Moving onwards and upwards from a history of formal dining, Chewton Glen's restaurant has been renovated top-to-toe in order to offer a more flexible and relaxed dining experience. Vetiver opened its doors to the public at the end of May and EMG was lucky enough to get front row seats to the premier.
The Chewton Glen website says of the new restaurant that, "changing tastes demand careful evolution" and it is clear that they mean every word. While the restaurant has retained its elegant feel, which makes it so special, it has been given a more gentle and relaxed atmosphere that instantly puts you at ease. Spread over five rooms, including a wine room and a bright yet cosy conservatory, Vetiver can now cater for large parties without disturbing other diners.
The menu offers something for everyone with an a la carte menu available for lunch and dinner, a five-course tasting menu and a set lunch. The reasoning behind this change in menu is to provide both guests at the hotel and ‘walk-ins' with more choice over their meal - ranging from one course to a full five-course tasting menu. The ‘carefully' considered décor and ambiance of the new restaurant also makes diners there for a quick bite just as confortable in their surroundings as those dressed to the nines for a formal meal.
Although British at its core, the diverse menu, created by head chef Luke Matthews, dips into flavours from around the world to give classic British dishes depth and originality. Being sea lovers, we couldn't resist going for the hand-dived Isle of Gigha scallops with parsley butter, as recommended by our waiter, to start. The scallops were tender and juicy as expected and couldn't be faulted for anything other than the fact that they were presented in a shell - which proved to be a problem for EMG's Sales Director, Jayne, who was taught as a child to eat everything on her plate.
For the main, Jayne opted for the tagine of slow-cooked lamb, served with jeweled couscous and harissa and Julia the roast rump of spring lamb served with rosemary polenta, baby onions and morels. Our helpful waiter was able to recommend whether additional sides were needed and warned Jayne that the harissa is exceptionally hot. In both cases the lamb was beautifully cooked resulting in tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat. The tagine was practically faultless with Jayne's only complaint that she was unaware there was a yummy sauce hiding under her lamb so she didn't get to enjoy it with the whole of her meal. The presentation of the roast spring lamb was excellent and the polenta, which can be bland, was creamy and full of flavour - the perfect accompaniment.
We couldn't help but dip into the deserts and they did not disappoint. We chose three to share: lemon tart; Tahitian vanilla panna-cotta with berries; and iced honeycomb parfait. The deserts were all a good size, presented beautifully and equally delicious! The pana-cotta was creamy and light, the tart was zesty but not too sour and the honeycomb parfait, which was the most unusual desert, was an interesting mix of smooth parfait and very crisp honeycomb.
Throughout the meal all of the staff were friendly, helpful and coping admirably with the first tentative steps of a new menu and service style. A particular mention must go to Alan Holmes the Chef Sommelier, who as usual was available to help select the perfect wine to accompany each course and is always happy to take budget into consideration!
Overall it must be said that Chewton Glen seems to have excelled itself with Vetiver. The food, wine, service and atmosphere all add up to a great experience. While it is certainly not the cheapest restaurant around, the quality that you receive is value for money and the flexibility to have just one or two courses means that a meal does not necessarily have to cost the earth. We shall be visiting again!