Restaurant review: The Dining Room at Beaverbrook
PUBLISHED: 17:54 30 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:54 30 November 2017
With the light falling just right, you can imagine yourself in Tuscany when at Beaverbrook. While the setting is European, their Dining Room whisks you to the Land of the Rising Sun. Matthew Williams visits
From junction 9 to Japan, Beaverbrook takes you on a round-the-world journey that would leave Phileas Fogg dreaming of jet propulsion while lazing in the Parrot Bar with an Old Fashioned cocktail.
While many worried about the future of the estate formerly known as Cherkley Court and this corner of the Surrey countryside, such is the style and swagger of the resort’s transformation that there are already some claiming it might well be the coolest new hotel in Britain. Certainly, with the light falling just right, you can easily imagine yourself in Tuscany while relaxing on the luxury country house hotel’s terrace with its views across the Surrey Hills.
Found on a road between Box Hill’s summit and the Leatherhead junction of the M25, once you’re through the estate gates a magical spell is cast. You’re greeted at the gatehouse with a “would you like directions to The House” and, having chortled at the thought at first, we find ourselves quite relieved that we receive them having forgotten the scale of Lord Beaverbrook’s famous former country home.
While the setting is firmly European and the rain during our visit firmly English, head chef Taiji Maruyama aims to lead you on an epic adventure to the Land of the Rising Sun with his modern approach to Japanese cuisine.
Despite finding myself in the surreal position of having to avoid chop stick embarrassment next to Chef Nobu last year (see breakout, right), as well as having grandparents who lived in Tokyo for many years, I’m very much a learner still when it comes to Japanese cuisine.
My ‘knowledge’ of umami (or savoury – one of the five basic tastes, alongside sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness) comes from an addiction to Netflix series Chef’s Table rather than any studied learning. Sushi has often come into my life depressingly pre-packed.
So when I found out that The Dining Room Japanese grill was joining Beaverbrook’s already popular foodie destinations (all require pre-booking), I felt compelled to arm wrestle Surrey Life editor Rebecca Younger for the right to take this one on.
Following a relaxed start to the evening and our own rejuvenated dreams of a jet-setting life in The Parrot Bar, we’re invited into the opulent The Dining Room. The ceiling is high, chandelier low, floor shined and seats deep. Tables are well spaced, and while we’re among the first in, the place soon fills up to a level that comes as a surprise on a mid-week night in the countryside.
We opt for the £90 per person Chef’s Selection menu, largely I’ll admit due to the presence of Wagyu. With dishes diving from tuna tartare to the aforementioned beef, we hand over wine picking responsibility to our young and eager restaurant team. We end up with an Olivier Leflaive, Cuvée Margot 2013, which for £35 seems to do a sterling job throughout our eclectic menu.
A culinary whirlwind
With Sylviane and I eyeing up our chopsticks with some concern, dishes come in such a whirlwind that we’re forced to learn, improve and adapt our ‘style’ rapidly – in at the deep end and we love every minute. The tables could probably be a touch bigger for the presentation of some of the dishes, but we manage to get to the end with the parquet flooring still in tact.
Spicy edamame (soybeans in the pod) provide light snacking while our dishes are prepared, and give us an excuse to dig in with our fingers before the dining becomes more precise. Followed by salmon tacos with hot miso, wasabi tobiko (flying fish roe) and crispy seaweed, our hope grows that we’ll be able to discard the chop sticks altogether. Alas the build-your-own crispy rice tuna with masago (roe from the salmon family of fish) and spicy mayo ups the challenge, albeit in the most satisfying way. These are accompanied by a garden salad with shiso dressing and crunchy shallots – you haven’t used chop sticks until you’ve tried to get the last dressing covered salad leaves off a plate, by the way.
This is blink and you’ll miss it stuff and our table rapidly replenishes with yellowtail tiradito, yuzu, kizami wasabi and aubergine; toro tartare with wasabi, soy and caviar; and Beaverbrook special nigiri. The first is citrus-packed sashimi; the second is presented in its own little igloo; and the third brings all the colours of the rainbow in four flavoursome packages.
Proceedings step into main course territory with meaty grilled koji halibut, watercress, pink pepper, yuzu soy and sesame oil; grilled wagyu hoba miso (a regional dish in Hida Takayama area of Japan, I’m told) with shimeji mushrooms; and cabbage, sliced truffle and sake butter. Flaking off halibut, pinching slices of delicious wagyu, delving into the cabbage and supping a little vin rouge… well, I’m in heaven.
Desserts are extra, but we can’t resist, especially because we’re able to pick a tasting plate to share. So we enjoy chocolate (hibiscus chocolate fondant, toasted barley ice cream), strawberry (marinated strawberries, white chocolate miso mousse and yuzu sorbet) and rhubarb (poached rhubarb, saffron panna cotta and rhubarb sorbet). Each a playful delight.
Clearly The Dining Room is a place where the costs can rise rapidly but then they clearly aren’t competing against the High Street at Beaverbrook. This former country house, which welcomed a who’s who of the 20th century in its heyday, really does have a magical feel to it again. Phileas Fogg may even have chosen to finish his adventures around the world in Surrey rather than The Reform Club had it been around then – well, Heathrow and Gatwick are on the doorstep after all…
Need to know:
The Dining Room at Beaverbrook
Leatherhead KT22 8QX.
Tel: 01372 571300.
What we ate
£90 per person Chef’s Selection – 10 courses
Dessert tasting plate to share, £16
Olivier Lefaive, Cuvée Margot, Burgundy, France 2013, £35