The Dashwood ****
Spent the weekend at this new hotel, with a really excellent restaurant at heart but which has tendencies towards ambivalence (how wanky does that sound).
The place has only been open for about 3 months and has boutique hotel written all over it - but don't knock it because of that. This is not your average hotel restaurant. The cooking is self assured, although at times someone goes a bit heavy handed on flavour. A roast plum tomato soup was excellent, ideal for a cool autumn night, but spoiled slightly by being a bit too sweet. I don't reckon the tomatoes were really that sweet and I think someone added a tsp too much of sugar or tomato paste. However, my leek and stilton soufflé was perfect. It was light and creamy but full of the flavour of the two main ingredients.
My tuna on curried lentils tasted perfect. The fish being a chunky steak, a good few inches thick. Unfortunately, again it was let down by someone being a bit overzealous in the kitchen. This time by half of it being cooked to medium, whereas the other half was cooked to the seared I asked for.
The crème brulee tasted delicious, but suffered initially for the sugar crust being warm, but the custard being cold. After returning it to the kitchen once, the second one that came out was the right temp, just, but the crust was a soggy skin, rather than crispy.
The odd thing is that despite these mishaps I really enjoyed my meal. Clearly they've got things to sort out. I don't understand why restaurants continue to serve olive oil and balsamic together in a dish with bread. Especially when the oil and vinegar are both sub-standard. The vinegar being yackingly sweet, the oil being totally unremarkable.
The bread however, was mind blowingly good. With the pass open to the restaurant, we could see the brigade regularly removing freshly baked loaves from the oven. Clearly someone was putting in a lot of love to the bread, unfortunately it was being spoilt if anyone was silly enough to introduce it to the oil/vinegar combo. When paired with butter, it was mighty fine.
Final gripe, the orange juice at breakfast was synthetic tasting stuff from schweppes. In my book, there's no excuse for this, although they mumbled something about a big order, not enough demand blah blah. Tropicana would have been better than schweppes' virtual concentrate.
Despite all this, I had a great meal. I think things like the olive oil are so easy to sort out and I get the impression that chef Marcel Taylor (no idea where he was before) is still finding his feet in the restaurant. The menu was interesting and enjoyable, with good nods to seasonality (e.g. veg special of roast pumpkin). Re-reading this post, it all looks negative and it really isn't meant to come across that way. I think the only reason I give a toss about oil, oj etc etc is because by correcting these small things they could make this a great, solid restaurant for special weekend lunches.
I haven't mentioned the wines yet. The current list is very reasonable with bottles of red running from c.£10 - c.£45, but pretty short, no more than 10 wines per colour. However, I get the impression they are updating the list, if for no other reason than putting on the vintages that are currently absent.
Give this place another month and with any luck it will have sorted itself out. The restaurant was booked out on both Friday and Saturday night, and relatively busy on Saturday lunch. It seems to be popular with someone.
The rooms in the hotel were beautiful. There are two buildings on the property, the main one with the restaurant and a barn at the side. We were in the barn. Our room had lots of the features you'd expect - power shower, posh smelly things, flat screen TV with DVD. It was all peaceful muted browns and beiges. Yes, it might not be entirely original, but it was perfect for a weekend break from London. Just what we needed. Clearly the owners put in a lot of effort to make sure the details were right. I know, why can't they get things like orange juice right, then? Anyway, the combination of the rooms and food definitely make it worth visiting.
In case management ever read this I have a quick request. Please don't have such a Flash heavy website. It's a pain in the arse not being able to copy your postcode into a mapping programme or website. It looks good, but is not user friendly.
The Dashwood, South Green, Heyford Road, Kirtlington, Oxfordshire, 0X5 3HJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1869 352 707
What others think
So far, I'm the only one with any thoughts, as far as I can tell