About 10 years ago I remember sitting opposite my then very new husband, in the Chewton Glen restaurant, feeling distinctly uncomfortable, not with him I hasten to add but rather the environs of the restaurant as it was. There was a distinctive ‘Conservative Club' feel about the place then, lots of over 70s in blazers and 'old boy' ties with a 'blue rinsed wife' sitting opposite…and the Child Catcher had obviously successfully rounded up any stray under 10- 40yr olds before supper. These days you are just as likely to find Chris Evans in his bare feet and PJs and his wife (having had an afternoon of fun in the hotel pool with their kids) sitting across the way from your table ordering another bottle of ridiculously expensive wine… In other words things have moved on at CG to a much more relaxed, less stuffy but very stylish place to enjoy a meal with a husband ..or a bunch of girlfriends!
As anyone that reads this blog on a half regular basis knows one of my favourite places to eat and be (too close to us to justify a ‘sleep’ really, although I did get to stay overnight on my recent birthdays ) is Chewton Glen hotel in Hampshire.
Why? I think mostly because the service level is as close to right as it comes in a luxury way.
Let me explain, we have a couple of cool Babington House’- like places near us down here in the New Forest, or at least trying hard to attract that sort of trendy ‘get out of London’ for a w/e crowd. The trouble I sometimes think with these incredibly cool haunts, is they all seem to employ a bunch of very beautiful 20-somethings and don them in designer jeans to manage the service. Ok in itself you might think but my theory is when someone is that beautiful and young they weren’t really born to serve and certainly not in Hudson jeans and an Equipment white shirt…I rest my case.
Not to say that Chewton Glen are an ugly bunch of waitresses of course, that are perfectly attractive souls but you don’t get the impression from them that they think they are way up the food chain from you and actually they just get on with the job they are paid to do with a smile and an ease.
Anyway enough of a rant, we were 8 of us last Friday, all mums of various aged offspring, there were 2 babes in arms. I have to say, I thought I had passed that stage of my life and was onto attending 2nd weddings and funerals but was lovely to have the babes on board and they both were perfectly well behaved!
We met in Chewton Glen bar. I haven’t been to many but I always think this bar is sort of reminiscent of a gentleman’s snug in London..somewhere close to the Savoy in the 1960s I should think. All felt a little decadent even that and a glass of Tattinger was just a little fizzy cherry on the cake, a lovely start to the afternoon.
Through to lunch in the now extensive restaurant, Vertiver, dining room we were seated around our lovely round table in the conservatory area. Now I am a big fan of round dinner tables, there is something very sociably engaging about round tables (to the extent that I spent probably 2 years searching for the right one ( glass with a marble base) for our own dining room. I love a supper party where you can talk to the table and across the table and not just to the person either side…more fun!
There are another 4 spaces in this dining room including a Wine room (which sounds like a must be for a private dinner party with wine tasting on the side).
Executive chef, Luke Matthews at the CG has been in charge of the kitchen as long as I have been going there and under his leadership the cooking always feels like a simple but clever distillation of fine tasting raw ingredients...and never, ever hefty. I love his style. I started with Hare Scotch egg. Cumberland sausage and before my pear and blackberry crumble managed to squeeze in a light and delicicous fish stew made from shellfish, samphire (a sea vegetable, I had to ask too) & fregola (a sort of pea shaped pasta) .
We were still giggling round the table post 4 and someone even popped off to pick a child up post school and then returned for coffee. Staff were brilliantly accommodating and one of them squeezed another chair into our circle to fit in the returning schoolboy and offered him a quickly gobbled bowl of ice-cream while the mummies finished off their coffee and truffles.
As it should be, perfectly lovely & relaxing Friday lunch treat spent round a table with girlfriends! Thank you Chewton Glen !