Latymer Restaurant at Pennyhill Park


Located at the prestigious Pennyhill Park Hotel in Surrey, a member of the luxury hotel portfolio, Exclusive Collection, Latymer Restaurant is the holder of 5 AA Rossettes and 1 Michelin star. Steve Smith was appointed Executive Chef in 2020, taking over from Matt Worswick who held one Michelin star, an accolade Latymer have continued to boast without interruption, and despite the pandemic creating a challenging environment for anyone new in the role.

Awarded Catey Chef of the Year in 2014 and having worked with chefs Shaun Hill, Paul Heathcote and Simon Gueller, Smith has some impressive credentials, not to mention the fact that he has held a Michelin star for over twenty years. During his time as Head Chef at Gordleton Mill alongside Jean Christophe Novelli, Smith was awarded his first Michelin star at the young age of 24.

Situated in the oldest part of the hotel, the beamed ceilings, low lighting and comfortable floral upholstered banquette seating ensures that Latymer is every bit as romantic I recall, while the front of house team offer a level of service that is always attentive, never invasive. They were also excellent at handling a miscommunication of our dietary requirements and the last-minute changes that would have to be made in the kitchen.

The only menu option is the Discovery 6-course tasting menu, something that changes on an almost daily basis due to Smith’s passion for working with local suppliers and the most seasonal ingredients, while I can well understand the decision for no a la carte which, allowing the diner to pick and choose whatever they fancy, regardless of whether it particularly fits as a whole menu, would allow a chef of this calibre to showcase his culinary experience and signature style.

A fine dining experience such as this is far more than just a meal out, they’re an event. One that started with a series of ‘snacks’ including a potato croquette and indescribably good bite-sized vegetable tartlets of sweet roasted carrot and another of that was almost a homage to the nostalgic taste of pickled beetroot. Homemade bread (gluten free in our case – white and brown) was served with a silky potato velouté featuring a cep-powdered Jersey Royal which bore a striking resemblance to a black truffle, with sherry vinegar cubes to cut the richness. Inspired.

Tasting menus are not the kind of thing you do every week – it would spoil the feeling of decadence if you did. For many of us, it’s the perfect way to crown a birthday or anniversary, hence the reason it’s nothing short of a tragedy when your chemistry doesn’t match with the chef and you have no idea what planet he’s on. Tasting menus are a commitment from both the chef and the diner, and can be nothing short of a work of art when they’re this good. You don’t catch a show afterwards, it is the show. Latymer allow 3 hours to seriously impress each and every diner (one of them could be a Michelin inspector), and boy did they achieve it in our case. It was rather like the culinary equivalent of a modern interpretation of Shakespeare.

Push the boat out and go for the Latymer’s expert wine pairings by Head Sommelier Sergio Dos Santos, who has worked at the two Michelin starred Hotel Million in Albertville, Savoie and Hotel Majestic des Lys in Cannes. But if like us you don’t drink, there are just as many alcohol free pairings, from a crisp sparkling tea to botanical spritzes created with Everleaf.

The fish course of cured trout with pickled broccoli stems, puffed buckwheat and broccoli puree, finished with a lemon and crème fraiche foam, offered the perfect balance of flavours and textures and displays Smith’s lightness of touch, not only in terms of his presentation style, but his original flavour and texture pairings, nor does the obvious precision of his cookery diminish the soul of the dishes, which celebrate the finest English produce with an appreciation you can see on the plate and taste from the first bite.

The perfectly caramelised and plum Orkney scallop, a heavenly taste of the British coastline, was another case in point; the sweetness and succulence of the scallop enhanced by slivers of smoked eel, a grassy parsley puree, aldente coastal vegetables and onion puree, finished with a well-balanced sweet and acidic onion and chive beurre black – a fresh yet indulgent dish that sums up Smith’s style perfectly.

Just when I was convinced we’d peaked, along came the ‘surprise’ main of roast Anjou pigeon; a tender pink breast and roast confit leg with pea puree, hen of the woods, black garlic puree, an exceptionally flavoursome jus and the best minted English peas I’ve ever tasted. Pigeon (Anjou or elsewhere) would never have been my first choice if I’d been presented with an a la carte menu and therefore I’d have missed the best main course I’ve had this year.

It’s a wonderful thing that the cheese trolley at Latymer boasts purely English varieties, turn the clock back 30 years or so and hardly any fine dining restaurants in England would have dared to ignore French cheese. Even the menus would have been written in French in a hilarious act of snobbery that helped to put our own produce and cuisine in the shade for so many years. All cheeses are accompanied by a generous array of accompaniments: homemade chutney, bread and crackers, salad and fruit. I opted for a trio of goats cheese; the mild and creamy Ragstone from the Wye Valley, the fresh and zesty Sinodun Hill, made in Oxfordshire by a husband and wife team (the cheese is named after a local chalk hill in the Thames Valley overlooking the creamery), and finally the punchy Blackmount from Lanarkshire in Scotland.

Fortunately both desserts (the main benefit of a tasting menu) were light and refreshing; a summery homage to the Amalfi Lemon, a sorbet of which sits atop a bed of blood oranges and Negroni syrup, crowned with a honey tulle with fennel and bee pollen for a refreshing burst of bittersweet citrus. It came as no surprise that the main dessert would feature a British ingredient and the Yorkshire rhubarb finale with rhubarb sorbet, pistachio sable biscuit and a 35 % white chocolate mousse, filled with rhubarb gel and topped with edible flowers and candied pistachio was divine. Coffee and pate de fruit petit fours concluded a flawless experience which flies the flag for British cookery and puts Pennyhill Park on the map. The Latymer is not only as good as I remember, it’s even better.

Latymer Restaurant at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey. The 6-course Discovery Menu is £175 per person, with a six glass wine pairing an additional £135. Open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday and lunch Saturday and Sunday. For more information and to book please visit the website.