The Clandeboye is set in lovely surrounds. I can remember attending here in the past for a wedding and it was good then…..but it’s even better now!! The reception area of the hotel and restaurant were modern in decour and really welcoming. As we entered the restaurant the first thing we were drawn to was the massive window at the far end and the high ceiling. There were bottles of wine in a line on one wall and opposite there were booths of varying sizes (in which we sat). The table setting was elegant and simple. The lighting was soft and all in all created a wonderful cosy ambience. Pim and his wife Mandy refurbished the restaurant in January 2014 and Pim (from Holland) has had the hotel complex for a quarter of a century!! This really is a true labour of love.
Once seated we were offered water in a lovely bottle with a longitudinal sliver of cucumber which was very refreshing. I ordered sparkling water (designated driver) whilst my wife went for the Zinfandel. We were presented the menus which I must admit looked very busy, but is how I like a menu ie all the dishes written on a single menu card. Ian (head chef-who I met after our meal) and Kim spent a great deal of time putting it together and they change it four times a year, to reflect local seasonal produce. Emma the restaurant manager paired wines with every single dish which I thought was tremendous.
For starters I chose the smoked salmon with wheaten. My wife chose the squid. Suffice to say we shared and really enjoyed both. The squid was piping hot and tasted so fresh and the aioli and cabbage accompanied it perfectly. My salmon was perfectly smoked and accompanied by black wheaten (not too stodgy), butter, horseradish, Creme fraiche and capers. The dishes were well thought out and perfectly matched. Portion sizes were just right.
For main course I chose the pork belly, my wife chose the salmon and we had champ, thick cut chips and onion rings. My pork belly was crispy on top and the fat was rendered so well that it was almost not detectable, the meat broke down with ease and was so soft. It came on a bed of sage mash and with some apple compote. This is how Pork belly – European style should be (of course the Chinese are masters at cooking pork belly and the Americans aren’t too bad either!!). The salmon fillet was served in a cream sauce with sorrel and was succulent, flaky and really good also. The thick chips tasted so good as did the mash and onion rings (not greasy!!).
The desserts were also exceptional. We opted for the sticky toffee pudding and Creme brûlée. The pudding was so light and fluffy with a lovely banana toffee and lush vanilla ice cream. The Creme brûlée was sweet and crisp at top and light and UN sweetened cream below which worked well with the tart rhubarb compote and biscuit. I had coffee to finish.
The service was how service should be- not too obtrusive, watchful and always visible and of course professional and knowledgable…so full marks and then some!! A true asset to the establishment.
After dinner we took a stroll in the gardens of the 43 roomed hotel and wedding venue complex and marvelled at the carefully tended flower beds and the herb garden. We also saw the Coq & Bull sculpture (the Bull came from a BBQ belonging to Heston Blumenthal!!). My one point of note would be the different coloured plates and slates that the food was served on detracted a touch from the exceptional food, my suggestion would be to use plain white crockery- just a suggestion!
The story of Coq & Bull is quite simple…. it’s all about telling a story and we really thought our story was well told last night…. what will your story be?