Tweed & Country?
Even the lawns looked as if they had been pressed, almost to the point of vanity. Blades of grass stood to attention in a prim short back and sides way. Golf buggies darted around transporting a couple of jowly guests. In the distance a chocolate Labrador barked for attention, birds sung in organised harmonies, expensive cars with surnames for brands softly crept along the gravel. Coworth Park’s polo grounds are carved out of ancient hunting grounds and now this estate which once formed part of Windsor Great Park sits on the edge of Ascot’s attention and now belongs to the Dorchester Collection. Expectations ran high, chefs with valuable reputations are flanked by PRs keen to bag another food blogger. The occasion? A birthday lunch granted by the Maharani, although judging by the Barn restaurant’s interior I’m not entirely sure whose indulgence it was. Not quite tweed and country but definitely wearing a semi-rural collar. A double heighted gable end dressed in glass flooded the two floors with acres of clipped serene parkland warming the light on its biscuit coloured flag stones. Touches of designer tartan appeared fleetingly whilst a palette of putty coloured furniture cuddled its inhabitants. Slim elegant leather chairs sat incongruously alongside refectory style benches causing diners of a particular age to hunch across their food, a bizarre decor arrangement and not a wholly attractive combination, watching guests submit to their weary frames.
Aperitif cocktails slammed with cucumber and muddled with deliciously cheeky premium gin teased our appetite for a slice of relaxed fine dining. Service was perky if a little inexperienced, as if the Saturday staff had invaded the mid week shifts, a spill over from the sixth form common room.
The first chukka was devilled kidneys, pleasant, but then again that’s a word reserved for girls named Alice from Hampshire studying Classics, nice to look at but lacks edge. The finest devilled kidneys currently reside at the Wheatsheaf Inn, Northleach, Gloucs. I hoped the second course would be more like Alice from Wonderland. An open ravioli of Yorkshire pumpkin, wild mushroom, Jerusalem artichoke and warm goats cheese, ingredients arranged by cool finger tips, assembled like a 3D Jackson Pollock, it showed promise. Sweet pumpkin puree set against woody mushroom and artichoke accents, but what exactly is an open ravioli? Yes I get that the ingredients aren’t parcelled but this flaccid, anaemic square of pasta feels like it’s missing something....oh yeah its other half. Quite frankly it’s a bit flabby, like a fat friend out with her skinny pal with sex appeal – misplaced. And like watching a Danish arthouse flick, I felt like I should be enjoying it more than I did. I couldn’t quite pull myself together to fake it. Redemption was found in a glass of minerally Riesling and definitely not in the £5 bottle of water. Commendable eager service finished lunch off with a cute birthday touch, three cubes of birthday fudge plunged with a glowing stick of wax. Leaning across her pheasant the Maharani glinted, “You’ll get to unwrap your pressie later tonight.” Now that’s definitely 5 star treatment, well it was my birthday after all.
www.coworthpark.com make your own mind up.