3 posts categorized "UK, Oxfordshire"

28 May 2008

Matthew Tomkinson to leave The Goose

I was more than a little disappointed to open my email and find a press release announcing that Matthew Tomkinson is leaving The Goose.

Earlier this year, Tomkinson won his first Michelin star at The Goose and in my opinion it was well deserved. Only the other day I was contemplating a trip back there for some decent nosh and a bit of a chat with Matthew.

He however won't be there, as he's now leading the team at the Montagu Arms Hotel. Via email he's told me that it was an amicable departure and he'd worked out his notice, last day was yesterday.

He aims to do for the Montagu Arms what he did for The Goose. On the basis of my meal the burghers of Beaulieu (and their Bentley's) are in for a treat.

I hope his new employer's give him the head room to achieve what he wants. Chefs and hotels have notoriously rocky relationships. It bodes well that Shaun Hill is a consultant to the Montagu.

From the tone of his email to me, Matthew is clearly upbeat about the move, so I wish him all the best. On a selfish note, it's a bugger for me because Beaulieu is considerably further from home than Watlington.

23 October 2007

The Goose

Restaurant reviews can veer off on tangents and often it seems that the food is not all that important.  Such is the preponderance of reviewers to waffle on (moi?), Restaurant magazine has a monthly rating of reviewers, ranking them by who wrote the least about the restaurants they were reviewing.

I do my best to stick to the topic at hand, but I know that I can become a little too obsessed with the cleanliness of toilets (a crucial yardstick to the cleanliness of the kitchen), the excellent staff or the ugly room.  What I have never done until today, is focus solely on one dish and really one part of one dish.  But, before I go there, I should be absolutely clear, I love The Goose.

I had been recommended to The Goose by the ever-reliable denizens of the Opinionated About food forum (registration req'd) as a Sunday lunch stop on the way back from a dirty weekend away with Silverbrowess.

We were early for our booking and were the only people there.  The room was nice enough reminding me a bit of the Fat Duck - soft colours, low ceiling, wood beams etc - and the staff were attentive.

The menu read well enough but I was particularly interested in the mushroom and madeira consomme with gnocchi.  I assumed it was made with a beef stock, otherwise Escoffier would scoff, but following a bit of confusion from our waitress, it turned out it was entirely vegetarian. I couldn't have been happier but I was cynical.  I hadn't tried a consomme in years and was convinced this would be a rather insipid dish, brown, watery and tasteless.

I was wrong. I can still taste it and I have to be honest, this review is a tad late in coming.

It arrived as perfectly clear chocolate-brown liquid, with some herbed gnocchi bobbing around.  The first flavour was a sweetness from the madeira, but it was light, not cloying, if anything it had a slight sharpness to it.  Very quickly this subsided and the mushrooms showed their strength with an earthy kick to the taste buds.  The gnocchi added some depth, with their herbs working well with the musty mushrooms and sweet madeira, but frankly I would have enjoyed a trough of the consomme by itself.

I was impressed by this dish on a number of levels.  At the most base was that it tasted fantastic.  But it only tasted so good because it had been well made and almost more importantly, well conceived.  It is rare that such care is put into a veggie dish and is indicative of the quality of the rest of the food we ate.  It also shows chef Matthew Tomkinson regards all food and every customer is sacred.

Tomkinson has not come out of nowehere, he was a Roux Scholar in 2005 and has trained with Michel Guerard at les Prés d’Eugenie.  He has clearly learnt from some of the best and for me, this soup is evidence enough that he's going to give them a run for their money.  If you listen to the rumour mongers, he's slated for his first Michelin star when the new rankings come out next year, as by then he will have been open for about a year and a half and should have been able to prove himself.  It will be well deserved.

Google Maps
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The Goose, Britwell Salome, Oxfordshire, OX49 5LG
Tel: +44 (0)1491 612304

What others think

The Oxford Times - ingredients sourced from the best British suppliers dominate the menu.
Tribble Tasting by Arrangement - an excellent meal from a restaurant on its way up.

17 October 2005

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

Google Maps
Google Earth (download)

What others think
So far, I'm the only one with any thoughts, as far as I can tell