Pennyhill Park is a five star country house hotel and award winning spa near Ascot in Surrey. Set within 123 acres of countryside its location is a rather splendid one – it even has its own rugby pitch! Residing within this rather grand hotel is the two Michelin star restaurant Michael Wignall at the Latymer.
The restaurant consisted of two dining rooms which were bright and airy with plenty of natural light. Exposed beams and oak panelled walls gave the place a country house feel to it and the upholstered chairs and white cloth covered tables made for a pleasant but fairly formal atmosphere.
We decided to go for the lunch menu which was £38 for three courses with a fair amount of choice for each course.
Some nibbles got things off to a good start. Some crunchy parmesan grissini with a brilliantly smooth chicken liver parfait all tasted delightful. The dill, salmon and wild rice tapioca crisps with a taramasalata dip were tasty too.
Four types of bread were served wrapped up in paper; white, brown, mixed cereal loaf and black olive – the latter being my favourite but all were light and expertly made.
The mini amuse bouche was served on a ginormous plate. It was a golden beetroot spherification with goats cheese jelly made (loosely) to look like a fried egg with a beetroot emulsion, green beans and pine nuts. It looked very pretty and tasted very fresh and summery.
To start, my gentleman companion went for the pastrami of Goosnargh duck breast, seasonal artichoke, truffle emulsion, Asian style duck tongues and poached and roasted foie gras. The fatty foie was cooked to perfection and was both sweet and salty. There was a lot going on here but all the ingredients were well balanced.
I opted for the poached loin of Loire valley rabbit, confit hens yolk and potato, Trompette mushrooms and Monmouthsire ham. The rabbit was so tender and juicy it was a joy to eat. The hens egg yolk wasn’t runny like other confit eggs I’ve experienced before, this one was thick and spreadable which was lovely. Some shards of crystallised Savoy cabbage were cleverly made and looked great too.
Next was a little mid-meal snack of pork ballotine topped with a tiny langoustine claw covered in a dashi broth infused with bacon. Dashi is a type of Japanese cooking stock and the base for miso soup. The bacon infusion heightened its delightful flavour.
For main my gentleman companion opted for the Lancashire suckling piglet and Pyrenean mountain pork belly cooked for 36 hours, golden enoki and swede in pork crackling. It was a porky feast! The quality of pork and it’s perfect cooking was undoubtedly brilliant but I think perhaps some veg and potato was missing. That aside it was utterly divine; 36 hours of low and slow cooking had transformed the pork belly into something totally wondrous and the loin of pork, served pink, was really tender and full of flavour.
I opted for the poached and roasted squab pigeon, liver boudin, “hen of the wood” mushroom, pumpkin gel and granola with parsley root. The pigeon was as tender and succulent as it gets; totally dreamy but I felt that maybe some veg was missing again here. Didn’t stop me from enjoying every mouthful though!
Next was a pre-dessert featuring lychee jelly, passion fruit parfait and passion fruit curd. It was a really delicious and fruity tasting little number. The intricacy involved in this and all the little extras we’d received was seriously impressive.
For dessert my gentleman companion went for the carrot cake which featured carrot parfait and jelly, honeycomb, cream cheese frosting, cardamom ice cream and orange. Presentation was simply stunning. There was lots going on in terms of flavour but every single component worked perfectly together. It was like a jigsaw puzzle; everything fitting together just right!
I opted for the mango gel and spheres, lime panna cotta, bitter chocolate sponge and aero, coconut espuma, shaving and Bounty ice cream. This was a similar thing, loads going on but masterfully balanced. The mango spheres burst and oozed a mango liquid which cut through all the rich chocolate brilliantly. I could have done with a touch more mango overall but it was still a really enjoyable pud! The Bounty ice cream tasted of just that; it was a coconut delight!
Luckily for us during our visit the sun was shining and we got to enjoy our £6.50 coffee (yikes!) out on the terrace which has views over their 9 hole golf course (that’ll make my Dad jealous!). It really was a beautiful place to sit and catch a few rays – I felt like I was on holiday!
Service throughout our lunch was a bit hit and miss; it veered from being super attentive and chatty to leaving our plates in front of us for ages once we’d finished. The dining room was full and they seemed a little understaffed which may explain the shortcomings.
With all the amuses and little extras, we’d eaten loads of food – for £38 we thought it was bargainous. The cooking techniques used in each dish were very cleverly produced and there was nothing we didn’t enjoy. Great food, great location and great weather. Bliss!