Fine dining at Humphry’s
With its 3 AA rosettes, Palladian interiors and celeb exec chef, Humphry's fine dining restaurant has it going ON!
As elegant as it gets. This 3 AA star rosette restaurant, exec cheffed by Great British Menu’s Chris Wheeler (one of the few sane chefs I’ve ever met, btw), sits in Palladian splendour within Stoke Park, the five star hotel and country club in leafy Stoke Poges, south Buckinghamshire.
The hotel itself boasts a world class spa, sporting and golf facilities, but Humphry’s has its own substantial charms, with Wheeler surely only a truffle shaving away from a Michelin star. If you sit by one of the glorious floor-to-insanely-high ceiling windows, you’ll get an exquisite view out across the gardens and lake and also see the bridge designed by one Humphry Repton – the restaurant’s namesake, who was the last great landscape designer of the eighteenth century.
With its pale cream interiors, chandeliers and carpets, Humphry’s exudes a luxe, refined restaurant vibe. It’s not the place for drop-in casual dining or families (children can only eat here for Sunday lunch). That said, like the rest of Stoke Park, the restaurant avoids being overly stiff and stuffy, largely due to the friendly, informal staff and also the clientele who come here – the spa, gym and sports facilities mean that, though the common denominator is that no-one is short of a few quid, there are younger couples and family groups amongst the well-heeled oldies.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
I’ve eaten here several times now and I’m always struck on what good value it is, compared to the likes of Le Manoir. The tasting menu is a great value at £85 but I’m slightly off the gastronomic marathon of 7 courses at the moment, so instead my mum and I went a la carte with a bottle of house red (very good as it happens).
I started with coriander cured mackerel, with mackerel tartare, textures of yorkshire rhubarb and puff rice – apart from being a very pretty plate, the flavours combined beautifully. You could really taste the coriander on the mackerel, and I’ve not tried that combination before.
Second course was always going to be the fillet of beef with oxtail and marmite ragout (YUM), shallot purée, chanterellles, bone marrow crumb and red wine jus. When you hear those ingredients it’s not hard to see the value for money. Basically it was divine.
Dessert was entirely unnecessary but – sod it – I did it anyway. A pretty as a picture cheesecake, topped off with a violet flower. Yes, I ate that too.
Stay in the contemporary Pavilion rooms above the spa and close to the tennis courts/ gym (they’re beautiful), or go for the grown-up glamour of The Mansion house, where you can glide down the staircase like some kind of old school starlet.
I’ve stayed in both sides of the hotel and would probably err to the modern side if I’m having a girly spa break, but for a romantic tryst or if you’re booked in to the fine dining restaurant for the evening, the Mansion house is more convenient and slightly more ‘wow’.
OUT AND ABOUT
If the 300 acres of grounds aren’t enough for you, take a 10 minute drive to the stunning Burnham Beeches nature reserve – you can spend hours happily walking there. Black Park is also close, with a more organised offering for smaller kids (a huuuuge playground), bike hire and a pretty lake to walk around. Your nearest chichi shopping destination is Beaconsfield.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Those looking for accessible fine dining –if you can’t afford to stay the night, just book in for lunch or dins (Weds to Sunday).
Not for: Family foodies – though Stoke Park is very family friendly, little people are encouraged (apart from Sundays) to eat at the more informal Italian restaurant on site over at the spa site. Those looking for a city-style buzz – the elegant surrounds makes Humphry’s a classy choice but not a lively one.
££: Not cheap of course, but good value for what you get. A three course a la carte meal is £68 without wine. The Sunday lunch set meal is £35 per head.
Humphry’s, Stoke Park Country Club, Hotel & Spa, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Bucks, SL2 4PG. Tel:01753717171.