Artichoke, Old Amersham
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I already had a weakness for the genteel Buckinghamshire town of Amersham, but after eating at Artichoke I feel a full blown obsession coming on.
Artichoke is the kind of restaurant that I wish to high hell I had in my village. Nestled between two fashion boutiques in the pretty Old Town – well hello! – it’s simply but elegantly furnished and impeccably clean (I know this because the kitchens are in full view and I’m nosey). The staff are friendly and welcoming but, thankfully, not overfamiliar. But most importantly the food is just exquisite and incredibly good value for the standard of cooking.
Where I was sitting, with a great view of the kitchen to the left of the screenThe restaurant has form, so to speak – winner of the Good Food Guide’s Best New Entry 2011, Rising Star in the Michelin Guide 2011 and listed 35th in the Top 50 UK Restaurants Good Food Guide 2013, not to mention the endorsement of a certain Raymond Blanc who holds his own staff Christmas party there.
That’s good enough for me frankly, so I took my mother along for a birthday lunch last week. The a la carte menu was incredibly reasonable (the most expensive dish was £22.50), and there was a tasting menu if we were in the mood , but we both zoned in on the set lunch.
We both went for white onion soup, nettle pesto, crispy shallot rings and croutons which was D.I.V.I.N.E – incredibly light and almost moussey. My mum loved her tender char grilled and braised blade of beef with carrot purée, swiss chard and butter-roasted onion in red wine sauce and I pretended to be healthy with a light roast hake, purple cauliflower purée, pickled romanesco, baby spinach and chervil foam. Presentation was brilliant, and even better was that we could see how it was done as the chef created the dish at the front of the kitchen.
Chef Laurie Gear in the kitchenThe portions are by no means large, but by dessert we were both inexplicably full. However, on your behalf – no need to thank me – I battled on through aerated dark chocolate mousse, camomile ice cream,pear shavings, brioche and sweet cicely, some handmade petit fours and a double espresso, then nearly wept in joy when the entire bill (with a large glass of red each) came to £66. Honestly, that’s like having a Tiffany ring turn up in a Christmas cracker.
Best for: a girly lunch, a meal with friends (you can hire the self-contained private room upstairs for up to 12 people) or a romantic dinner a deux. I’d give it a wide berth with young kids as space is limited and there’s no garden. It’s busy at weekends so book in advance. Closed on Monday.
£££: Mid range but for the quality it’s a steal.
Contact: Artichoke, 9 Market Square Old Amersham, Bucks, HP7 ODF Tel: 01494 726611. artichokerestaurant.co.uk