Colette, so I am reliably informed by Head Waiter Dominic, is the mother of the Levy brothers, the owners of The Grove. So, any mother who lends her name to a classy eating establishment must be reasonably confident the food is going to live up to her billing. No pressure on Colette’s at The Grove then.
The Grove Hotel itself is a fine pile; the former 18th century mansion of the Earls of Clarendon set in 300 acres of prime Hertfordshire countryside.
The rolling hills and manicured grounds creating perfect fairways for the much vaunted championship Golf at The Grove course and a secluded walled garden, behind which lies everything from tennis and swimming to croquet and even an urban beach.
Under the experienced stewardship of Head Chef Russell Bateman, winner of the Chef Guild’s own prestigious National Chef of the Year in 2014, Colette’s at The Grove has collected three AA Rosettes, and no small measure of praise.
There is a distinct orange feel about the restaurant decor as we take our table, “perhaps it’s a psychological ploy to get us to order something with orange in it” I think to myself.
This theory gains traction as our amuse-bouches are delivered – seaweed tapioca and smoked salmon, and in my head I’m punching the air.
Bateman opens with a classy touch, describing his all-British suppliers in detail on the back of the menu. Provenance has become the new black in culinary circles and this list is a veritable who’s who of produce.
There’s even an honourable mention of the vegetable patch behind that all encompassing Walled Garden.
We’re having the 3 course a la carte menu at £65 although there is a 5 course tasting menu at £85 with an additional £55 for a wine pairing.
Our first course materialises, delicious diver-caught scallops, Tasmanian truffles and Granny Smith apples for my guest and a quite excellent Buffalo burrata and tomato with watermelon, strawberry, pine nuts and basil for me.
So much for my orange theory but all good nonetheless.
For me there is something genius about just having a set price for a la carte. There is no mental torture around any of the choices, you can just go for any of them guilt free.
The mains prove to be just as popular on our table; beer poached Norfolk Black chicken with asparagus and lemon for me, gratefully moist, the asparagus complementing it perfectly.
My partner’s lamb dish came with tender stem broccoli , feta and almond, almost a nod and a wink to Marrakech. The lamb sauce in particular to die for.
By now I can almost feel Matriarch Colette grinning broadly, her reputation safe for another night.
Our dessert course is almost waived off as we take a breather, but what the heck, we must press on, it would be rude not to.
Having said that, the appearance of a pre-dessert dessert, almost makes me waver, but I press on regardless.
I decide on a selection British cheeses with homemade crackers. But I have to admit to taking more than a few spoonfuls of my partner’s yellow peach, camomile panna cotta, lemon verbena and fresh almonds.
I almost have dessert envy.
Colette’s at The Grove does mother proud in my opinion. It is relaxed fine dining without the formality and Russell Bateman’s dishes deliver on flavour and portion size.
Footnote: There were no oranges of any kind.
All images (c) Andy Mossack except featured image (c) The Grove.
Tell me more about Colette’s at The Grove
3 course a la carte menu at £65
5 course tasting menu at £85 with an additional £55 for a wine pairing
Room rates at The Grove from £305