Lady Gemima and Lord Hugo Hammersley had suggested lunch in the English countryside near their country residence. Our trip was straight out of Downton Abbey. Lovely sunshine, the narrow, tree lined lanes meandering in the green rolling hills of the English countryside. Wondrous. All we really needed was a soft top E-type Jaguar to reach perfection. Alas, it was just the XF but the sunroof was open. Hurrah! We arrived at Stovell’s, a 16th century farmhouse, oak-beamed and very elegant. We were led to our table passing by a large, tempting leg of Iberico ham sitting on it’s carving table.
Lord Hugo had been to Stovell’s before and recommended we all have the Cote du Boeuf. We duly followed orders but we needed wine. Lord Hugo knows a thing or two about wine. Having dined in some of the finest restaurants in the course of his career as a diplomat, he also drank some of the finest wines. On expenses of course. We asked for the wine list and were informed that the sommelier would be over to see us. This came as a surprise as Stovell’s was not exactly full for a lunch time so it seemed an extravagance. We asked for suggestions for a French Bordeaux to accompany our steak and a white to accompany our starters of soup and foie gras. The waiter scanned the list and pointed to his choice. £80 a bottle. Harrumph! We explained that we’d like something a little less expensive”. He pondered and then chose a bottle at £65, no doubt trying to justify his existence by bringing in extra revenue. We explained again only to be rebuked as he informed us that we did not realise how much the price of Bordeaux wines had increased over the last few years. A fair observation if buying wines from the 1855 classification which we were not! So, we made our own choice at £39. Still overpriced we thought. Now for a white. Surely the sommelier had got the message?
His finger hovered over the list and fell upon a white at a mere £65 a bottle. What was this? Did he think we were some high rollers, come to deposit our funds in his wine vault? We ignored him and selected a Picpoul at £28. Unhappily, he declared with some bitterness ” it will not go with the foie gras!” and with a sneer he turned his back and stomped off. Now, dear readers, as you know your Doctor understands that a foie gras should really be accompanied by a rather unctuous sauternes but sometimes it just seems OTT. We concluded that the young sommelier needed a lesson in humility and also that he needed to heed his customers wishes more closely. No doubt he drinks Ch. Lafitte at home each evening.
Ahh, yes the food. We were graced with a large home made “semolina” cracker on a small metal washing line. Accompanying this were two sauces in small plastic squeezable bottles which one was meant to drip a piece of cracker. What a ridiculous idea. However, the sauces made sense as the cracker was tasteless. Thin rice cracker without any flavour. We were served amuse bouches of a small gazpacho soup in a glass which had a fresh-picked tomato flavour. Scrummy.
Our bread was accompanied by butter which perched on a rock. Another fad in Michelin star restaurants. Stovell’s isn’t a Michelin star restaurant. But one gets the impression it wants to be.
The foie gras was excellent as was the accompanying brioche. It also went very well with the picpoul, hurrah! The cote du boeuf arrived on two mini barbecues and was accompanied by a large bone with the bone marrow mixed with herbs. (see daguerreotype above). The meat was perfectly seared on the outside and tender and succulent on the inside. Lord H. was spot on with his recommendation. It was accompanied by large chips served in a small chip frying basket. Who would want a serving dish? See #wewantplates
Overall the meal was very good but overpriced. It was ruined by the pushy sommelier and it was trying a little too hard. As we all know the art of butter balancing on rocks is not simple. Michelin inspectors can easily spot poorly balanced butter and as for a poorly hung washing line…well, one mistake and that’s it until next inspection! So it is with Stovell’s. Their butter is slipping of its rock slightly and the washing line needs to be taken in. However, a return visit might be on the cards should they ditch that sommelier!
125 Windsor Road, Chobham, Surrey, GU24 8QS
+44 (0)1276 858 000