Matt Worswick at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 14:46 10 September 2018
Recently named in the top 50 restaurants in the UK, the Michelin starred Matt Worswick at The Latymer is currently in the middle of a run of guest chef nights. Matthew Williams visits as Gravetye Manor's George Blogg joins the family for the evening
The moment I sit down to start writing, the news comes through that the subject of my scribbling has been named the 39th best restaurant in the UK by the Good Food Guide.
Sigh. No pressure then as I attempt to recapture the magic of the evening I’ve just experienced.
Fortunately, a visit to Pennyhill Park is rarely without a sprinkling of stardust.
I’m not entirely sure how, but it turns out that it’s more than two years since I last reviewed The Latymer – back then, head chef Matt Worswick was in the early stages of recreating the restaurant in his image.
We loved it then – the quality was extremely high, but it was also matched by a completely unstuffy team and a down to earth head chef, who my wife and I warmed to immediately.
I’ve since bumped into Matt a few times out and about in the county and so, it’s fair to say, I always watch the latest developments in his career with interest.
The Michelin star and 4 AA rosettes arrived last year and now he’s established his restaurant among the 50 best in the country.
A few days before his latest accolade, however, came the invite for Surrey Life to join him for one of his collaborative guest chef nights. These started at the end of August 2018 and are set to continue for at least the next few weeks.
The chef in question for the night of our visit was Dorset-born George Blogg, who currently runs the rule at the Michelin starred Gravetye Manor. He previously worked alongside Matt at Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham.
He’s a popular guy and, in a strange coincidence, his name came up on the morning of our visit after a conversation about local produce with the completely inspiring Trenchmore Farm, who are found a little over the border in Sussex. They couldn’t have sold him, his spirit and his food better to me.
It was an evening that had a lot to live up to, then...
World of wonder
Just in case you haven’t visited before, Pennyhill Park’s epic driveway sweeps you passed the England rugby union team’s red rose adorned training base and into a Concours d’Elegance of a car park.
Covered walkways and paths head off in a myriad of directions, revealing the hotel’s various worlds of luxury as they go.
Our focus for the evening, however, is the 19th century country house that forms Pennyhill’s centrepiece.
It’s here that you find the enchanting hallway that eventually leads you to the swinging door of The Latymer.
A step inside and the hall you’ve just left immediately greets you again, with plates adorned with its image decorating the tables alongside slick menus.
Apparently, Matt found the forgotten crockery while randomly rummaging around some lost cellar or similar.
Following a selection of tantalising snacks and bread with a crust that dreams are made of (accompanied by a ridiculously good dripping with added pork crackling – oh my…), the evening’s menu snakes between Matt and George’s dishes and their clear signature styles.
Colchester oyster emulsion with cured sea trout and sorrel granite launches you into the ocean, while the smoked salt baked celeriac, cow’s curd, hazelnut and citrus makes simple ingredients soar. Things get a little naughty with a devilish roasted veal sweetbread, potato crisp and buttermilk. Newhaven haddock swims in on a bed of saffron and tomato with a caviar and gin sauce (sounds like a good night out in Mayfair). Creedy Carver duck plays with beetroot, parfait and seeded granola while being swung off into unusual and intricately enjoyable directions by hints of lavender. Passion fruit cream with mango gel and coconut ice cream fizzes with excitement and whisks you off to warm sandy beaches and cocktails with little umbrellas. The raspberry souffle with fennel and white chocolate ice cream was a majestic finale. We’re in heaven and we really don’t want to leave.
In amongst that sublime indulgence, we enjoy a cheese board too. I know. We’re told that their already impressive selection is about to become outrageously showstopping, with a much grander trolley being introduced in the near future. From what I know about the head chef and his ambition, I have no doubt he’s not exaggerating when he says it’s going to be the best around. We’re clearly going to have to head back again soon.
Meeting George Blogg for the first time, after our meal and when the rest of the guests have headed off into the night, it’s clear that he and Matt have the easy-going repartee of a well-practiced comedy duo. Suffice to say, it must have been one seriously happy kitchen during our visit – and, truth be told, it showed with the plates being served.
Everything seemed somehow effortless – bold and intricate flavours that didn’t appear to be trying too hard to impress. Beautiful plates that looked like they’d been sent off with a little laughter and a flourish. Both chefs are seriously focussed practitioners, but there’s a glint in their eyes.
Next up? Matt Worswick will be looking to recreate this magic at The Latymer with Michael Deane (Deanes Restaurants) and Alex Greene (Eipic) on Sunday Saturday 9 and Tom Brown (whose Cornerstone restaurant in Hackney Wick has just been named Good Food Guide’s best new entry) on Sunday September 16, with more dates still to be announced.
If I’d had the option, I’d have never left and instead taken up residency for the rest of the run.
Matt Worswick at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel, London Road, Bagshot, GU19 5EU
Food 10 | Venue 10 | Service 10
What we ate
• Seven-course tasting menu, £95 per person
• Seven-course wine flight (six glasses), £80 per person
• European cheese selection (five cheeses served with condiments), £16.50
Guest Chef experiences run each Sunday until the end of September 2018
• September 9, Michael Deane – Deane’s on the Square, County Down, Northern Ireland
• September 16, Tom Brown – Cornerstone, Hackney Wick
• September 23, James Close – Raby Hunt, Darlington
• September 30, Tim Allen – The Flitch of Bacon, Essex