The great British countryside is celebrated for numerous reasons; from its wildlife, to the simple pleasure in being surrounded by its rolling hills and green fields. Another area that deserves to be given more attention though is its dining. While we love trendy inner city pop-ups and the energetic buzz of a back street bistro, how often can you sit down to dine in a 16th century stately home, set in 50 acres of stunning gardens? Just a short train ride from Waterloo, The Estate Grill at Great Fosters is a wonderful representation of how fine dining can be elevated into an experience of traditional British grandeur.
The Estate Grill dining room
Already knowing about the restaurant’s illustrious 3 AA Rosettes, when we arrived at Great Fosters and began to see the splendour of the building and grounds, its reputation for spectacular British dishes seemed to fit entirely with what we were seeing. Stooping slightly to enter through the thick, centuries-aged oak door, the crackle of a roaring fireplace greeted us. The reception area, with an intricately carved wooden ceiling, and lovingly preserved features was a clear sign that the hotel had retained its original features as a stately home, and therefore a real sense of atmosphere and tradition. We were led to the Estate Grill dining room, where the sense of grandeur continued – a high ceiling of exposed wooden beams, another crackling fireplace, and intricate branched centrepiece in the room all combined to make us genuinely excited to see what the menu would hold in such a setting.
One of the many luxuries of being based inside a stately home is the facilities that the grounds can offer. We learned that Gloucester old sport pigs are raised in these grounds, and provide the pork for dishes on the menu. As well as this, a kitchen garden and greenhouse provides the fruit, vegetables and spices used throughout the menu, resulting in produce going into the dishes that couldn’t be fresher.
Home cured gravadlax, juniper, apple and horseradish salad, carved at the table
When we saw that there was the option for salmon caved at the table, we knew that both the preparation and presentation of this would be a site to see. Lightly cured so not as to be overpowering, the salmon had a reassuring firmness to it, showing that it was outstandingly fresh. Pairing the subtle flavour of the fish with bolder additions like juniper, apple and horseradish salad was the perfect way to emphasize the salmon’s uncomplicated taste, and give the dish a summery lift.
Seared Scottish scallop baked in its shell, Champagne and truffle cream
Again, something a little out of the ordinary caught our eye on the menu for our second starter – seared Scottish scallop baked in its shell, with champagne and truffle cream. Like the salmon, having a dish presented in such a direct, uncloaked way acts to really highlight the sheer quality of the ingredients going in to these dishes. Hidden beneath some lightly whipped potato, the scallops had soaked up the champagne and truffle cream, making them incredibly tender and rich. But, like the salmon, there was a certain firmness to them that nodded towards their freshness and having not been overcooked like it is so easy to do with scallops.
Since ordering our first dish, we had been given the recommendations of Great Foster’s resident sommelier. It’s at this point that we can’t over emphasize enough just how much it added to our entire meal to not only have his expertise on hand, but also his genuine enthusiasm for helping to choose the wines that would really add an extra dimension to what we were eating. Not only did we get the best pairings, but we also learnt little factual titbits surrounding the history of certain wines and how they became so celebrated.
21 day aged rib-eye
Blue cheese sauce, and Chianti
With the restaurant being celebrated for its grill dishes, the site of a prime 28g rib-eye on the menu was just too much to be passed up. If you’re a meat eater, the sight of a steak being brought to the table is one of life’s great pleasures, and the Great Fosters rib-eye was one of the best examples of this ever. Cut with barely any effort at all, the steak was cooked medium, with just enough fat left on to have permeated the entire cut with rich flavour and juice. To pair with the steak, we chose a blue cheese sauce. Served in a miniature copper skillet, the sauce had a deep, rounded aroma, and had obviously been lightly whisked to ensure that it lacked even a trace of a lump, or any stodgy feel.
Veal schnitzel with cured ham, glazed with Swiss cheese and crispy capers
Staying with the grill options, we also went for the veal schnitzel topped with cured ham, Swiss cheese and crispy capers. Impossibly tender, the veal wasn’t complicated or given too many ambitious additions in an attempt to be showy. The subtle saltiness of the cheese and ham was perfectly offset by the capers, and the naturally rich flavour of the veal still shone through.
Snow eggs: poached meringue with vanilla custard and caramel
After the tender rib-eye and veal steaks, we could only manage a light dessert. Luckily, there was something on the menu that leapt out as being perfect – snow eggs. When these lightly poached meringues arrived, we realised the name was indeed fitting, as they had been shaped into perfect egg shapes, brilliantly white in colour. Nestled in light, whisked custard, the eggs were topped with paper-thin crunchy segments of caramel, which were perfect to cut and scoop up the meringue with.
Crème caramel with ginger milk sorbet, baby bananas and hazelnut
Our second dessert was a classic crème caramel, but with the addition of baby bananas, ginger milk sorbet and hazelnut. Having the baby bananas’ texture against the smoothness of the caramel was a great touch, and the taste was surprising too – very slightly sweeter than regular bananas. The sorbet offered a subtle bite against the creaminess of the overall dessert too.
It’s not often you can say that a restaurant has offered something that can’t be easily found elsewhere. Great Fosters has captured the grandeur of a bygone age, and coupled it with the same kind of cosy approachability that is usually found in far smaller eateries. Through being passionate about sourcing the finest ingredients for the menu, and actively producing these themselves on the hotel grounds, diners who come to this stately home feel like they are being included in something really quite special, and not just cooking by the numbers.
The Estate Grill at Great Fosters
Stroude Road, Egham, TW20 9UR