Dinner review: SG4 Brasserie, Needham House
PUBLISHED: 11:34 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 10:22 09 May 2016
Food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne explores a new restaurant in Little Wymondley at the heart of a hotel enjoying a renaissance
Needham House is a new arrival on the Herts scene, a family-run property occupying the former Blakemore House Hotel at Little Wymondley. After a chequered career, the Edwardian former manor house and complex emerged last November from a three-year refurbishment and celebrated its official opening as a hotel, spa, conference and wedding venue last month. It also has a restaurant, as you would expect, the SG4 Brasserie, and it was a friend’s recommendation that led me there. Its arrival gives the area around the north Herts village a quality foodie triangle, the other members being the Hermit of Redcoats, reviewed here last month, and the Conservatory restaurant at nearby Redcoats Farmhouse Hotel.
General manager Pete Farrow is on a mission to encourage locals as well as hotel guests into the 83-cover restaurant, a challenge that head chef Ivor Morgan is keen to tackle. The large and comfortable space is a focal point, set in the middle of the main building, with an on-trend view of the chefs at work in the kitchen. Since we were eating early in the evening, there were about a dozen other customers while more arrived as the meal progressed. Service was attentive, with a choice of breads arriving speedily and the menu explained.
The list of starters, all priced around £7, suggested skill, not to mention ambition, at work in the kitchen. It started with celery velouté with Waldorf salad, while a slow-cooked chicken terrine came with a croute and pineapple cannelloni. The ‘Needham House Scotch egg’ was garnished with tomato chutney and kohlrabi marmalade. A duck liver parfait promised accompaniments including peanut brittle, which must be a first, plus caramelised apple and calvados purée, spiced poached apples and brioche.
Such variety presented a difficult choice but mindful of leaving room for main courses we went along the minimalist route. As a fan of the plant in question, I chose the beetroot tartar (£6.50, left) which came with grilled goat’s cheese crottin and port dressing. This is always a good combination, with solid flavours mingling with the freshness, and was a promising beginning. My companion, a slave to smoked salmon, chose the gin-cured gravlax (£7.50), accompanied by lime purée, a smoked-salmon croquette, pickled cucumber and frisée salad. It was an interesting variation on the Nordic version, which often comes with dill and mustard sauce, and was well received.
The mains, less imaginative than their forerunners but good solid fare, were also enlivened by some tasty touches. English lamb rump, at what seemed an expensive £27, was garlanded with rosemary fondant potato, goat’s cheese, cauliflower, courgette and vanilla jus. Having had lamb the night before, my fellow critic opted for the next most interesting-looking dish, a guinea fowl breast (£19.95) with confit thigh, croquette, mushroom purée, girolles, orange-glazed carrots and Madeira jus. She pronounced it sweet and tender and a good choice, with the artistic presentation also winning brownie points.
This left me with a choice of two steaks, rib eye or picanha (a Brazilian version of rump), the ‘Needham House pork plate’ (they like their branding here), two kinds of pan-roasted fish, cod or salmon, the vegetarian choice, which was wild mushroom fricassee, or barbecue-glazed pork cutlet. The cutlet (£18, left), accompanied by green chilli slaw, French fries and barbecue sauce, won the contest and was tasty.
Two glasses of wine and a shared ‘Needham House lemon merinque pie’ (£7.50, right) for dessert rounded off the meal on a satisfying note.
The cost of this meal for two was £76.45, including 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.
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Needham House Hotel
Blakemore End Road
Little Wymondley SG4 7JJ