A focus on service combined with modern British cooking is making this Beaconsfield pub shine. James Stagg reports.
Having mastered front of house engagement at the likes of Pétrus, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Trinity in London, service was always going to be front and centre at Daniel Crump and Margriet Vandezande-Crump's first venture.
At the Greyhound in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, the couple have worked with Adam Hague to combine their flair for front of house with modern British food informed by the head chef's travels in Asia and skill with local produce.
Crump and Vandezande-Crump took on what had previously been an Italian restaurant housed in a Grade II-listed, 14th-century coaching inn back in April 2019. As the business has been closed more than open, it has been a bumpy ride so far.
"We took it on, started the refurb and opened in December 2019," Crump explains. "We had a cracking start, but 14 weeks later the pandemic made us close."
It has obviously been stop-start since then, but the couple have been boosted by the reception from the local community, which has ranged from impromptu flower planting outside the restaurant's next-door cottage, in which they live, to locals moving their traditional carols to accommodate the couple's working hours.
"It's a risk for anyone to open a restaurant," Crump says. "Even though we were confident, it was a worry about how we would be received, being very different to what was here before. But almost all of the guests that have been have returned."
The restaurant has 40 covers, and the couple make a point of speaking to every guest. "We've worked in London in some great restaurants where the guests are quite varied, but here you can really build a rapport," Vandezande-Crump adds.
The menus, which include a set lunch (£30 for two courses, £35 for three), tasting menu (£65 for six courses) and wine pairing (£50-£60) devised by master sommelier Vandezande-Crump, are guided by the couple, but the end product is very much Hague's creation. "We would never employ an artist and tell him how to paint," Crump says. "We just said these are the colours we'd like you to use, go for it. And Adam has been spot on."
We would never employ an artist and tell him how to paint
The lunch menu changes monthly, while the à la carte changes every two weeks. "In the past I'd changed menus too soon. We're looking for consistency," Hague says.
The chef, who joined the Greyhound after a spell travelling following his departure from the White Oak in Cookham, likes to include Asian influences along with a strong focus on British ingredients. Take the steak tartare (£13.50), which Hague combines with cocoa and wasabi. The beef is served with slices of raw mushroom alongside a delicate wasabi cream, topped with a cracker and grated cocoa.
A dish that has fast become a best-seller is Cornish monkfish with foie gras and celery root, accompanied by a light cream sauce cut through with dill oil (£29.50). "We brine the fish before cooking, and poach the foie gras then torch it for service – the kitchen is tight, so it helps," Hague explains. With minimal intervention, the chef relies of the quality of the produce to shine through.
Competing with the monkfish for most popular dish is a main of venison, beetroot and girolles (£23) – a classic combination of wintry flavours. "We use the saddle, so two lucky people get the fillet," Hague explains. "We brine it so it breaks the fibre down to make it easier on the palate. It's then sous vide and finished in the pan. We do a lot of sous vide at the moment as we just don't have the stove space, so we need to be clever with what we've got. But I'm an old school chef, so I prefer pan work."
When it comes to desserts, Hague works closely with pastry chef Ciaran Doyle, formerly of Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire, to create dishes such as kiwi with pink peppercorn and cream cheese (£9.50) and chocolate fondant served with Guinness ice-cream and coffee brûlée (£12).
The wine list is as carefully sourced as the food, with Vandezande-Crump listing pairings for each dish, including Sancerre from Reverdy and Gevrey-Chambertin ‘La Justice' from Mark Roy, as well as a Viognier blend from Wanted Man in Australia and an old vine Cinsault blend from Duncan Savage in South Africa.
The attention to detail is apparent throughout, but it's the focus on service – along with the food – that keeps the guests coming. Crump says: "We give all staff an hour's training every day and monthly tests to ensure service never slips."
33 Windsor End, Beaconsfield HP9 2JN
From the menu
- Beef cheek, beer mayonnaise £5.50
- Crumpet, Parmesan and onion £5.50
- Mushroom, lemon thyme, cobnut, galangal £11
- Sea trout, egg yolk, caviar £12
- Hogget, artichoke, mushroom, onion £25
- Squash, onion soubise, kale £17
- Lemon, poppy seed, almond £11
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