Dinner at Colette’s at the Grove
PUBLISHED: 10:30 21 October 2015 | UPDATED: 12:50 26 October 2015
Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne catches up with one of the county’s much-applauded fine-dining experiences
So many restaurants, so little time ... In my travels round Hertfordshire reporting on the county’s mostly impressive collection of places to go for a meal, I had somehow missed out on Colette’s at the Grove on the outskirts of Watford, despite friends and colleagues singing its praises. That may be because said persons in most cases were not short of a bob or two and tended to look upmarket for their recreation. Along with its claim to be ‘redefining the fine-dining experience’, Colette’s is pricey, as evidenced by the website and the fact certain footballers and other celebrities were rumoured to be at home there.
Some months ago, however, Colette’s head chef Russell Bateman was named National Chef of the Year, a title not given lightly, and the restaurant’s three AA Rosettes and inclusion in the 2014 Good Food Guide suggested this was somewhere that justified more than a passing glance.
Colette’s gives guests three choices for dining – a five-course tasting menu at £75 a head, or £125 including wine pairing; a 10-course version at £85 or £152, and, the obvious pick for a first-timer, the ‘Haiku’ set menu at £65 featuring four starters, four mains, and three desserts or cheese. The Haiku changes regularly but on my visit the starters ranged from quail, foie gras and scallops to heirloom tomato salad, while the mains offered lobster, cod, lamb and veal. Dessert choices were vacherin, Earl Grey cream and tonka bean panna cotta.
For starters, we opted for the free-range Norfolk quail, which came with garden spinach, hazelnuts and nutmeg, and diver-caught scallops with peanuts, lime and radish (above), all artistically presented like the rest of the meal and notable for the unusual accompaniments and freshness.
Given Colette’s penchant for nouvelle-cuisine-size portions, they were also relatively substantial, though any misgivings on that front were taken care of by regular amuse bouches which appeared between courses and were uniformly impressive. This was just as well since our main courses were tiny – Cornish lobster, which came with vanilla brown butter, heritage tomatoes and avocado, and fillet of English Welfare veal with girolles, apricots, green almonds, truffle salami and the up-and-coming sweet hispi cabbage. Small, that is, but, as my fellow critic agreed, perfectly formed. The discussion about portion sizes goes on and some of Colette’s customers might well blanch at the idea of paying this sort of money for that amount of food, but what counted in this meal was the balance, a concept trumpeted by Heston Blumenthal among others. With a vacherin each for dessert (bottom left), complete with wild strawberries, mascarpone, raspberry and meringue, and the amuse bouches, we left feeling well fed but not stuffed and conscious that we had sampled high-quality ingredients properly cooked and properly presented.
Colette’s is probably not for everyone and not for every day but it is a treat, with careful and attentive service to match elegant and relaxing surroundings. For a special occasion, it joins the small list of Herts restaurants to beat.
For those who wish to learn more of the Colette’s style, chef Bateman holds regular master classes where he shares his experience and passion for food. They cost £125 including lunch, with the autumn class taking place on October 2 and the winter session on January 22.
Other restaurants at the Grove include the buffet-style Glasshouse, where guests can watch chefs prepare the dishes and the spread of food costs £42 a head Mondays to Thursdays and £52 at other times. Informal dining is available at the Stables, which features steaks, pizzas, pies and more, including a ‘grazing menu’ at £38.
The cost of this dinner for two was £148 including a bottle of still water and two glasses of wine. Service was extra.
This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
BOOK A TABLE
Colette’s at The Grove, Rickmansworth WD3 4TG