Ponsbourne Park Hotel and Restaurant
Ponsbourne Park Hotel & Restaurant is hidden away in 200 acres of lush Hertfordshire countryside, and this graceful country house hotel boasts a stylish contemporary restaurant overlooking mature gardens, a golf course and the picturesque valley below. The setting is secluded and romantic, the standards high. It is a perfect place to take someone special, for business or pleasure - the restaurant's smart designer decor, food and views all have an impressive 'wow' factor. The seasonal set menu, presided over by executive head chef Sushmito Roy, has a varied and tempting selection at under £35 for three courses, and lunch for under £25. There is also an excellent wine list from which, unusually, many are served by the glass. Our meal, prepared by talented chef Phil Weale was superb, beautifully presented and served with style, supervised by the food and beverage manager David Tanfield, proving that the restaurant fully deserves its two AA rosettes. To start, I chose the succulent pan-fried scallops with rich braised oxtail and salsify, while my companion chose the colourful marinated beetroot with goat's cheese - creamy and light, almost a mousse. To continue, there was a choice of nine inspirational mains and I opted for the perfectly-cooked fillet of beef served on a double cheese and horseradish rarebit with roasted root vegetables and ale juices, while my companion chose the tender rack of lamb wrapped in pancetta with sweet potato pudding, cauliflower purée and red wine jus. Both were delicious and a delightful contemporary take on favourite classics - a real visual and sensory treat. The wonderfully piquant chilled apple and calvados soufflé followed by coffee and petits fours completed things beautifully. It came as no surprise to learn that Sunday lunch is heavily booked in advance and that Ponsbourne Park is immensely popular as a wedding and business venue. Adjacent to the restaurant is an informal bistro and bar, popular with locals and, as a rare bonus, it has a small outdoor heated swimming pool, ninehole golf course and tennis courts available for use by non-resident diners for a small additional charge.