Optima Magazine Review

Category : News, Reviews, Work


10th June 2011

The Grove • Chandler’s Cross • WD3 4TG • 01923 296015

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

It’s the attention to detail that makes Colette’s, the fine dining restaurant at The Grove, stand out from the crowd. That, and the elegant atmosphere that envelops you from the moment you walk through the door. Sitting in the smart little lounge (on some of the wackiest and most covetable chairs I’ve seen in a long time), sipping a Kir Royale made to Colette’s own recipe, and overlooking the beautiful grounds on a balmy summer’s evening, it’s hard to believe you’re only a stone’s throw from the centre of Watford.

It’s even harder to believe when you move through into the quietly sophisticated dining room and start tasting the food. Have I died and gone to heaven? It may seem excessive to rave over something as simple as risotto, but – trust me – this is not risotto as you know it. The delicate starter sized portion of Fresh Pea Risotto, served with Richard Woodhall Ham, Moroccan Mint and Pea Shoots, is intensely green and utterly delicious. The grains are perfectly cooked, and new levels of flavour reveal themselves with every mouthful. “This is possibly,” I murmur to my companion, “the best risotto ever.”

I could have eaten more, of course, but, realistically, the ideal starter should merely awaken the appetite, hinting at the promise of things to come. The next course on our ‘Taste of the Market’ menu (which, at £45 per head for four courses, strikes me as great value and an astonishingly good way of showcasing all the ingredients that are perfectly in season, either at Colette’s suppliers or harvested from the hotel’s kitchen garden) is Cornish Mackerel, Chorizo, Garden Asparagus and Heirloom Tomatoes. Oh, those tomatoes! Picked just a few hours earlier, they have flavour like you’ve never imagined. The asparagus, perhaps just slightly over-seasoned, is the babiest I’ve ever seen; the nuggets of chorizo add strength and contrast to the mackerel. Light, delicate, fresh; a very clever dish. Fish course: tick.

Main course: tick too. De Dombes Duck Breast, Broad Beans, Grelot Onions, Orange, Liquorice: cooked to perfection, beautifully presented, full of flavour. This man can cook.

Dessert – the deceptively simply named Upside-Down Strawberry Cheesecake – is a triumph, with powerful fruit exploding onto your tastebuds, crumbly biscuit topping and soft creaminess. A final tick. That’s one for every course, plus a few extra: for the amuse-bouches, the pre-dessert, the petits fours.

The quality of the food is outstanding. Head Chef Russell Bateman has real skill and a philosophy of fresh food, quality ingredients, simply enhanced. Colette’s is a real destination, and it deserves to be. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to eat here.

Don’t get the idea that it’s pretentious, though. It’s not. Yes, it feels sophisticated, out-of-the-ordinary, special – but it combines that with a comfortable easy air (the Earl of Clarendon would turn in his grave if he knew they’d relaxed the rigid dress code; there were even chaps in jeans…) and friendly professionalism. Former diners such as Queen Victoria, Edward VII and Lord Palmerston might feel that standards of decorum had slipped – but they wouldn’t say a word against the food…

Review can also be found at Optima Magazine