Matt Worswick at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park, Bagshot GU19 5EU - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 13:57 17 July 2016 | UPDATED: 12:31 18 July 2016
Only a few years ago, Pennyhill Park's The Latymer was named as Surrey's first two-Michelin star restaurant. The pressure was on then when head chef Michael Wignall moved to pastures new. Enter stage right, Matt Worswick, fresh from impressing on the Great British Menu. Matthew Williams visits
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2016
Need to know
Matt Worswick at The Latymer,
Pennyhill Park Hotel & The Spa, London Road, Bagshot GU19 5EU
Tel: 01276 486156 Web: pennyhillpark.co.uk
What we ate
10-course tasting menu, £100 per person
Wine flight, £80 per person
REVIEW: While it’s probably not unfair to say that his good friend Michael O’Hare, aka The Hair Metal Chef, rather stole the show on the last series of Great British Menu, those paying attention would have also noticed a confident and chirpy Liverpudlian with a happy knack of helping fellow chefs through their moments of struggle – as well as, occasionally, bringing a few back down to earth with some cutting banter.
Since the programme came to its grand WI banquet conclusion, however, Matt Worswick has found the time to set his compass for the south of England to take over the helm of Pennyhill Park’s The Latymer – stepping into Michael Wignall’s two-Michelin star shoes, following his move to Gidleigh Park in Devon to replace Michael Caines. Huge shoes to fill, as we’re dining at the very top table of British chefs here.
Surrey Life was fortunate to be able to review The Latymer during Michael’s two-star stint, where we found “spectacularly technical cooking combined with an artistic attention to detail that leaves you happily dazed through the evening’s festivities.” More of the same, please?
A hidden hideaway
Arriving down a series of twisting, high- hedged lanes, Pennyhill Park is almost its own nation state these days, set within 123 acres of rolling Surrey parkland near Ascot, Sunningdale and Wentworth. On top of being the long-term base of the England rugby team and home to one of the top spas in the country, it’s established an enviable culinary reputation.
As well as its flagship restaurant, The Latymer, there’s its more relaxed cousin The Brasserie (which is all set for a major overhaul this summer) and The Ascot Bar, which boasts decadent afternoon teas and cocktails (and you almost expect to find Sherlock Holmes occupying a shady corner). There’s also The Bakery, but that’s a story for another day! The main hub of the hotel is the historic manor house, which was built in 1849, and it’s here that you’re greeted by conscientious concierges and receptionists.
The sense of magic on the estate is heightened even further by the series of interconnecting (almost Harry Potter-esque) walkways that lead you to the luxurious rooms and suites. These have plenty of tricks up their sleeves too (ours, for instance, not only has a four-poster bed but a mezzanine floor featuring a bath big enough to practise for the Olympics at Rio).
Date with destiny
There’s no time for swimming yet, however, as my wife and I have an appointment with Matt Worswick, and The Latymer’s new 10-course menu, as well as sommelier Ali Rasouli Nia’s intense wine flight (one of Ali’s last selections at Pennyhill, as he is moving to one of the world’s 50 best restaurants, André in Singapore, later this summer).
Found off one of the labyrinthian turns out of reception, The Latymer feels like it should be entered via a secret door in a library wall (manager pushes a select encyclopaedia edition, wall slides away, “welcome, to The Latymer” etc).
Whisked to a corner table, which offers a view across the whole intimate restaurant, we find a gold emblazoned envelope. Unfurled, it contains the evening’s spectacle.
The atmosphere feels a little lighter than our previous visit; still unfailingly professional but with a slightly cheeky grin. It immediately feels like a good fit. Breads are delivered to the pristine white table with a side of Wagyu beef fat and onion, as well as butter for traditionalists.
The first wine up, which accompanies the next two dishes, is a beautiful 2009 Dönnhoff Riesling Spätlese from Germany – I would go on to bore friends about it for weeks. It sung.
From the kitchen comes ‘Pig’ (pig’s trotter cromesquis, piccalilli gel, Parmesan cheese gougeres, smoked baba ganoush, cardamom yoghurt and savoury cornet), a playful introduction to Matt’s flavours and style, and then ‘Octopus’ (braised octopus, sesame, miso and coriander) – a tender event, showcasing a lesser-used ingredient.
Next up, ‘Celeriac’ (salt-baked celeriac, truffle ice cream and lovage) and ‘Red Mullet’ (grilled red mullet, baby squid and brown crab) both prove hits, for contrasting reasons. The celeriac dish creeps up with heavy peppering and soothing ice cream, and takes a base ingredient to a completely unexpected crescendo. The red mullet, probably Sylviane’s favourite dish of the evening, is everything you love about seafood and more in a technical little pot. Both of these are served up with the most challenging wine of the evening, a 2012 Cotar Vitovska from Slovenia. This still allows the food to remain centre stage, while hitting you out of left field. The charismatic Ali definitely has a way to intrigue and excite with his wine combinations.
A 2014 Louis-Garoux La Garagista from Vermont in the USA (we’re travelling the world on our flight here), accompanies the next two plates, ‘Duck Liver’ (hot duck liver, Shimeji mushroom, prune and tamarind purée), which is a sharp blighter brought to earth by the crisped liver, and my favourite of the day: ‘Lobster’ (butter poached lobster, peas, mint and lobster bisque). The depth of flavour brought to the table here is unreal for just a few bites. You could (well, I could) happily drink the bisque from a gravy jug – although I’m led to believe that’s frowned upon.
Such is our enjoyment at this little run, that I almost don’t notice the braised snails with the ‘Beef’ (Hertfordshire beef sirloin, wild garlic pesto and braised snails) but it’s surely not long before Turf and, well, Earth becomes a thing in our landlocked county. A gorgeous 2008 Bressan Pinot Nero from Italy frames the dish perfectly.
Just the start
As we’re running out of space here, we’ll whip through the three desserts of ‘Strawberry’ (strawberry sorbet, elderflower granite and basil served with Dixon’s Double Diamond Port, 10 years old), ‘Apricot’ (poached apricots, chamomile and vanilla served with a 2011 I Capitelli by Roberto Anselmi from Veneto, Italy) and ‘Chocolate’ (chocolate delice, yoghurt sorbet and salted caramel served with a 2007 Vin Santo, Selvapiana, from Tuscany). But wooaahhh there, hold on… that strawberry/port combination is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted and THAT chocolate delice! They could open up their own in-house shop selling just that. No words.
While we go on to enjoy a selection from their British-only cheeseboard, it’s probably worth us settling back here for a moment. There’s not long left and there’s much to take in.
Matt Worswick won a Michelin star at the age of 26 – he’s still only 28 now, which makes me cry a little inside (what have I been doing all these years?!). He’s achieved so much already, and the way he’s got the team ticking at The Latymer at such an early stage is outstanding (he’s barely been in-house for two months and has managed paternity leave for his first child in that time!).
While he’ll still be representing the north-west in the next instalment of Great British Menu, it’s clear we’ve got a hell of a foodie champion on our hands here in Surrey now. Book in soon, before there’s a waiting list.