The prestigious Foxhills Country Club & Resort is located in Ottershaw, near Chertsey. The estate has an interesting history having been owned by 18th Century politician Charles James Fox who lived there with his mistress Elizabeth Armistead in the 1780s. Fox became the MP for Midhurst aged just 19 and apparently had a huge appetite for gambling and the high life; he even survived being shot in his ‘ample belly’ during a duel in Hyde Park, so was obviously quite a personality.
Today, Foxhills is owned by the Hayton family, bought some 40 years ago in 1983 by Pam and Ian Hayton, and their son Marc has been Managing Director since 2010.
This award winning resort boasts a multitude of facilities, including a championship golf course, health spa, swimming pools, tennis courts and restaurants. It was the acclaimed culinary delights of The Fox Dining Rooms that I wanted to experience for myself; their Winter Menu to be more specific.
On arrival we were invited to have a pre-dinner drink and were led into the Manor Lounge. We ordered a spicy Bloody Mary and a Tanqueray gin and tonic, which we enjoyed sitting on comfy sofas adjacent to the fireplace.
After our aperitifs, we were invited into the dining room area, which is stylish and traditional, and has a fabulous mural depicting elephants and camels and men on horseback in the hills of some far-flung exotic eastern location set in a bygone era.
One thing I noticed immediately when siting at our table was that there was a decent amount of space between us the other diners; I resent it when some restaurants find it acceptable to place their diners cheek by jowl with one another as I don’t need to hear what Aunt Mabel gave them for Christmas.
The winter menu is not huge, with just 6 starters and 6 main courses, but I think that is a good thing as you must assume that the chefs are fully committed and confident with their offerings.
Having chosen our starters from the menu, some homemade tomato ciabatta and rosemary focaccia with homemade salted butter and basil butter was presented to us. All these items were truly delicious; light, fluffy bread and delightfully salty, soft and creamy butter.
For starters, we had the choice of Tempura cod cheeks, Stout glazed king oyster mushroom, Carrot soup, Duck liver parfait, Beetroot cured salmon, and Chicken leg terrine.
I chose Duck liver parfait with pear chutney, toasted macadamia with a brioche (£10.50), and my wife chose Beetroot cured salmon with orange curd, keta, and pickled cucumber (£9.50). It must be made clear that from the onset my wife and I agreed to share each course 50:50, so that we’d both get a decent tasting and that I’d be able to write a full review.
The duck liver parfait was extremely light in texture, subtle irony-savoury notes from the liver, balanced superbly well with the unctuous yet sweet pear chutney combined with the freshness of lightly toasted cubes of fresh pear. The accompanying brioche was warm and soft and thankfully not too sweet as brioche can sometimes be. I’m a fan of macadamia nuts yet don’t get the opportunity to eat them very often but I felt that the macadamia crumb didn’t really do justice to the majesty of macadamia. I think the tiny pieces got a little bit lost, they added texture, but I think that this fantastic dish could have been improved if there were 2 or 3 toasted whole macadamias so as to get the full flavour of the nut. Perhaps I’m just greedy…
Now onto the Beetroot cured salmon. Firstly, what struck me when presented with the dish was the incredible colour of the salmon. I think that I expected the fish to have taken on a garish purple hue due to the time spent curing with the beetroot, but this cured salmon was a bright red; its lustre was quite spectacular, as you can see for yourself from the image.
The portion of the salmon was generous and was cut quite thickly. As an aside, I was recently fortunate enough to have a tour around H. Forman & Sons, the world’s oldest surviving producer of London Cure smoked salmon based in East London. Its owner, Lance Forman, gave us tastings of various styles of his highest quality salmon and taught us what to look for in quality salmon. You may have read the article in the December issue of VantagePoint. One of the things was the clear lines of fat clearly visible in this beetroot cured salmon. Tender, soft, succulent. What really impressed though was the marriage of the salmon with the other inspired elements on the plate.
The delicately pickled cucumber ribbon, the aromatic citrus sweetness of the orange curd (a first for me), and the saltiness of the keta salmon roe really enhanced the luxuriousness of the cured salmon. I savoured every mouthful.
After this impressive start, we were very excited about our main courses.
