch menu is also a treat not to be missed. While contemporary British in nature, Dougie’s menus also include a nod to the French and certainly pay homage to his Scottish roots.

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In a previous interview with flavour, chef Dougie told us, “People eat with their eyes, so sure, you want their food to look attractive, but it also has to have taste. There’s no point in beautiful food that tastes like cardboard.” The Kilted Chef’s kitchen, as we were to discover, turns out food that not only manages successful pairings of intriguing flavour combinations, cooked perfectly, but produces fantastic-looking dishes that is almost a shame to destroy by eating them.

An amuse-bouche of warming Cajun and ginger spiced pumpkin and carrot soup was served with a fondue tart with the lightest of pastries, topped with a rich tomato, spinach and cheese filling; the perfect teaser for what was to come.

Choosing from the à la carte menu, I began with a carpaccio of beetroot – thin discs of both the gold and purple varieties circling beneath a perfectly cooked wedge of tempura Camembert and crisscrossed with two meaty spears of asparagus. A roasted walnut and orange dressing lifted the dish and cut through the richness of the cheese in a wonderful balance of flavours.

The main course certainly saw Dougie harking back to his Scottish roots – a beautifully pink cassis roasted loin of venison atop a bed of braised leeks. The ‘sweet chilli pomme Berny’ was a new discovery for me – essentially a spherical potato croquette combined with a sweet chilli sauce, crumbed and fried – a hearty touch that sat alongside beautifully presented bundled green beans and a selection of seasonal veg.

It was the vanilla-infused Scottish langoustine that was the star of the show in this dish for me, an espresso cup stuffed with tender chunks of langoustine in a wonderfully creamy sauce… and a humorous touch in the head of one crustacean looking as if it were trying to escape from the dish.

For dessert, the most beautifully presented apple and frangipane tartlet – sweet, sticky and caramelised on the top and paired with a zingy oriental ginger ice cream. It really was a work of art, decorated with icing sugar-dusted fruit, chocolate-enclosed pools of fruit sauce, a spun sugar basket, a chocolate curl and spherified fruit juice.

This is a restaurant team to whom attention to detail really does matter – in the décor, the service and also in the food. Dougie Bonar is a chef who knows how to create a masterpiece that not only looks good, but tastes fantastic. We’ll be back.







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