International eXcellence magazine was staying at Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa and dining at The Latymer as part of the Rolls Royce Wraith British Luxury Tour.
We were very much looking forward to dining at the Latymer as the chef is Michael Wignall, who has two Michelin stars, and The Latymer has 5 AA Rosettes, one of only 8 in the UK. The Pennyhill Park website boasts that this makes it one of the best restaurants in the Surrey area. After partaking of the ten course tasting menu, we feel this is understating the case a little, it is no doubt one of the finest in the UK and the world.
After drinks in the bar we were ushered into the Latymer and immediately felt the atmosphere change, there was a hushed reverence, a complicit feeling amongst diners that we were the lucky few. The service is first class and together with the divine food makes for an extremely enjoyable evening. We both went for the ten course tasting menu and I also indulged in the wine pairing, an absolute must.
The adventure commenced with the Yellowfin tuna, dashi jelly, pickled mushrooms, wakame, nori crisp, warm seaweed tea and soy emulsion. This is where we discovered exactly how Michael was going about this. The portion is perfectly chosen so that the ten courses are a pleasure and put no strain on the stomach or health. However the range of flavours in every dish seems to be infinite. Which ingredients should you combine in every forkful, as every combination appeared to be wonderful and new. You could dine on this menu every day and still find a new way of eating all the courses. I tried a little tuna with mushroom, then with wakame and nori crisp, then before I could very this more it was finished. Alright I should have tried the nori with pickled mushrooms too. Darn, we'll have to come back. Each mixture was fantastic and offered a completely different taste.
Then came the Yorkshire hare best end and loin, puntarelle with cocoa nibs, turnip purée, Agen prune and puffed bulgar wheat. Again the agony of infinite choice. The hare was sublime perfection and cocoa nibs go well with everything!
Next came the Carrot and Bresaola, Rosemary scented heritage carrots, homemade mutton bresaola, fresh cheese, smoked beetroot and white beetroot purée. Never has a wooly mammal been so beautifully fused with garden greens, each carrot was a miniature work of art and as with the proceeding courses presented in a modern artistic aesthetic that drew a gasp of appreciation from every diner.
So onto the Halibut mingled with Scottish sea kale, potatoes in miso and wakame seaweed. It was like your mouth was diving into a stormy warm Celtic sea after a storm, hot brine washing over all of the five senses on the tongue. We started to try and pick a favourite but this was clearly far from over.
The Cassoulet of Clams, palourde and razor clams, cockles, cuttlefish gnocchi and wafer with poached quail egg. That was it for me, my favourite, nothing could beat this surely, it took me straight back to summers spent in the Mediterranean, days in the sun and sea. This is the dish Poseidon would have supped of an evening's carousing.
From surf to turf, Lancashire suckling piglet, honey and mustard, pak choi, Tomme de Savoie, salt baked swede and golden enoki. OK that was favourites out, we agreed that we could pick two top dishes, though we were beginning to realise the goalposts would certainly move again. The weave of sensations was magnificent, this culinary experience was fast becoming one of the best ever.
Number 7 was a Saint Eadburgha organic cheese, honey from their hives, pickled pear, white beetroot and salted popcorn. Totally different from the others, despite the reuse of the beetroot which we decided to forgive, likening it to a painter reusing a colour for counterpoint. Play this game when you’re there, amalgamate the various ingredients and see how many tastes you can create.
Finally we had made it to the deserts, despite the wines or perhaps because of the apt associations, my palate was in great form and ready for more.
The parfait, chocolate caramel, soft milk skin, malt and candied walnuts was exquisite, a chocolate missile aimed straight at the tongue's more vulnerable points.
The Yorkshire rhubarb, caramelised white chocolate, nitro ginger and burnt butter crumble surprised us both with its wide range of savours, like a guitar chord that like slides gently from the top fret to the bottom, singing every note along the way.
The last dish arrived, a liquorice scented salsify, bulgur wheat puffed and creamed, liquorice meringue and polenta crumb. Fantastic, subtle essences vied for attention, a battle between grain, crunch and cream. An immaculate end to a splendid dining experience.
The wines were also a discovery, many I would never have picked on their own but matched with the food they were divine and I was taught to be more experimental in my wine choices. A cornucopia of scents, a smattering of sweet and dry, multiple perfumes and a complete range of textures. The wines were like a blind nectar roller coaster, you never knew what to expect next but I was constantly surprised and delighted.
My first wine was a 2013 Pouilly Fumé, Les Duchesses from the Loire Valley, a dry, smoky Sauvignon Blanc with hints of lime that is a perfect starter. Next came the 2012 Zarate Caino Tinto from Rias Baixas, Spain. This wine is floral, tart and lighter than you would expect. The third wine was a 2012 Riesling Edition ARN from Baron Knyphausen in Rheingau, worth drinking just for the wonderful name. This was a pleasant discovery with a wonderful mix of perfumes and flavours, Apple, Pear, Cinnamon with citrus overtones and a marvellous light texture. This was followed by the 2008 Ariyanas, Naturalmente Dulce, from Bodegas Bentomiz in Andalucia. Made from Muscat of Alexandria, a most ancient grape variety, this sweet honey wine flows over the palate with scents of melon and peach, perfect with desert. The last wine was a 2013 Suertes del Vidonia, combining lemon and nuts with a salty mineral tang that perked up the taste buds even after so many other wines. The sommelier Ali Rasoul Nia is a charming fellow and the partnership between him and Michael Wignall is clearly producing fantastic results. It is a superb pairing of ambrosia and nectar. The food and drink of the gods. The wine list is available online and it is a very fine one indeed, they have some incredible bottles in their cellar for those with deeper pockets.
This was one of the best dining experiences we have ever had worldwide and should be on the list of must try places for any gourmet. We chatted with Michael the next day, he is charming and runs a chef’s table in the Latymer that we would highly recommend. He drives a Porsche, but don't hold that against him as he clearly admired the Wraith and I think would like to trade up. His passion for his craft is evident and he is discernibly pushing the boundaries, creating new dishes that are uniquely his own. It's worth watching his menu, as it changes and then booking a table to see what he has come up with next.
Read about the Rolls Royce Wraith and Pennyhill park Hotel here: http://internationalexcellence.co.uk/content/rolls-royce-wraith-british-...
Rolls Royce Wraith
Pennyhill Park and The Latymer