Michael Wignall at The Latymer at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey GU19 5EU - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 19:20 06 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013
Located at the fabulous Pennyhill Park Hotel in Bagshot, the exclusive Latymer restaurant has recently undergone a complete refurbishment. JOHN HUGHES went along to the opening night to get a sneak preview
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine 2008
Restaurant reviewed: Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel & Spa, London Road, Bagshot, Surrey GU19 5EU: 01276 471774.
Located at the fabulous Pennyhill Park Hotel in Bagshot, the exclusive Latymer restaurant has recently undergone a complete refurbishment. JOHN HUGHES went along to the opening night to get a sneak preview. Photos by Helen Hughes
What we ate...
All the following dishes were on the special launch night tasting menu - however, they provide a useful insight to what you can expect
- Marinated organic duck liver, smoked corn fed duck, confit rhubarb and bacon foam
- Vanilla scented salmon, sugar snap jelly and pomelo and avocado with Portland crab
- Calves' sweetbreads, braised cockscombs, Moroccan spiced pork belly and tonka bean veloute
- Poached quail's egg and Scottish langoustine, Jerez syrup, artichokes and autumn truffles
- Cannon of lamb, black pudding and apple croquette, carrot and cumin puree, braised tongue and anchovy beignet
- Vacherin mont d'or with poached pear and quince
- Raspberry jelly with tapioca, passion fruit and almond foam
- Tiramisu parfait served with coffee tagliatelle and honey ice cream
- Coffee and petits fours
Dinner at The Latymer costs 55 for three courses, or 45 for two courses.
REVIEW: Think of Pennyhill Park and probably the first thing that comes to mind is the famous spa - widely regarded as one of the finest in the country.
However, what you may not know is that this much-revered hotel is also home to the exclusive Latymer Restaurant - which has recently undergone a major refurbishment and has now reopened with an acclaimed new head chef at the helm, Michael Wignall.
Previously at The Devonshire Arms Hotel in Yorkshire, Michael has built up a formidable reputation over the years, so naturally we were keen to sample some of his acclaimed dishes.
At the launch night, we were treated to what can only be described as a remarkable culinary experience in the most luxurious of surroundings.
The sample 'tasting' menu consisted of eight courses, each immaculately presented and providing a tantalising hint of Michael's cooking - which he himself describes as "complex, carefully crafted and very technical but without being intimidating".
Flair and imagination...
The first course - marinated organic duck liver, smoked corn fed duck, confit rhubarb and bacon foam - was a prime example with clear, familiar flavours presented with flair and imagination.
Space does not allow descriptions of all the courses; however, suffice to say they were all equally fascinating. If I had a favourite, it was probably the cannon of lamb, black pudding and apple croquette, carrot and cumin puree, braised tongue and anchovy beignet - quite superb.
This is premier fine dining at its best, and complemented by wines of similar distinction, presented with aplomb by expert sommelier Davide Vaccarini.
We sampled four and I was hooked in particular by the first, Giardini Arimei, Muratori, from the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples; a sweet wine, amber in colour, suited usually to cheeses and confectionery, but presented here with the duck liver starter. It worked perfectly, a surprisingly pleasing match.
As this was a special 'tasting' dinner, it is difficult to judge value for money at The Latymer; however, prices advertised on their website (55 for three courses, 45 for two) suggest they are fair for this quality.
Of course, an extensive wine cellar to choose from could raise the total by any amount. Having said that, the good news is that they offer a remarkable 220 different wines by the glass, which in my case leaves a mere 216 still to try!
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2009
It's been an exciting start to the year for The Latymer at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot. Within the first month, the restaurant had already picked up a Michelin star and four AA rosettes. MATTHEW WILLIAMS speaks to head chef Michael Wignall about where things go from here
THEREhad been a certain anticipation in the Surrey air with the release of the latest Michelin and AA Restaurant guides: would The Latymer at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot make its expected leap into the culinary hall of fame?
Head chef Michael Wignall, who lives in Deepcut near Camberley, arrived at the restaurant back in November 2007 and came with a big reputation from his previous haunt, the Devonshire Arms Hotel in Yorkshire. At the time, he told Surrey Life that 'ultimately, my goal is to win a Michelin star for The Latymer'. So, just over a year on, how does he feel now that it's happened?
