Restaurant review: The Glasshouse at The Grove, Chandler's Cross
PUBLISHED: 11:23 19 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:23 19 August 2019
Brian Arnopp Images
Interactive, with multiple chef 'stations', the restaurant at The Grove hotel in Chandler's Cross has been transformed into an eating experience in grand surroundings
No longer just a restaurant but more an eating experience, The Glasshouse at The Grove at Chandler's Cross has reopened in grand style after a three month refurbishment. It has clearly been three months well spent. The eating space has been transformed into a huge triple-height glass conservatory with views of the hotel and spa gardens and what is now called 'food-hall style' dining. What that means is guests can wander at will among eight food stations, each with its own chef and each with a different choice of what to eat. You help yourself to what you want, return to your table, and then go back for more, and different, as the fancy takes you. I've seen it before, usually in American hotels at breakfast time, but rarely on this scale.
If the race in foodie-land at the moment is to present your audience with something different, The Glasshouse is a major contender. It's not just the food but the surroundings - the work of Martin Hulbert Design studio, which has led The Grove's interior style since it opened 15 years ago. The idea behind The Glasshouse is to bring the outdoors in, to produce what Steve Margo, The Grove's meetings, events, sales and guest relations manager, calls 'an outstanding, luxurious yet fun experience'.
Executive head chef Stephen Wheeler launched The Glasshouse when the hotel opened then headed overseas to gain international experience, particularly in Asia. He has now returned to the helm, saying, 'We are showcasing new, innovative dining and introduced new cooking stations and methods because it was crucial to us that we provide guests with a range of options at a superior quality. It's an interactive and fun way of eating.'
With all the food stations to explore, normal starter-main-dessert rules do not apply. My guest and I trod the traditional path but there were plenty of other customers mixing and matching. Choices included a salad bar, seafood on the 'Crustacean Station', another for Asian noodle soup, a grill option for meat and fish, a roast selection, a stone oven for pizzas and flatbreads, a tandoor oven and a dessert table. Freshness was a given - all the tables were replenished constantly by their attendant chefs, who also described their dishes and carved and served as required.
Typical fare on the seafood table includes smoked seabass, seafood terrine and a selection of sushi and sashimi. The grill offers include hickory rubbed beef ribeye steak with mustard butter and grilled fillet of Loch Duart salmon marinated in garden herbs, lemon and olive oil, while the roast table on our visit displayed lamb and beef joints. Salad choices include roast butternut squash, garden green beans, wild rocket, cherry vine tomatoes, asparagus, olives, pomegranates and red chicory and if you're heading for the tandoor oven, look out for fenugreek and ginger spiced chicken with curry leaves or masala and coriander marinated tiger prawns with lime and roasted chilli.
The live pasta station is a show all to itself, with diners invited to watch as fresh pasta including penne and tagliatelle is rolled out, matched with your choice of sauce and prepared to order. Typical choices include spinach and ricotta ravioli with garden sage butter, or pappardelle pasta with slow cooked beef cheek, lemon and parsley gremolata.
Our choices were a selection of seafood to start, freshly carved roast lamb as mains and a crème brûlée each, plus an extra dessert for my other half of lemongrass and passion fruit mousse with passion fruit meringue. This was, as she explained, purely in the interests of research. Like the rest of our meal, it passed the test.
The Glasshouse charges a fixed price of £49 a person for dinner Monday-Thursday and Sundays, and £62 a person on Fridays and Saturdays. It is also open for lunch at £42 or £46 depending on the day. Lunch on Sundays and bank holidays is £62.
Also worth visiting is The Glasshouse Bar, also newly refurbished with a glass extension connecting it to the terraces and garden. The drinks menu features a range of cocktails using locally sourced ingredients, many - like those in the restaurant - from The Grove's walled garden.
The cost of this midweek meal for two was £98. Drinks and service are extra. This is an independent review by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
The Glasshouse at The Grove / Chandler's Cross WD3 4TG (for sat nav, use WD17 3NL) / 01923 807807 / thegrove.co.uk
3 of a kind
Richard chooses three more Herts restaurants in impressive surroundings
Trees in bloom, floral art and neon sculptures feature. Dishes range from salmon sushi rolls to English garden salads, steamed seabass and teriyaki lamb cutlets.
65-67 High Street, Watford WD17 2DJ
18th-century former hunting lodge on the Brocket estate. Look out for game pressing to start, Belted Galloway short ribs on mains and pecan praline mousse with toasted almond crème dessert.
Brocket Hall, Marford Road, Welwyn AL8 7XG
Lord Mountbatten's former country home provides a relaxed environment for fine dining recognised by two AA Rosettes.
Cottonmill Lane, St Albans AL1 2HQ