The surroundings for this Michelin awarded restaurant is bold. I mean a retirement home come antiques hoard is an acquired taste. But at least they have stuffy service to match.
It’s not that their target market is retired is really the issue. Why would I care? The age of the diners has no impact on me really, but it does filter through to our experience in a few ways. And it’s less a bad thing, and more of a warning of what to expect.
We had a glass of English sparking wine on the patio over looking the gardens, and this was without a doubt the best part of the experience. It was serene, and the warm summer air, muddled with cool fizz and the faint waft of flowers is enough to make any Brit go weak at the knees. We do love it when our summer comes up trumps. And over looking the croquet lawn, I thought we might have stumbled onto Downton. The house itself is gorgeous, and with a perfectly manicured exterior and gardens, it’s a shame the interior is how it is. The main lounge/study area is nice, and while the artwork is dry and uninteresting, the feel is in keeping with the house’s history. I’m down with that, and it adds to the experience. But the bar area had a catastrophic collection of art, and the restaurant itself, in all its peachy glory, is dull, dated (despite a recent refurb), and doesn’t make the most of the picturesque surroundings.
After some distinctly average amuse bouches ‘on the lawn’, which consisted of cacky hummus, tasty salmon and un-delicious cucumber/apple concoction, we were ushered into the dining room. It was quiet in this plush carpeted room. There was a quiet murmur from neighboring tables, but it seemed exceptionally devoid of any atmosphere. Maybe that’s what they’re paying for. Silence. This stiff ambience is added to and accentuated by the staff. After such a warm welcome and friendly disposition from The Ledbury last month, we were hoping for much the shame. Sadly, despite asking for recommendations on wines and attempting to spark a rapport with the waiters, we were met with flummoxed faces and short answers. It’s a shame, I’m sure they’re lovely people in real life, but it seems working in somewhere with such a strict adherence to some outdated standards means their staff are out of touch and cold.
We had matched wine, and whilst they were tasty, especially the dessert wine that was paired with the vanilla mascarpone parfait, none of them matched the eye-watering price attributed to them. Eating out as we do, and seeing the same wines for three times the price here as say Flinty Red or Bells Diner really reinforces the underlying ethos of The Priory: A lot of money for something you can get elsewhere, for half the price. You’re paying to be ‘there’, and unfortunately ‘there’ isn’t somewhere I’d want to be.
So, other than the expense and the staff, we should spend some time on the food. We had a good tomato soup as an appetizer, which was, yeh, good, fine. And the starters also were good. Actually, the raw mackerel was delicious. A simple dish with caviar, cucumber, radish and horseradish, it was fresh, clean and well balanced. Simple, yes. But pulled off. The Innes goats curd mousse with pinto peppers, dressed with thin croutons and fresh basil was again simple, but again, worked. Nothing wow, but good, and I’d eat this again.
For mains we had saffron linguine, soft poached egg and hake. This was bizaree, and the presentation hindered the dish from gelling. Whilst everything was cooked to perfection (other than a slightly heavily salted bit of fish), it was good. It was just confused, and small. The lamb galette, sweetbread, asparagus, pearl barley and carrot purée was much the same. Disappointment I think is the word.
Pudding was exponentially improved by the banging dessert wine. But as it was, was rather underwhelming. The parfait was good, but the slightly burnt honeycomb hindered the dish, and it was just a bit of a non-event. The soufflé was tasty, but again, just fine. Even the petit fours had their highs and lows. With highs from the chocolate praline truffle and tuilles, and lows from the cheesecake shot glass itself. We’re still undecided about the Turkish delight. The jury is out.
So how would I summaries the experience? The service and interior had no personality, whilst the food was OK. Some courses were great, others off the mark, but nothing stuck out as remarkable, in a good or a bad way. It’s a bloody quick way to blow the best part of £200 though. (Unless you can eat the £27.50 set-lunch, and not have wine or coffees – if you can, you’re a better person than me). For me, it’s all a lot of pomp and circumstance, with no delicious food to fall back on. (Go and have a glass of something sparkling and wander round the lawn though.)
— I decided to include the photos as some of the dishes were pretty, but apologies for the dim lighting and bad quality of the images!!!!! —-
Innes goats curd starter
Vanilla mascapone parfait pudding
Passion fruit souffle with coconut sorbet pudding