On Tuesday and yesterday I ate at two very different restaurants. The first was Manuka Kitchen, a small restaurant in the Fulham Road, which served modern British cuisne to a high standard. The second was The Pass, a Michelin-starred restaurant set in a English country house hotel near Horsham.
At the Manuke Kitchen I had crispy squid with cucumber in black lime sauce which was an interesting treatment of a much worked fish dish. For the mains I had duck leg on herb spatzle with roasted cauliflower and pine nuts which again was successful. The atmosphere was informal with delightful smiling Italian young waitresses – the sort of girl I wished Tarquin or Humphrey had brought home. It’s owned by Tyler Martin and Joseph Appina, who were previously head chef and deputy manager at the Gore Hotel, and as a small restaurant it more than punches its weight.
The Pass in the South Lodge Hotel is totally different. My friend dropped me off and I was asked to wait in the lobby, which I did not like. Why not go directly in the restaurant? In The Pass you sit facing the kitchen and can watch the preparation. The chef Matt Gillan, who worked in the main restaurant, thought of this idea which the wonderful 64 Degrees has copied. The service is informed to the point of intrusive, each dish and wine carefully explained; as I was sometimes in full throw this could be irritating. But the food, what food!! They offer menus of chosen dishes from 4 to 8 going from £27 to £57 with wine choices. I chose the experience menu of amuse bouches, a soup, and then poached egg served with watercress.The main course was haunch of venison with elderberry and leeks and was scrumptious. A form of rice pudding and chocolate fondant competed this feast, the wine was 3 very full glasses of a Pouilly Fume, Malbec and delicious sweet red sherry. At £108 for two I could not fault the value and when I went to add a gratuity it was pointed out that this was already included. I did not pay that much attention to the kitchen but I did notice more chefs in it than diners. Maybe midweek they will not attract that many punters: there were only 4 couples. Michelin stars are not always reliable indicators of anything but expensive prices, but here it is well deserved.