I had chosen Stone bass, saffron potato, roasted cauliflower in a mussel and prawn bisque (£24.50), my wife selected Roast guinea fowl, squash fondant, spelt and nduja sauce (£26.00). In addition, we shared a side of Tender stem broccoli with chimichurri dressing (£5.50).
The stone bass was cooked just as I’d like with a crispy skin and the white flesh flaked perfectly under light pressure applied by my fork.
The roasted cauliflower added a nice textured crunch, the saffron potato was tender and delicate, and the mussels and small sprigs of samphire added a salty dimension. The bisque itself was creamy and very flavoursome.
The guinea fowl was an impressive looking plate of food, I’m afraid that I don’t think that my image does it justice. The guinea fowl was cooked very well indeed, and was moist with a lovely, flavoursome skin. The spelt was cooked in a really intense stock, I’m assuming made from the guinea fowl itself, so it worked very well when combined with the meat.
The squash fondant was a pleasant surprise to me as I often think that squash can be a little too sweet for my palate, but this was not the case. It was soft and buttery in texture, but still maintained a little bite. The nduja sauce was a fitting accompaniment to the moist breast, but the flavour was possibly a little light on nduja. The highlight to me was the croquette which was made with the leg meat of the guinea fowl. The croquette was seasoned exceptionally well, had a light game flavour and had a great golden panko breadcrumb textured coating.
It’s also worth mentioning that the accompanying tender stem broccoli was very tasty, perfect crunch without being raw, and had a very intense flavour, although I didn’t register very much chimichurri dressing taste.
Their wine menu was pretty extensive to cover all tastes but without being a daunting list, starting with house white Pinot Grigio £27.50 and house red Merlot for £27.00. We paired the elegant Ardeche Chardonnay (Maison Louis Latour, France £43.00) with our starters and Malbec ‘Alpataco’ (Familia Schroeder, Patagonia, Argentina £40.00) with our main course. Both gorgeous wines to savour.
After eating the main courses, we were feeling pretty full and weren’t too sure that we would be able to manage a pudding. The waiting staff kindly let us take our time and my wife and I decided that we were capable initially of sharing a pudding, then concluded that we should take one for the team and order a dessert each.
The first choice was the Coconut Panna cotta, pineapple salsa, granola, lime and raspberry sorbet (£8.00). After ordering, I noticed that this dish had the (VG) vegan mark at the end, so obviously was not going to be made from the traditional double cream and gelatine, so I can only deduce that it would be made primarily from coconut milk.
The ‘panna cotta’ did indeed have a lovely fragrant, coconut flavour, but it didn’t have the traditional wobble, and the texture was not as creamy-smooth as a traditionally made panna cotta. Despite this, the sweet and tangy pineapple salsa was a good match for the coconut, and the granola had great flavour and added an extra texture dimension to this dessert. The highlight to me though was the lime and raspberry sorbet, which really was a delight. This added more tang to the plate, without an acerbic wince.
The second pudding choice was Peach crème brulée, roasted peach, stem ginger ice cream (£8.50). Beautiful vanilla custard brulée, just as you want to experience. The grilled peaches were soft, sweet yet gently tart, and the stem ginger ice cream was a truly gorgeous addition to this dessert. The peach gel also enhanced the creamy brulée, adding a little sharpness and fruitiness to the slightly bitter charred sugar brulée topping, so delightful.
Make no mistake, The Fox Dining Rooms is not a cheap place to eat out, but I guess, with the extra costs that all businesses in the hospitality sector must endure today, all of a sudden, these prices are reasonable. Consider the quality of the ingredients used and the attention to detail and execution of the cookery, and also the waiting staff who were welcoming, attentive, but not too in-your-face and not making us feel like they were sharing our meal or standing over our shoulders.
Of course, it’s not just the quality and standard of the food that makes great dining; it’s the whole experience combined; service, attentiveness of the staff, the welcome, the ambience, the décor and the comfort.
If you have a special occasion to celebrate sometime soon and fancy a quality restaurant with charm and a cosy fireplace to enjoy an aperitif, then I suggest taking the short trip to Foxhills Dining Rooms; but maybe check the menu for (VG) items just in case you order something that isn’t what you expect.
For more information, please visit www.foxhills.co.uk.