"It's been brilliant for all at Pennyhill Park," says the 37-year-old, suitably chuffed after winning not just a Michelin star but also four AA rosettes - not to mention being named best new restaurant of the year in the Good Food Guide.
"In all honesty, though, I'd have been disappointed not to have received a Michelin star. While you can never be sure that it's all going to work out okay, it was what I was brought here for."
Michelin Star-studded history
Michael's experience with stars and rosettes began at Cliveden in Taplow, Berkshire. As head chef of Waldo's restaurant, under executive chef Ron Maxfield, they held a Michelin star and four rosettes. He then moved on to Old Beams in Waterhouses, up in Staffordshire, which was made Good Food Guide county restaurant of the year and received a Michelin star and three rosettes, before relocating to Michael's Nook, which earned a Michelin star and four rosettes under his direction.
Having sworn he wouldn't work in another country house hotel, fate led him to the Devonshire Arms - an establishment looking for AA and Michelin recognition. Sound familiar? Within six months, he had got the star and they went from two rosettes to four rosettes in 18 months. Not unlike what has come about here in Surrey...
"Pennyhill Park was a good move for me as, after five years, I felt I'd gone as far as I could at my previous restaurant," he says. "I also wanted to move closer to London, for my career really.
"Receiving our first star has been fantastic, and getting the four rosettes was great as well. The best newcomer award from the Good Food Guide was a nice surprise, too. It's been an excellent year for all here.
"I want to take this further, and it would be great to achieve two stars, but I'm not one of these people to say this time next year I'll be a two-star chef. We'll keep working hard and hopefully it will come but we won't worry about it too much."
In his year-and-a-bit at Pennyhill Park, Michael has drastically changed the way in which the restaurant there is perceived, stamping his own mark on it to the point that it is now as much talked about as the famous spa.
"When we first came in, it was definitely quite a change for the clientele at the time," says Michael. "We radically changed the food on offer, which obviously isn't always to everyone's taste - especially when the 'safe' things disappear from the menu. But since then, the originality of the food means that we have our own regulars and the recent awards will only increase those numbers.
"A few of the rugby guys, who train here with the England team, seem to enjoy the food, and we also get the occasional footballer - when they can read the menu!"
What's on aMichelin menu?
Interestingly, while local produce is all the rage at most places these days, it's not something that necessarily finds its way on to Michelin menus.
"While it would be fantastic to have a farm at the end of the road that provided all the perfect ingredients for a Michelin star restaurant, in reality we have to use what is best for us," says Michael. "But put it this way, we won't be bringing asparagus in from Peru and we don't use anything that isn't seasonal."
In spite of all his success, Michael says he never had any childhood aspirations to become a chef and ended up in the profession almost by accident.
"I left school and didn't really know what to do," he says. "I was sponsored for my BMX riding at the time, but my parents obviously didn't see that as much of a career. So, I sort of fell into catering college and discovered that I was actually quite good at it.
"Actually, I've just got back from snowboarding in Colorado, which is something I tend to do every year, along with wakeboarding in the summer."
Not quite what you expect to hear when speaking to a Michelin-starred chef, but then it dawns on me that anyone working at such a high level of intensity for most of the year must find it quite difficult to just relax.
"To be honest, I'd just get bored sitting around," he laughs.
And, on that note, with the sounds of the kitchen making their way down the phone line, I decide it's probably best to let this Michelin star get back to what he does best.
- The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel, London Road, Bagshot GU19 5EU: 01276 471774
Surrey's other Michelin stars:
- Bingham Restaurant, 61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond TW10 6UT: 0208 940 0902
- Drake's, The Clock House, High Street, Ripley. 01483 224777
- Drakes on the Pond, Dorking Rd, Abinger Hammer. 01306 731174
- The Glasshouse, 14 Station Parade, Kew. 0208 940 6777
Le Cassoulet, at 18 Selsdon Road, South Croydon CR2 6PA (0208 633 1818), picked up a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide, which goes to restaurants offering 'good food at moderate prices' - (three courses for less than 28).