André Garrett's new, more casual restaurant at Cliveden is proving a welcome alternative to the fine-dining operation. But the quality is still there, says Amanda Afiya
Arguably one of the most iconic hotels in the UK, Cliveden House, the 2016 AA Hotel of the Year for England, has traded rather well on its history of power, politics and infamous parties.
Today, under the ownership of L+R (property developer brothers Ian and Richard Livingstone bought the 77-year lease for Cliveden House in 2012), the Grade I-listed stately home, situated on the National Trust-owned estate, is rather more bashful, preferring instead to be known for its outstanding hospitality and its exceptional food, expertly guided by executive chef André Garrett.
After his appointment in October 2013, Garrett's first task was to focus on the spectacular property's fine-dining restaurant, André Garrett Restaurant. But this spring saw the opening of a more casual affair at Cliveden in its former stable block, where Lord Astor once kept his beloved racehorses.
Keeping the equestrian theme central to its décor, the 44-seat restaurant, with additional seating outside, has incorporated many old features including the original stable tiles and stalls (now booths with striking petrol blue leather banquettes) in its design, overseen by L+R creative director Mario Nicolaou.
The menu and the interior of the Astor Grill have been designed to create a fun and convivial atmosphere for guests, as well as non-residents looking for a more informal dining experience from the property.
An all-day menu highlights a selection of classic American and British dishes. "As with everything at Cliveden, the history and heritage of the building influences all our decision-making," explains Garrett. "When creating the menu, we selected dishes that would have resonance with the past owners of Cliveden, in particular the Astor family."
The Astor burger
Signature dishes and drinks include the Astor Burger (an 8oz handmade burger with smoked Raclette, house relish, spiced carrot slaw and fries, £18), the Cliveden Superfood salad (£10/£16) and cocktails such as the Astor Fizz (Chapel Down Brut, Belvoir elderflower, £8). Dishes such as Cornish lobster and chips (£28 for half a lobster) and peanut butter and milk chocolate mousse, nod to the property's US connections, while classic English trifle (all desserts are £9) brings up the rear.
While the core of signature items doesn't change, the menu features seasonal additions every couple of months. Popular items include venison sausage rolls served as a snack, the Astor burger and many of the items from the grill section, such as Barnsley chop (£24) and marjoram-rubbed corn-fed chicken cutlet (£19), accompanied by spring onions, broccoli, preserved lemon and jus.
Newham fish pie
A concise wine list has been created to complement the menu and boasts a few "quirky, New World surprises", but the majority are "delicious and classical", says Garrett. Many are available by the glass and include Esporão Reserva, Alentejo 2013 from Portugal, and Chapel Down Union Red, a Pinot Noir-dominant blend with additional early Pinot Noir, Rondo and Dornfelder, made from grapes grown in Kent and Sussex on Wealden clay and chalk soils.
With just three chefs in the compact kitchen (in what was previously an office and store), Garrett's team, headed up by Ben Spatharakis, is able to rely on the more substantial kitchen in the main house for some of the prep work, although everything is cooked to order in the Astor Grill kitchen. Front of house is led by restaurant manager Callum Hird, a graduate of the highly respected Ten out of Ten management training scheme run by Cliveden's outgoing general manager Sue Williams, who leaves this month. Spatharakis spent two years working as sous chef in the main kitchen before moving over to the grill.
"Our customers are enjoying the fact that they have a new option when dining at Cliveden, but with the same level of professional service and attention to detail," concludes Garrett.
With covers in excess of 650 per week, the Astor Grill seems to be on course for the winners' enclosure.
Grilled halibut with salsa verde
From the menu
- Sea bass ceviche, fennel, melon, coriander £12/£18
- Crushed peas and broad beans on toast, poached hen's egg, pistachio £10
- Campania burrata, tomatoes, balsamic, fennel pollen £10
From the grill
- Shrimp and scallop burger, baby Gem, sweet pickle, tomato chilli salsa, fries £23
- Baked beetroot salad, fregola, goats' curd, mustard leaves £10/£16
- Baked fillet of cod, mussels, green tomato, chilli and lime £20
- Raspberry jam soufflé, lemon thyme custard £9
- Sherry-macerated watermelon and strawberries, black pepper, mascarpone £9
- Chocolate and marshmallow mess £9
The Astor Grill
Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire SL6 0J
Classic English trifle
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